What motivates you? Salary? Impact? Improving your craft? Praise?


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Ramit Sethi, personal development author asks, “Most people struggled with this question. And rather than admit what we want, we use canned responses we know are “safe.” Think about it: Sure, you want to “help people.” But what else? Is there a private little voice in the back of your head — the one that says, “I really want ____” — that whispers something over and over?”

To find the answer, Sethi suggests that we use the following technique. “For a lot of people, those desires are uncomfortable to admit. Sometimes, the desires are politically incorrect. But it is real. So how do we drill down and discover the reasons that really motivate us? One technique to use is the 5 Whys Technique, where you ask yourself “Why?” over and over.”


The 5 Whys technique was developed and fine-tuned within the Toyota Motor Corporation as a critical component of its problem-solving training.
Taiichi Ohno, the architect of the Toyota Production System in the 1950s, describes the method in his book Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-Scale Production as “the basis of Toyota’s scientific approach . . . by repeating why five times, the nature of the problem as well as its solution becomes clear.”

You can use the same principle to identify many root causes of problems in your personal life. The 5 Whys analysis is one of the tools you can use in performing self-reflection and self-analysis.



Blaz Kos from the agilelife.com offers a few examples of what you can discover by using the 5 Whys technique in your personal life:

▪ Why you think as you do
▪ Where your beliefs come from
▪ Why you feel or act as you do
▪ Why you behave a certain way with certain people
▪ Why you like some people and dislike others
▪ What leads to a certain situation that you have to encounter in your life
▪ And so on Here’s the big surprise…. You will often find that the root cause of your thinking or behaving is something completely different from what you initially thought. Very often you will be surprised at what your real emotional or behavioral issue is. You just have to be willing to accept the truth and dig deep.

There are two ways how you can perform the 5 Whys technique. You can do it in a very superficial way or you can do the exercise in a professional and diligent way. You do it in a superficial way when you are avoiding the root causes, when you don’t dig deep enough.


When you are analyzing only symptoms, searching for somebody to blame or identifying unexpected changes in the external environment, you are most often running away from what you should really face and deal with. The 5 Whys analysis will bring you to miraculous results only once you decide to confront your personal problems with all the bravery you possess.

Let me give you an example.

The problem: I was late to work.
* Why? I got out of bed too late.
* Why? I snoozed the alarm clock five times, unable to wake up.
* Why? I went to bed very late and didn’t get enough sleep.
* Why? I was watching TV late into the night.
* Why? There was a quite interesting movie on TV.
* Solution: Don’t start watching any movie after 5PM.
* That may be the right solution. Being late to work can be caused by watching TV late into the night. But what if the problem repeats itself after you decide to implement the solution and there is another, deeper root causing the problem? What if the analysis needs to be performed more honestly?

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The problem: I was late to work.
* Why? I got out of bed too late.
* Why? I snoozed the alarm clock five times, unable to wake up.
* Why? I went to bed very late and didn’t get enough sleep.
* Why? I was browsing 9gag on my mobile phone.
* Why? I had a very stressful day and needed to relax and forget about everything.
* Why? I hate my job.
* Why? Because my boss is constantly criticizing me.
* Why? Because I don’t meet the required standards at my work.
* Why? Because I hate what I do.
Solution: Find something that you enjoy and change your job.
The key point in the personal 5 Whys analysis is to always dig deep into yourself and find the root cause in the most honest, truthful and painful way. With this kind of a deep analysis you usually get to painful personal things like:

▪ Nobody taught me how to do it the right way
▪ I am envious, greedy, jealous etc.
▪ I am complexly unhappy with a job, relationship etc.
▪ I have a really shitty habit I need to change
▪ I have a deep toxic belief etc.
▪ Similar issues that are causing a problem to appear I hope you can see how the 5 Whys analysis can be extremely helpful if you want to improve the quality of your life and grow personally.

Here are the steps of performing the 5 Whys analysis for your personal problems:

1. Write down very specifically what your problem is
2. List everyone affected and how they’re related to your problem (supporters, blockers …)
3. Gather all the data that explain and support the problem – data, facts etc.
4. Start asking yourself why at least five times or more and find one or more root causes
5. Find a proportionate solution for every step of the process
6. Prepare a plan for getting rid of the root cause
7. Communicate constructively with other affected people how you will eliminate the root cause.

We will explore ideas like these and more at the FabulousLife Conference!!

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