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What's Your Miracle Question?
June 11, 2010
Written By: Michelle Clark, Ph.D.

As a coach for leaders and leadership teams, I have the pleasure of watching and assisting intelligent, successful people tackle big issues. During this process, I am often reminded that the tools that assist each of us to be successful and make changes come from those things that are best about us.

One of the benefits of being a business psychologist, is I get to pick and chose from the best of business leadership strategies and the best of psychological strategies. One of the tools that straddles that line is Solution Focused Therapy. It has tools that we can use in focusing on our successes and the future in order to ramp up our changes. One of the tools is “the miracle question.”
Today, I’m going to focus on the miracle question. Think about an important change you are trying to accomplish. Imagine that tonight as you sleep, a miracle happens. Overnight, all of your internal barriers to that change evaporate, and you awake fully embodying the change. Because you were asleep, neither you nor the people around you know that the change has occurred. Now imagine yourself waking in the morning. As you go through your day, what are the ways in which you notice that the change has occurred?
For one of my coaching clients who was interested in maintaining a calmer and more optimistic attitude at work (and thus create better working relationships), the answers were:
  • When the alarm went off at 5 a.m., I’d be headed to exercise instead of immediately turning on my computer to work.
  • When I looked around my house, I’d be pleased that it was orderly instead of seeing clutter everywhere and being overwhelmed.
  • When one of my subordinates came to give me bad news about a deadline, I’d notice I didn’t feel angry at the person and had patience to work on problem-solving.
  • Because I felt calm, I’d notice I wasn’t wasting time on unproductive strategies I use to relieve stress: shopping online, griping with co-workers, and spending time on low-priority items.
Now, the follow-up question is: “When was the last time that you felt even a little bit of this miracle?” It’s important that the answer to this question is tied to a specific time, with concrete details. For my client, the answer was:
“I felt a little bit of that miracle six months ago. During that period, I was working on a project at work that tapped into my very best skill set, and I also was going to the gym five days a week because I’d paid a big fee for a personal training package.”
As a result of this, the client took these immediate steps:
1.       Reviewed her workload. She found that as a result of some organizational changes, her workload had shifted to a much higher ratio of tasks that were “energy vampires” than those that brought energy in. She strategized about how to delegate and renegotiate to bring balance back.
2.       She reflected on the importance of exercise. As she reflected, she came to clarity that her management of work and life was best at the times she was the most active. She also identified that because she was money conscious, paying in advance for personal training motivated her to follow-through.
3.       She began to pay attention to the unproductive strategies she had identified. When she caught herself doing more on-line shopping, griping with co-workers, or wasting time on mundane tasks, that was her prompt that she had encountered an “energy vampire” and needed to act proactively to deal directly with it by either delegating, asking for help, or gritting her teeth and getting it done.
So what's going on in your life that the Miracle Question would help you approach differently?
Miller, W.R. & Rollnick, S. (2002). Motivational Interviewing, Second Edition: Preparing People for Change. The Guilford Press; Second Edition.

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