I want to share a powerful tool with you today. This is one basic question (a series of questions really) that you can ask yourself to help guide you toward making important changes in your life. This is a tool that many therapists use with their clients and one that has served me really well professionally. The tool that I’m referring to is called “the miracle question.”
Now before I explain what the miracle question is, I want to reassure you that you don’t have to endorse any particular personal or religious beliefs about the actual existence of miracles. Translate this into a way that makes sense for you. In practice with clients I have substituted miracle for magic wand or even quantum time-space vortex.
Ask yourself this…
Oh, right. The question. So here’s how you do it. I want you to think of something that you would like to change in your life. You don’t have to clearly define it or know exactly what aspect you want to change. That’s what this tool helps you with. Maybe you’re thinking that you would like to change something about your job, a relationship, or something about yourself. Got something in mind? Good.
Now I want you to imagine that you went to sleep tonight and and while you were snoozing, a miracle happened. This miracle is super awesome because it created exactly the change that you wanted to occur. Now imagine that you are waking up and starting your day as usual. What is the first thing that you notice about your day that is different? What clues you in to the fact that a miracle happened? How is that different than it was before? Now continue on with your day as usual. What is the next thing that you notice that is different? I think you get the picture. Continue on like this walking through your day from start to finish.
Once you get the hang of this first portion, kick it up a notch. Ask yourself who else in your life has noticed that something is different? What do they see in you that is different from before? How do they know that your miracle happened? Who else has noticed that you have changed? If you want to be a overachiever and get really crazy with it, ask yourself how these people are different because of your changes.
This might seem silly or arbitrary to some of you, but trust me when I say that these simple questions can be so helpful. As humans, we often have a tendency to feel things before we understand them. We know that something needs to change, but when someone asks us what we want, it’s so hard to give a concise answer. We end up saying things like “I don’t know, but I just need it to change!” Well using this tool gives you a simple pathway to help clarify some of those nebulous feelings. Let me give you a real life example of the miracle question in action to help you see how useful it can be.
Real Therapy Example
This next example is an approximation of something that I worked through with a client of mine in individual psychotherapy. Keep in mind that therapy is a protected, confidential relationship, so some of the details have been changed here to preserve anonymity. The client that I’m talking about here is a 54 year old male. Let’s call him Tom. Tom came into session with the feeling that something really needed to change in his relationship with his wife. He felt like something was missing. That there was a disconnect between them. They had currently been getting along just fine, but it felt empty. Tom was feeling lonely even though he saw his wife every day.
So I led Tom through the miracle question. I asked him to imagine that when he went to sleep, a miracle happened and the change that he wanted to make magically occurred. At this point he was a bit apprehensive, but I encouraged him to play ball and see how it went. I told him to treat it as an intellectual exercise, which made a little more sense to him. So he put his mind into that potential future and I asked him, “so now as you are waking up in this world where that change has occurred, what is the first thing that you notice that is different? What is your first clue that a change has happened?”
“We would be touching,” Tom said with tears welling in his eyes. “I don’t mean cuddling hard or even spooning, but we would be touching. Maybe just a hand on my chest or feet touching.” I replied, “Wow that sounds like a really meaningful change to you. What would be different about that?” To which Tom said, “I would know that she wanted to be in that bed with me and not somewhere else.”
So we continued on a bit. I had to take things nice and slowly with Tom, because as we went through his day bit by bit, more and more layers of emotion were starting to surface. However, I noticed that this was really starting to click for Tom and he began to take the reigns and continue without much prompting despite his obviously strong emotions. At one point, he began describing a situation where he and his wife were eating a meal and talking. He described that it would be different because they would both be fully present and he would feel heard. Since he was focusing so much on the interaction between the two of them, he was taken by surprise when I asked how he himself might be different in this future. “Wow…. I’m not really sure. I guess… in this world I am more confident. I know that what I have to say is interesting and I know that I am worthy of her company,” Tom explained.
“How would she be different because of your changes?” I inquired. Tom replied that, “She would feel safe. She would feel that I’m still invested in our relationship and that she doesn’t have to be afraid of being close.”
This was some heavy stuff. It’s probably important for you to realize that Tom hadn’t shown much emotion during our time together before this point. Seeing this unfold in that moment made it difficult for me to suppress my own emotion. I was so proud of him for allowing himself to dive in and discover the real aspects of his relationship that he would like to change.
Now once you have played that scenario through, the next step is to ask yourself whether there are already any pieces of this change or this solution that are already happening. In Tom’s case, he thought about it for a nice long moment and then told me that he and his wife had actually been intentionally making sure that they had at least dinner together every night. From there we discussed the ways that he could use these little seeds of change and build upon them. Starting from these small pieces of change is such helpful way to begin crafting a future where that change is no longer imaginary. Tom made some serious progress after that and remains happily married.
What do you need to do to build upon the pieces of your change that are already happening? What needs to happen in order to take the next step? If I can generalize a little bit based on what I have seen time and time again with my own clients… you might be surprised how closely your future ends up resembling this miracle world.