We are all faced with choices from the moment we wake. These can be simple like what will we have for breakfast to highly complex decisions that could have a profound effect our life e.g. our financial stability, our relationships, our health or our career success and ultimately our fulfilment and happiness. So it is important to have a clear idea of what we want so that we can make the right decisions.
This may seem obvious but from many years experience of providing counselling and therapy to people, I have come to the conclusion that people are often clearer about what they don’t want rather than what it is that they do want and this is at the root of why they get stuck. People will say things like ‘I don’t want to feel depressed any more’ or ‘I don’t want to feel stressed and anxious’ or ‘I don’t like my job’. People are very clear about what they don't want.
This is most likely to do with our survival instinct. We are programmed by evolution to prioritise our attention on threats and danger. In other words to notice the negatives. In this perfectly normal state of mind we seek out what is wrong and often overlook what is going well. This is because what is going well is not an immediate problem to solve and can wait. But this negative focus also seems to make it difficult for us to get a clear picture of what we would rather have instead of the problems or put another way, what the solution will look like.
For example saying ‘we don’t want to feel stressed’ tells us very little about what it is we want instead. We might imply that there is an obvious opposite state to stressed and that is calm. If it is that simple then the quickest way to get calm is to take a drug like alcohol or tranquilizers or to never leave home to avoid the stressors, which is what many people do! You might be able to see where the problem is, by simply saying what we don’t want and implying there is an obvious opposite leaves us stumbling in the dark and going down dead ends.
So if we were encouraged to be clearer about what calm needs to contain, we might say something like ‘I want to feel calmer without taking drugs and while still being able to deal with the challenges of daily life’. From this solution focused statement we can move forward to explore more details about what else calmer without drugs and still being able to deal with the challenges of daily life will contain.
A solution focused approach is simply as the title implies. It is an approach to help us clarify what we really want and notice how to get it.