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Four Questions for One-Minute Motivation


At the March 2016 South-West Online Practice Group, we decided to practise “One Minute Motivation”. We were aware of this as a simple and efficient Clean Language tool for helping someone to get motivated to take action, but hadn’t actually tried it – just what Practice Group is for! We started by looking at the model – devised by Marian Way, Wendy Sullivan and Phil Swallow – which is super-simple, with just four questions:

  • What would you like to have happen?
  • What needs to happen for ... ?
  • Can you …?
  • When you … then what happens?

From our knowledge of other clean processes, we were also aware that it wouldn’t be quite that simple and that which question to ask would only become apparent as we launched into the session. We took turns being client, facilitator and observer, giving each other feedback and then going for another iteration, learning something new each time.

Given the limited time-scale, One Minute Motivation is not suitable for deep therapeutic work or complex binds, but for more practical day-to-day outcomes. So we chose topics such as:

  • I want to eat more green veg and fruit
  • I’d like to keep the inside of my car clean
  • I’d like to reduce my sugar intake
  • I want to drink more water each day
  • I’d like to exercise each day

Each person went away with new information; a clear understanding of the first step they would take; a list of other necessary conditions to support change and an idea of what change would bring them.

In just over an hour of practice, this is what we learned about the process:

What would you like to have happen?

Something about a reduced time scale seemed to focus our minds on outcomes rather than problems, and so there was no need to repeat this question (as per the PRO model in One-Minute Motivation, remedies are treated the same as outcomes). Whether this would happen in “real life” or not, we can’t say, although our own experience of asking “What would you like to have happen?” in other practice group meetings is that if there is problem material, it will come out.

What needs to happen for ... ?

This is what took up most of the session (we limited ourselves to 5-Minute Motivation rather than a literal one minute). We explored no metaphors and sometimes had to narrow down from a list of answers to focus on just one. What we discovered was that this question needs to be asked several times to get to new understanding for the client. Here is an example:

What needs to happen?

I need a change in mindset.

What needs to happen for you to have a change in mindset?

I can listen to a tape I have and I need to say “Yes”.

And you can listen to a tape?


And what needs to happen for you to say “Yes”?

It needs to be easy and pleasurable.

And what needs to happen for it to be easy and pleasurable?

I need to pick one simple yoga exercise I really enjoy and do it for two minutes each day.

Often the repetition of “What needs to happen?” brought the client to a clear and specific action:

  • I need to make one raw vegetable smoothie a day
  • I need a prompt card beside my computer to remind me about my car
  • I need to find someone who is good at drinking water and find out how they do it
  • I need to decide not to buy sugary things, to walk past them in the aisle

Can ... ?

By using “What needs to happen?” to clearly define the necessary conditions for change before asking this question, the answer was“Yes” in all cases. Had it been “No.”, we would have returned to “What needs to happen?”

Then what happens?

We understood that this question tests the client’s solution against their outcome – will they have their desired outcome if they take this step? We came to realise through experiencing this as clients that this is a key piece to motivation. It is people who know what the benefits of their change will be who are motivated to follow through the steps to achieve it.Often the words that came out in answer to this question – such as ‘alive’,‘radiant’, ‘healthy’ and ‘natural’ - were key words for the client.

Summary or Recap

It emerged as vital, at the end, to summarise for the client what they had discovered, starting at the beginning, with a light touch, picking out the main points:

  • desired outcome
  • key steps to achieve it (picking out the most practical and specific)
  • a re-iteration that the client can do this if needed
  • results that will be achieved

All of us as clients were very keen to note down the steps we had described and the decisions we had come to, but we also wanted to hear from the facilitator how we had described the proposed effects (our answers to ‘then what happens?’), because this was our motivation to get on and do it.


We had a fascinating evening, learning more about ourselves and our patterns (which emerged just as clearly in this work as in the longer sessions when we are working metaphorically) and learning how to use CleanLanguage in a brief, non-metaphorical way. It was another example of how CleanLanguage is flexible and can be adapted to different situations, whilst still operating from the ethos that the client is the expert in themselves and will find their own solutions if we keep our advice to ourselves. Of course we also got valuable information from modelling others’ best practice in this area, which we can apply to our own lives.

“One Minute Motivation” icon from www.flaticon.com.

About Sue Charman

Sue Charman's avatar

Sue Charman came to Clean Language from a theatre and storytelling background, fascinated by metaphor, inner landscapes and our own capacity for change, all of which are areas where story and psychology overlap. She discovered Clean Language via Caitlin Walker’s TedX talk and trained with Clean Learning during 2012, becoming a Level One Clean Facilitator in October of that year. She experiences both facilitation and training as inspiring, exciting and empowering for herself and others. Sue also runs “Wood Sisters”, a women’s modern mystery school combining meditation, myth, sacred time in nature and crafts.

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