Being Solution Focused does not mean talking only about ‘solutions’ to a problem. Nor does it mean banging on about it like a latter-day evangelist. To think in a solution-focused way means being open to possibilities – or, at least not excluding them – and that means adopting a particular mind-set.
By ‘mind-set’ I mean a particular way of thinking. Our regular thinking style is governed by our upbringing and our conditioning, but more importantly by our instinct for survival. The default mode is to look for risk, threat, problems and weaknesses. Being solution-focused involves overcoming this sensible and natural way of going about things, and asking “What if…?”
Being solution-focused means that you see the possibilities rather than the limitations. It doesn’t mean denying the past, nor refusing to discuss it. It means accepting the past but not allowing it to define or predict the future.
Some people seem to be naturally more inclined to think like this, I’m one of them. I don’t know whether we are born with it, or if being solution-focused is achieved through training. Probably a bit of both, I’d say.
Looking for possibilities, rather than immediately stating (in your mind) why things won’t work/can’t be done/will fail etc, can become a reflex, rather than a rule. It is driven more by NOT thinking, than by thinking. I believe that it helps to be a bit barmy, or at least willing to step out of line, and it’s definitely a help if you lean towards optimism.
This is not about what’s often called ‘positive thinking’, nor a pollyanna-ish bedazzlement with the idea that if you expect good things to happen, they will (though many good solution-focused practitioners I’ve met certainly think that way some of the time).
Being Solution Focused means
So my list of six things that being solution-focused means is:
- You don’t jump to conclusions but remain open to possibilities
- You are comfortable with uncertainty
- You are willing not to conform long enough to explore the possibilities
- You are skilled at asking unusual and creative questions (so you’ve probably spent a long time practising)
- You are not obsessed with ‘success’, nor overly bothered about failure. You see both simply as information to be worked with.
- You recognise the natural resilience of the human spirit, and that there is no natural law which says that we are unavoidably stuck with our problems and limitations.
Because there are always more potential solutions than there are problems, we live in a world of limitless opportunity. The limits, where they exist, are more likely to live in our imaginations, than out there in the real world. Being solution-focused means looking forward, without prejudging the future, and most of all it means believing in possibilities.
At least, that’s what it means to me.