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Milton Erickson's Method for Invoking Vision

written byErickson Coaching Internationalon 28/03/2020

As Erickson Coaching International celebrates 40 years of pioneering coach training, our Founder and President, Marilyn Atkinson, has created a series of videos sharing her personal stories from over the last four decades.

This year also marks the 40th anniversary of the death of Erickson's inspiration and namesake, the renowned American psychologist Milton Erickson, who shaped the beginnings of Solution-Focused methodology. He was an incredible storyteller throughout his entire career – using stories for healing and creating a path towards transformational metaphors, providing powerful examples for all who followed after. 

Milton Erickson emphasized that we have all the resources we need to develop ourselves and that we are always ‘okay.’ In other words, we can always move out of our old, negative emotional belief systems into the light of self-awareness. In his stories, he showed how we have full access to the inner resources we need for self-growth and can shift at any time.

Milton also emphasized the power and value of compassion for others, pointing out that we all do the best we can in any situation and are generally willing to progress further up the ladder towards attaining bigger goals. These principles – Ericksonian Principles – are the foundation of all of Erickson’s coach training programs. 

In this video, Marilyn shares the personal story of how her mentor, Milton Erickson, inspired her to assist people in finding their heart's desire and really go for what is important in their lives. His work has been a source of continuous inspiration for the Erickson team and 40 years after his passing, we celebrate the incredible legacy and inspiration he left behind.

Unique tasks were one of Milton’s chief developmental tools, and he used them regularly to stimulate people towards ‘diving in’ to deeper engagement. For example, many clients who visited him in Phoenix, Arizona, were, at the end of their first session, encouraged to climb Squaw Peak, a nearby mountain. Or they were asked playfully to find the creeping clawfoot plant growing near a specific path in the Arizona desert. “You will recognize it yourself when you see it near the head of the trail,” he would tell them, encouraging them to metaphorically and physically dare to explore.

He also gave other interesting but very simple tasks. "Before our next session, go and choose five special small stones from the bottom of a stream. Select them carefully. Put them on a windowsill where the sun shines bright and where you can look at them glitter and glow. Would you be willing to do that?" He would use an expectant tone that insinuated that this task was of value and importance. He would give no further information.

Through sheer curiosity, the client would do the task. They would get insights and renewed courage in so doing. The next step, then, was the courage to proceed in an important life decision.

Is coaching your calling? Discover how Solution-Focused coaching skills enable you to create transformational change in yourself and others. 

Usually, the client determines the appropriate tasks. However, when a dream is still abstract or barely formed, a metaphoric task or observational task may invoke vision. Think about it for a moment: What kind of person will do tasks of the type Milton prescribed? What kind of person hikes up the rocks, discovers an interesting kind of tree, or finds pretty pebbles that glitter in the sun? You know who—children! Children love their visions that start them playing in new ways.

Milton knew that if we re-stimulate the openness, interest, and playfulness of our inner child and encourage our younger dreams, the action muscle of childlike curiosity gets stimulated into a flow of natural action-excitement. We start to risk, gathering real fuel towards our purpose. He understood that the essence of taking robust action created a sincere curiosity about life so we start anticipating life‘s joy again. When we move past frustration and failure, we rekindle all sorts of inner fires, becoming more willing to try out surprise choices. We get ‘fired up’ about life.