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5 ways to think in a more solution focused way


5 ways to think in a more solution focused way


If you think about it, we spend a lot of time thinking. Probably most of our waking hours. This thinking may be focused on work tasks and projects, stuff to get done at home, passing thoughts popping into our heads or idle daydreaming.

Whatever it is you’re thinking about, it all takes up your time. And that’s perfectly fine, but what about the times you have something that you want to do well and do quickly? These are the times it would be good to be more solution focused in your thinking. Being solution focused will help you to stay on track and get where you want to be. And the good news is, that it is something you can do anytime, whatever it is you’re working on or thinking about.


Here are five ways to make your thinking more solution focused;


1. Do more of what works

Sounds common sense, doesn’t it? To do more of what works. But, this doesn’t always happen. This isn’t just about the actions you take. It’s about the thinking you do. Is your thinking helping you or hindering you? Are you thinking about possible ways to do things, asking yourself quality questions, focusing on a successful outcome or filling your head with doubts and assumptions?

When you’ve been successful in the past what were you thinking at the time? Replicating this thinking will give you a great starting point. Reflect for a moment on a time when you achieved something and focus on what you were thinking. Recognise how what was going on in your head influenced the outcome. How could you possibly duplicate this for your current situation? The point is, if you’ve thought like this in the past you can do it again. Get your thinking right and the actions and results you want will follow.

From a leadership point of view, encourage your team to think about their thinking. Help them to identify if it is helping them or getting in the way. You can do this by asking “What was going through your head at that time?” or “What were you saying to yourself when ‘x’ happened?”  Then you can help them to understand that because it worked before, if they apply the same thinking, it is likely to work again. Imagine if all your team did this individually what the collective result might be.


2. Structure your thinking

Without realising it you are coaching yourself much of the time. This is through the questions that are floating around in your head. Your subconscious can’t help but work on answering them. And what is coaching? It’s asking questions, the answers to which help to solve a problem or achieve a goal. Are these questions structured in a way to help you be more solution focused?

So, where to start? Firstly, ask yourself what it is you want. Then get real clarity by asking specifically when you want this and how you will know when you have got there. A good starting point for solution focused thinking is knowing where you want to end up.

Alongside being clear on what you want, is to ask yourself why you want it. How does this thing you want to achieve fit with other tasks, projects or goals? How much do you really want it? A good way to phrase the question could be, “How strong is my reason why on a scale of 1 to 10?” If 1 means you’re not bothered and 10 means there is nothing else more important in your life, you have a quick way to find out if you’re motivated enough to start out.

The 1 to 10 scale is also useful to check out your confidence levels. Take a listen to what the voice inside your head is saying. If your self-belief is low, what could you possibly do about this?

Structuring your thinking to focus on exactly what you want, checking your motivation and confidence makes sure you’re in a good place to get started.  It’s good to keep a record of your thinking. Don’t leave it in your head, get it out so you can come back to review it.


3. Create a list

The next step to solution focused thinking is coming up with lots of ideas. Not just random ideas, but lots of ideas that could possibly help you achieve your goal. This is about giving you the best chance of success. More possibilities mean more options and there might be a hidden gem that will really move things forward quickly.

Keep coaching yourself and ask questions like, “What could I possibly do to achieve my goal?” Notice the phrasing of the question and how it is different to asking yourself, “What will I do?” Using words like “could, might” and “possibly” will open your mind to lots of different things rather than just focusing on a few. You’ll be creating a list that offers as many choices as possible.

As well as things to do, ask yourself questions about the things you might need, reasons to involve others, who you could possibly involve, ways to let them know what it is you are doing and how you might get their buy-in. Also, think about the things that might get in the way; risks, obstacles and assumptions. Then you can also ask yourself questions about how you could possibly deal with these things.

Remember to word the questions so you’re thinking possibilities. And remember to capture all these options in some way. Once you’ve got the list of ideas you can keep coming back to it for more ideas or to update your action plan.


4. Check your priorities

Then it’s time to get focused. Use your ideas list to work out what you will do. Rather than ‘possibly’, this is about what, when and who you will definitely involve. Go through your ideas list asking yourself questions along the lines of, “What will I do?” and “Who will I involve?”

With the answers, you can create a plan of what you will do and when. Prioritise, making sure that the most important things come first. And to avoid these actions being put off, plan in the time to make sure they happen. Go on, grab your diary!


5. Keep on keeping on

If your thinking is helping you to get the results you want, repeat it. Again this sounds obvious but you’ve heard the phrase, “Don’t fix what’s not broken” right? If it’s writing lots of options down, approaching various people to help or breaking big projects into chunks and it’s helping – keep up the great work!

  • For more ways to be creative, including 'involving others' in generating stacks of ideas, read our previous article here.

If you keep doing it, eventually it will become a habit. You will have built on your solution focused thinking skills. With good habits, you are more likely to get the results you want and continue to get them quicker and easier. Make sure you have this thinking recorded. You can review it to make any updates and go back to your ideas list to prioritise further actions to keep your momentum up.



These 5 tips for being more solution focused with your thinking will make it easier for you to get what you want when you want it.

This applies at work and out of work. You can be solution focused to work towards personal or professional goals.  

Take control of your thinking and structure it in a way that will be most helpful to get you to where you want to be. And remember key to this will be asking yourself some great questions.

Equally you can help others to be solution focused with their thinking by asking them great questions.


For a more in-depth look on how to structure and use questions to build solution focused thinking, take a look at our book Go MAD About Coaching.


Here are 3 practical things you can do straightaway to make your thoughts winning ones;

  • Think about something you want to achieve. Get clarity by writing it down. Check the strength of your reason why to move forward with this and your confidence levels that you can do it.
  • Explore your possibilities and create your ideas list. Collect as many options as possible.
  • Prioritise your possibilities. Decide what you will do first, by when and who you will involve - and then do it!


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