SF on Tour interviewed by Ryszard Kaczorowski for the psychological magazine „Inspiracje Psychologiczne“
A few months ago Ryszard Kaczorowski interviewed us for the psychological magazine „Inspiracje Psychologiczne“ (Psychological Inpsriations). We are delighted to publish this interview here in English. Ryszard is chief-editor of the Polish magazine „Inspiracje Psychologiczne“. He is a psychologist, therapist, and philosopher working with couples in private practice. We met at the European Brief Therapy Association (EBTA) summer camp in Slovenia last year.
“Life can be simple and joyful. And SF can be the key.”
“The more I got into SF, the more I felt that everyone in the world should know about this approach to create the life that they want instead of limiting themselves with all these problem focused approaches that are out there.”
“Imagine a world where people focus on what they really want in life, a world where everything that works well is used to create this preferred future, a world where people see each other in their resources, a world of possibilities.”Elfie Czerny & Dominik Godat
Ryszard: What is Solution Focus (SF) on Tour?
Elfie & Dominik: Solution Focus on Tour is our family – Elfie, Dominik and our daughter Bibiana – traveling the world with our Solution Focused camper van „Hearty“ spreading our enthusiasm for the Solution Focused approach and a life in joy and ease. We aim to explore Solution Focus (SF) in our every day life even more and to inspire people worldwide with this simple yet highly effective focus. With our painted camper van we want to arouse peoples’ curiosity to get in touch with us and find out more about the SF approach by exploring SF elements with us. Life can be simple and joyful. And SF can be the key. Our best hope is that the people we meet are fascinated by the explored benefits of this focus and that they start to talk together more about their preferred future, find out what works towards that, and explore signs of progress in their daily lives. (Check out our weekly SIMPLY FOCUS podcast with Solution Focused topics and interviews for a life in more joy and ease)
Ryszard: In what kind of way did SF inspire your life? How have you become so enthusiastic towards this approach? I know, you’ve decided to sell your apartment to go for this adventure. That must be a big deal for you.
Dominik: SF inspired me when I was asked these simple yet very effective questions. I immediately knew that this is what I want more in my life. I felt how powerful it is to explore my preferred future, to realize what’s already working towards it and to amplify all this by focusing on small signs of progress in the near future. And I knew that with SF I can have the life I wish for very easily. The more I got into SF, the more I felt that everyone in the world should know about this approach to create the life that they want instead of limiting themselves with all these problem focused approaches that are out there.
Elfie: When I started to apply SF questions and principles in my daily life it had an enormous impact on everything I did. I started noticing a lot different things in my life. I saw much more of what worked and what I want and was easily able to do more of it. Also my environment and interactions changed. I had more conversations with people who enjoyed taking a solution focus and I was less surrounded by people focusing on problems. The most interesting thing however was, that people who had a strong problem focus when talking with me in the past, all of a sudden talked much more about their preferred future, about what worked in their lives and about successes they had. As I trained my Solution Focus I more and more asked different questions to people, focused even more on seeing the other person in its brilliance and also listened much more for resources, successes and anything that goes in a direction the other person wants. The fascination for co-creating useful conversations, joy and ease in my and others lives and in all kind of interactions never left me ever since.
Elfie & Dominik: After spreading SF in companies, at Universities, and in our open courses in Switzerland, Austria, and Germany (see www.solutionfocusedleadership.com and www.impulskonferenz.com), we felt that it’s now time to go beyond that, to let go of our steady life and to travel the world with this approach. (Check out what helped us bringing our dream alive.) Imagine a world where people focus on what they really want in life, a world where everything that works well is used to create this preferred future, a world where people see each other in their resources, a world of possibilities. That would be a big deal and that’s what we aim for with all the people that join in. Together we can amplify useful change in the world. (Check out or SIMPLY FOCUS podcast episode #2 about amplifying useful change in an ever changing world.)
Ryszard: What have you learnt already from this trip? You personally and you as SF family.
Elfie & Dominik: Being on the road offers so many learning opportunities. One thing that we experience even more than before is that change is happening all the time. Most approaches believe in a stable world where change is the exception. We believe the opposite. Everything is changing all the time and we can use these changes to live the life we want. Being on the road this becomes even more obvious – especially with things like cooking, food shopping, etc. It’s very joyful to focus on what we can discover today. It would be easy to be annoyed as things change, e.g. when we can’t find the products that we are used to in the next supermarket. At the same time it brings so much joy when we allow ourselves to discover the opportunities those changes offer. We simply need to set our focus on our preferred future and what already works towards it. Just a few days ago we had such a situation: We realized that we are somehow dissatisfied with the amount of time we currently spend for very basic things. We started talking about our preferred future and about all the things that are still working – we love to play Solution Ping Pong while driving: one person asks a Solution Focused question and the other one has to find at least five details regarding the answer before the other one asks the next SF question. – Within ten minutes we were connected to a full range of possibilities which allowed us to quickly restructure the way we spend our time in the future. We again realized that with SF we can easlily co-create whatever we want in joy and ease. We are convinced that we can all co-create so much more than we think. We all live in a world full of possiblities.
