The miracle question

Imagine that you wake up tomorrow, and something miraculous has happened. I’m not going to ask you to explain the miracle. Instead, can you tell me about the world you’ve imagined that you want to wake up in tomorrow?

I call that the miracle question. When I talk about that question, people think I call it that because the question is about the miracle. (It’s not.) Rather, I call it that because asking it performs a miracle.

Many people—if asked what change they’d like to create in the world—get bogged down explaining how they imagine creating their change. Certainly, “how” is important and there’s a time in the journey of creating change for that “how” thinking. But leadership is about showing others where you are going. To lead well, you have to be able to convey your vision of the destination.

The miracle question works because it helps people focus on sharing their vision by asking, “Can you tell me about the world you’ve imagined?” Don’t tell me about how you’re going to change the world. Tell me what you see as possible. Tell me what that changed world looks like, where it will be, and who will be there.

I did not create this miracle question, and to be honest I don’t recall where I first heard it used. (Tim Ferriss or Cal Fussman would be my guesses.) The question struck me as interesting and elicited great answers, and I set off using it countless times. I soon realized it is miraculous, but until recently I didn’t understand why it worked.

To solve problems as people in a complex world, we must first know where we are going. If we try to resolve the “how” before we understand the goal, it’s a recipe for confusion and wasted effort. Asking the miracle question encourages people to begin with the end in mind.


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