Self-coaching questions

by Sebastian Novak, alumnus of the Barton group

Questions that can help you moving out a dead-end or if you are stuck, be in in research or in life.

Questions for lateral thinkers


1) Do I limit myself by assuming imagined boundaries?
2) Are there restrictions I am assuming that may not be valid (any more)?
3) Are my assumptions on the problem description / on the solution requirements valid? How else could I see the problem/solution?
4) Does the problem change if I take it into a different context?
5) Can I cross-cut the problem differently?

Questions that help you to get from problem focus to solution focus:

1) What do I want to achieve? Where do I want to get? (As opposed to: What do I want to get rid of?)
2) Assume that you reached your goal; how do you notice it?
3) Assume that you reached your goal. What would be different? What would you do differently?
4) Who else would notice that you reached your goal? How would they notice? What would they notice about you?


Questions to unlock your internal resources:

1) Think of similar issues you (at least partially) overcame in the past (i.e., positive reference). What did you do?
2) What can you avoid by keeping up the issue?
3) What could you do to make the issue worse?
4) When does the issue not arise? What exactly is different? What do you (not) do instead?
5) Who/What supports/strengthens you?


Self-coaching frameworks:


Virtual Expert (decision making, doing the “right” thing)
    1) Pick an expert who could solve your problem.
    2) Write down questions to ask the expert; ask them one by one an note potential “answers” that come to your mind.
    3) For each question, choose the anwer the expert would most likely choose.

Exception Analysis (nothing seems to work)
    1) In past days/weeks/months, was there a (maybe short) time when the situation was (maybe almost) perfect?
    2) Write down (a) what did you do in that situation that you usually don’t do? (b) what did you not do that you usually do? (c) what did you do differently? (d) what was the reaction of the others on your respective behaviour? (e) what was your reaction in turn?
    2) Select the behaviour patterns that were most useful for a positive outcome and write them down; use them next time and observe the difference you will experience.

Future Beaming (decision making, worrying about the future)
    1) Sort your alternative options according to your personal tendency to choose them.
    2) Start with the option you tend to pick least, write down consequences that could occur in (a) a month, (b) a year, (c) 3 years, (d) 5 years; repeat for all other options.
    3) In the same order, describe the situation that emerged due to the decision and answer the questions (i) what has improved due to the decision, how did you benefit? (ii) what has been prohibited, how were you affected negatively?

Distance Alteration (stuck in details, being too involved)
    1) Look at your situation from different distances: (i) 5 metres from your desk, (ii) in the bar in the evening, (iii) as a runner in 42km marathon distance, (iv) from your holiday on the Fiji Islands, (v) from a sabbatical year timeout.
    2) Write down (a) what you see, (b) what you think about the situation, (c) what decisions you take from that perspective, and (c) what specific actions you take.
    3) Choose the distance that allows you the most calm and relaxed view; be aware that it is your choice how you behave and you have the freedom of choice to modulate the distance (with all positive and negative consequences).

Main references (in German)
S. Radatz: Beratung ohne Ratschlag, Verlag systemisches Management
M. Varga von Kibed & Insa Sparrer: Ganz im Gegenteil, Carl-Auer Verlag GmbH

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