Ryszard: You speak with passion. I feel that you find this trip as a mission. You travel, spread a message, learn from others. You said at the beginning that there were some questions that put you on this road. What were they?
Elfie & Dominik: Yes, passion and the wish that everyone should know about the SF approach is driving us very much. When people encounter difficulties, they usually ask themselves (or get asked) questions that focus on the problem, like why the problem occured, what’s wrong, who’s responsible and things like that. When we first encountered the Solution Focused approach we both realized how much more productive and faster it is to ask questions that focus on possible solutions, like what do I want instead of the situation I am in, what is already working in this direction, and what could be a sign of progress that shows me that I am already on my way to my preferred future? In conversations with questions like these people tend to become much more and much faster able to act in a productive and wished for way. Meanwhile there are more than 2500 studies that show the positive effects of the Solution Focused approach. And still this approach is not yet very well known and widespread outside the therapy and coaching world, even tough it’s much more useful than the commonly known problem oriented way of problem solving.
Ryszard: Is it a kind of hippie trip? I mean, you are traveling with your house, learning and teaching with a message of SF love?
Elfie & Dominik: We see ourselves more like traveling messengers that want to inspire with a message of how to make life easier, more joyful, and more productive.
Ryszard: When a problem comes you ask yourself: What do I want and what am I doing right? What have I already achieved to get it? Because when you are more attached to your skills and resources it is esier to find a solution. Could you expalin in a more detailed way what kind of questions you are asking during this Solution Ping Pong that lead you to answers? How exactly do you do it?
Elfie & Dominik: Solution Ping Pong can be „played“ in different ways. In the situation mentioned above we started by asking „What are your best hopes from this conversation?“ and then built our next questions on the answers each of us gave. In other situations we play “Preferred Future Ping Pong” where we ask questions like „How will you notice today that we are creating our best journey ever?“ „What are you looking forward to do towards our preferred future?“ „How might people at our next stop notice that we are living our best hopes?“. Sometimes we play “Working on What Works Ping Pong” where we ask questions like „Looking back at the last week: What are you proud of as father/mother/partner?“ „What are we doing successfully as a family and want to keep doing?“ „How did you notice today that I love you? And what differences does this make for you?“. Sometimes it’s about sharing our experiences and talking about our day using questions like „What have been your highlights today so far?“ „What are you grateful for?“ „What made you smile today?“. There are almost infinite possibilities how to play Solution Ping Pong, as long as you keep an SF focus. (Check out our SIMPLY FOCUS podcast episode #4 about the art of asking great Solution Focused questions.)
Ryszard: It was very touching for me, when I was going to sleep I said to my girlfriend that I have an idea. I would like to share what I am grateful for today and I invited her to do the same. I felt that this brings us closer to each other and if you do this for some time, you are really getting more insights, you learn from each other more and more, and because of that you do know what to do more of. It doesn’t mean that you don’t talk about troubles, but you are not focused on them, problems are just the beginning, problems say “I want something”. Then you ask yourself “what do I need to achieve this?” (looking for solutions) instead of “why are you doing this to me?” (accusing).
Elfie & Dominik: Wow, great that you did it right away and that it made such a difference for the two of you. When we do that, we also feel that it brings us even closer together and that we learn from each other. By mentioning what worked well, we make it visible and with that we also make it usable for our future. It´s very encouraging to do what worked again. And with that, there is a very high probability that things we mentioned as highlights will occur more often again in the future. We also agree with you, that mentioning a problem can be a starting point to get into a Solution Focused conversation. It makes such a crucial difference when we don´t stay there, but find out together what we want, what differences that would make, what we have already done in the past to support that, and how we might notice that things are already changing in the near future.
Ryszard: Sometimes our clients know quite well what they need to do. This is why asking them a question like “what kind of question would you like to hear?” can be an interesting and revealing experience. I can imagine that you are these kind of people who know what kind of question you would like to hear, so what kind of question would you like me to ask you now?
Elfie & Dominik: Wow. That’s a good question. Let us think a moment about that… As our dear camper van, our „Hearty“, got a lot of attention the first months of our journey, it could be interesting to ask: „Hearty, how did you notice that you are on an SF journey?”
Ryszard: If Hearty could speak, what would it reply?
Elfie & Dominik: It would probably say that it sees us daily talking about our preferred future, about what works, and about how we might notice that we are on the journey we want to be. And that keeping this Solution Focus was not always easy, but always very rewarding. Especially when we had an accident on the first day of our journey, or when the roof leaked. (Check out our SIMPLY FOCUS podcast episode #3 about how Solution Focus made a difference when dealing with an oil leak.) What could have become a drama, was sorted out quite quickly after we explored what we wanted and what a good small next step could be. It would also mention that the pictures with our Solution Focused messages draws quite a lot of attraction – people read them, they smile, some approach us and invite us to talk about our journey.
