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Book Summary: Relentless Solution Focus by Jason Elk, Ellen Reed

Relentless Solution Focus Book Summary

⭐ Rating: 10/10 - Recommended For: Coaches

✏️ Relentless Solution Focus Summary Written by Barry Engelhardt

Great successes are built on small victories. When a person learns to emphasize improvement over perfection, progress accelerates dramatically.

Our brains were biologically hardwired to interpret the world in certain ways. One of the most prevalent is what Drs. Selk & Reed define in Relentless Solution Focus as problem-centric thought – The biological tendency to focus on problems or the negative.

While evolutionarily sound, we’re no longer avoiding saber tooth tigers while scavenging for our next meal. Yet we continue viewing the world as a series of problems. Doing so causes adverse mental and physical repercussions. Problem-centred focus releases cortisol into our systems. This can cause increased stress levels, pressure and underperformance as a result. Relentless Solution Focus shares a framework to overcome these limitations.

Relentless Solution Focus (RSF) is simply defined as:

Within 60 seconds, replacing all negative thoughts with solution-focused thinking.

The Relentless Solution Focus book outlines how we must train our minds to consistently shift from problems to potential solutions. Drs. Selk & Reed argue that there is always a solution. Always.

3 Big Ideas from Relentless Solution Focus by Dr. Jason Selk & Dr. Ellen Reed 💡

The big ideas from Relentless Solution Focus:

  1. Expectancy Theory – In order to fully understand Relentless Solution Focus, one must first understand Expectancy Theory. It is simply defined as that which you focus upon expands. The more we focus upon our problems, the more problems we’re likely to find. We are naturally inclined to move towards and therefore act upon memories we’re focused on. Over time, this compounds upon itself with negativity creating negativity.

  2. Our Brains are Overloaded – We all have limits on our mental bandwidth and therefore, we’re naturally wired to view problems in their entirety. This view often causes problems to seem overwhelming and/or impossible to solve. Relentless Solution Focus defines a solution as, any improvement to the current situation. The authors encourage us to chunk issues into actionable steps that focus on creating momentum through continuous improvement.

  3. Great is the enemy of Good – Many high performers reach impressive levels through a perfectionist mentality. However, as the stakes rise, it becomes impossible to maintain. Perfectionists often take their successes for granted, focusing exclusively on their failures. While high expectations are encouraged, so is balance. If confidence is the number one predictor of performance, then focusing all but exclusively on failures places a cap on potential.

2 Best Quotes from Relentless Solution Focus 💬

Research confirms that confidence is the number one variable affecting a person’s performance….confidence improves, thus leading to increased ability and potential for others tasks and activities.

The more we focus on problems, the more problems we will create. It’s really that simple. Although simple in concept, breaking free from the damage that problem-centric thought combined with expectancy theory requires relentless solution focus.

Top Takeaway

Relentless Solution Focus helped solidify my understanding of how powerful solution-focused thinking is:

I accidentally stumbled upon many aspects of Relentless Solution Focus in my twenties. I was tasked with managing a small staff who kept a twenty-four-hour operation. But rather than making decisions, they often called account managers—including me—at all hours of the night to ask for guidance on problems as they arose. This quickly led to sleep-deprived frustrated managers.

My first desperate attempt at minimizing the after-hours calls was to hold a meeting in which I banned phone calls focused on problems. At the time I was grasping at straws, but it was the best idea I could come up with. Instead of problems, I explained that only proposed solutions were allowed. When talking with the managers, I made it clear that unless they felt that the proposed solution would make the situation worse, only small suggestions or tweaks were allowed.

While I hoped that this would lead to fewer calls, I didn’t expect, nor did I truly understand what happened. What I now grasp is that I experienced the power of a Relentless Solution Focus. Within a month, calls dropped by over 50%. Within a season, only serious calls that should be made at three in the morning were placed. My staff quickly began to trust their decision making.

But what I didn’t expect, was the change in their attitudes. As they began to look for solutions, their confidence improved, as did their interoffice relationships. Through focusing on solutions, rather than problems, productivity and measurable results skyrocketed. Individual confidence and attitudes also improved. Tenure also increased with many being promoted. Managers who complained of my staff’s incompetence quickly began to seek them out in the halls to compliment them on their performance. The mentality around the role shifted from a dead-end job to a training ground where entry-level supervisors paid their dues with an obvious path of progression.

While I didn’t fully comprehend these dramatic shifts in performance and perception, Drs. Selk & Reed’s work has provided a lens through which to understand and explain my dumb luck. What I stumbled upon was the operational power of a Relentless Solution Focus.

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Here is a Relentless Solution Focus summary video:


Time To Think Summary Written by: Barry Engelhardt

Barry Bio

I believe that it’s the small things, done consistently, that change the world. I strive to do those small things…

📚 I consider the written word one of life’s most unappreciated art forms, as well as life’s greatest teachers. From William Faulkner to Simon Sinek to the random book on obscure punk bands. There are wisdom and life lessons to be pulled from any book.

📗 The books I’ve recommended more than any other are Radical Candor by Kim Scott or The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier.


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