The Miracle Question and Money

Brent Pittman —  03/29/2012

What if a few simple questions could help look at your problems and difficulties differently? What if these question could help find solutions and gain a glimmer of hope?

It can. It starts with The Miracle Question that comes out of solution focused therapy  or brief therapy and has been used across different cultures with a high degree of success.

Solution Focused Therapy

Solution focused therapy was developed by a husband and wife team from the Brief Family Therapy Center in Milwaukee. It focuses not on the history of a problem, but on where the problem is today and what solutions can be found.

You won’t find a solution focused therapist digging around asking questions about your childhood or placing the blame on your parents. Having knowledge about a problem doesn’t always point to a solution. The knowledge is true, but useless. We need solutions, so let’s be solution focused.

The Miracle Question

There are several forms of the miracle question. This example I found in the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard and we’ll gear it towards finances since that’s the core of what this blog is all about.

“Can I ask you a sort of strage question? Suppose that you go to bed tonight and sleep well. Sometime, in the middle of the night, while you are sleeping, a miracle happens and all the troubles that brought you here are resolved. When you wake up in the morning, what’s the first small sign you’d see that would make you think, ‘Well, something must have happened-the problem is gone!’?”-The Miracle Question as written in Switch p. 36

An alternative shorter version of the Miracle Question:

A. What if a miracle solved your overspending and debt problems, what would you be doing differently the next morning?

B. Well, I guess I’d be less stressed and anxious since I didn’t have money problems.

A. What is the first small sign that your money problems are gone?

B. The phone wouldn’t be ringing with creditors calling.

A. Exception Question-

The Exception Question

The Miracle Question helps a person to begin to have hope and begin to see solutions. The Exception Question is a key follow up to continue towards solutions.

“When was the last time you saw a little bit of the miracle, even just for a short time?”-Switch p. 38

Examples of the Exception Question applied to finances

A. When was the last time you stayed on budget and didn’t overspend?

B. Two years ago I went 3 months without overspending.

A. What did you do during those three months that were successful?

In most cases there is a bright spot  in the person’s past where they were successful with the problem they are trying to overcome.

By looking at these exceptions and bright spots, we can learn the who, what, when, where of what was going on then and replicate those behaviors. Solution found.

If you’d like to try your hand at Miracle and Exception Questions, here is a downloadable PDF to get you started.

Keep in mind that these techniques are best used by a trained counselor or clinical psychologist, but could be used for self discovery of your problems and finding solutions.

Ask yourself the miracle question and exception question for a money related problem and see if any solutions can be found. 

Photo Credit algo (Creative Commons)

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Brent Pittman

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Brent is a financial coach and writer looking for the perfect donut. He believes personal finance should be both fun and accessible to anyone willing to learn.