Ryszard: I would like to ask you both a private question. You don’t have to answer but I think it can be useful for others. I assume that as all families you argue sometimes. How does SF come in handy in these emotional situations for you as experts in SF?
Elfie & Dominik: Yes, we also argue. And SF makes a huge difference for us in these moments. Moreover, these are the especially interesting moments in our SF practice. When everything goes in the right direction, it’s quite easy to keep an SF focus. As soon as it gets more difficult, it’s more challenging and also much more rewarding to refocus on SF elements. We see SF as a focus practice that needs to be trained. And these moments are ideal for it. If something doesn’t work, do something else. Mostly the biggest challenge is to notice that we are arguing and that this is not helpful, then to stop doing it and to invite each other with SF questions and mindful SF listening to get into an SF focus. Most useful for us in these moments, is to slow down, start listening for each others brilliance and talk about our mutually shared preferred future and about what we appreciate about each other. (Check out our SIMPLY FOCUS podcast episode #6 about Solution Focused listening.) It’s a very joyful thing for us to train our focus and to show ourselves again and again how enriching it is to walk the talk. And the more we do it, the better we get in supporting each other in keeping our focus and in inviting each other to change our focus towards what we want and what is working instead of on what seems not to be right at the moment.
Ryszard: When you spot that you are arguing you stop and try to ask yourself “what do I expect from you or this situation?”. I do the same while working with children and it gives amazing results. Instead of looking for the guilty ones (this teacher and parents usually do in Poland) I say to a child “ok, im not looking for someone to blame, but please tell me what do you want him/her to do differently?”. Children usually are surprised, and try to do what they learnt but then I get replies like “I want him not to tease me!“ „Why didn’t you say so?! I thought that we were playing that way!” then I ask a solution focused question “So how would you like to play differently?” and we are home.
Elfie & Dominik: We usually ask ourselves how we would want to have it differently and what differences this would make for us. We stopped to talk about expectations and find it much more productive to discover how we might notice that things are better. This moves the conversation away from how others have to behave differently to a more mutual picture of the preferred future.
Ryszard: How does your day look like? Do you meet people on campgrounds? Do you do workshops there or in some special places? Are you invited by people? How does your every day traveling look like? Maybe the thing is that every day is different…
Elfie & Dominik: Change is happening all the time. This is what we very much experience every day. No day is the same.
Ryszard: I’ve seen on the pictures that you meet other people on the road. Can you tell some stories from your trip?
Elfie & Dominik: Wow. There are so many stories… Just today, we met a lovely couple with their two grandchildren and two dogs. They were about to pass our camper van and decided to stop. Enjoying our breakfast in our Hearty we glimpsed their smiling faces looking out of the window and took the chance to start a touching conversation about the power of working on what works and other solution focused ideas. Before they left they asked if they can take pictures of the messages on our Hearty. Another story was around Thanksgiving. We were searching for nature and found the Clearwater Lake Recreational Area in Florida. We arrived right before they closed. Dominik checked in and had a joyful conversation with one of the campground hosts and another guest. The next day the campground host came and asked more about our journey. Together with the other hosts he invited us to the staffs Thanksgiving dinner. What an honor. When we left one of our new, dear friends wrote us a note mentioning that we truly touched their hearts at Clearwater Lake and we learned that we inspired one of the campground hosts to get some really important life things done which he already gave up on. We are so grateful for having the chance to meet all these wonderful people who are open to be inspired. And we are happy to connect with them, share stories, inspire each other and make the world a more joyful place – at least for the moment of our conversation. We often see people stopping in front of our Hearty, looking at the pictures, reading the messages, starting to smile and often even starting to talk about it with their fellows. And we are committed to never miss a chance for a conversation about our SF messages. We are very much looking forward to engage even more with groups of people and to invite them to experience the power of SF as a group around our Hearty.
Ryszard: The question „What would you like to have instead of a problem?“ can be a brain storm for people that focus on depressing and frustrating situations they have. Especially if they go into details and spot that what they want instead is what they (partly) have or had before. For example people with marriage problems usually remember times when it was better, what they did that made them love each other, but they got so much into fights that they lost the focus on the good things that were there between them. In those good moments they find solutions. Questions were always gates to the places of wonder. Philosophy of the West and meditation of the East start with the question of who we are? So who are you as a SF messengers? Let it be the last question.
Elfie & Dominik: That’s what we love about the SF approach. There are useful questions for everyone. When we work with people diagnosed as „depressed“, it is very useful to focus on the very small things that still work well and build on them. While we love to focus with couples on their shared preferred future and on the things that they see the other partner doing towards that. Yes, in those good moments they find clues for co-creating what they want. Who are we as SF messengers? We are a family who is enjoying the miracles of applying the Solution Focused approach in our live and sharing this with the people we meet and the ones who join our journey on www.sfontour.com.