The Miracle Question

There are two main approaches to creating change. The first and most popular is the problem-focused approach. This involves identifying what is wrong with the current situation (ie, identifying the problem), analysing the current situation, exploring possible solutions, and then taking action. Whilst this approach can be effective, all too often not only does it fail to solve the problem but it actually sustains it - energy and attention get focused on what isn't working and the problem has to be maintained so that the focus on solving it can continue!

The second and rarer approach to creating change is to be solution-focused. Instead of looking at what isn't working, we search out examples of where the change has already happened. If we can't find any, we imagine instances of the changes we want to have happen. We focus on these, encourage people to enact them, promote their occurrence, value and appreciate the behaviours we want and so on. In practical terms we shift from prohibition ("Don't do that" or, as Basil Fawlty so ineffectively said "Don't mention the war") to encouragement ("Do more of this").

One way to use this solution-focused approach in working with individuals is through the Miracle Question.

So say something like this: “Suppose that whilst you are asleep tonight a miracle occurs and you have all the changes you want in your life. But, because you are asleep, you don't know that the miracle has happened. What would be the first sign for you after you wake up which will tell you that the miracle has happened? And what else?”

The key to using this successfully is to help the person you are working with to be extremely precise about the specific changes they will notice in their feelings, thoughts, internal images, sensations, and so on. Do this by asking them questions about the precise sensory details of their experience. To answer these questions they will have to create for themselves the experience of already having made the changes they are seeking - and so the "miracle" occurs!