5 Whys – Self-Evaluation Through Goal Setting

5 WHYS long

Ever set a goal and fail to see it through?

Ever complete a goal and find yourself unsatisfied, even disappointed?

If so, learning to analyze the why behind the goals you set could save you loads of time, energy, and heartache.

A few weeks back I was discussing this with a client when she offered an excellent method for getting really deep really quick with one simple question:


“It’s how we’re taught to troubleshoot at Microsoft,” she said. “We have to ask why at least 5 times to trace the problem back to it’s root.”

And that’s what goals are, right?

“Solutions” to “problems” we want to “solve.”

At first, I thought 5 why’s was a bit much.

I was learning towards something closer to 3, but before I could object, she had proven me wrong.

In an instant, she was running through the exercise.

“I want to help kids. Why? Because I watched my siblings get in trouble and pass early. Why? Because we had a horrible childhood. Why?…”

She flew through all 5 in less than a minute, leaving me little to do except evaluate the benefits this method has to offer.

Benefits of The 5 Whys Method

1) Gives us a Strong Why

When the going gets tough, it’s our why that pulls us through.

After a late night out and early night up, volunteering across town may not sound very appealing.

But when you think about the lives you could change, the people you could help, getting out of bed becomes much easier.

Why is it you do what you do? Is it to increase your confidence? To change the world?

Asking this first why will show you.

Make a list of it. Keep it close.

2) Shows us Different Methods for Achieving the Same Goal

Before we understand our motives, we may set goals that are less effective than others.

Learning the real reasons that drive our ambitions gives us the opportunity to reassess and consider other options.

3) Saves us Time, Energy, and Heartache

Understanding our why helps us make better choices about the goals we choose to pursue.

If we analyze our goals before we get started, we’re less likely to go after something unimportant or uninspiring.

4) Allows us to Forgive

Some of our goals can be traced back to poor parenting or an unfavorable start.

Understanding this can not only help us forgive ourselves, but can also help us forgive our parents.

In my clients case, her parent’s undiagnosed medical conditions played a huge role in how she and her siblings were raised. But knowing they were undiagnosed – uneducated about what was going on – allows her space for forgiveness.

How to Apply the 5

Applying the 5 Why’s method is simple.

First, find a comfortable, quiet place where you won’t be disturbed for the next 15-20 minutes.

Take something to write with, your goals, and a journal.

1) Get in Tune

In order to recognize how you really feel towards your goals, I recommend getting in tune with your bodies response to true and false statements.

So very quickly, I’d like you to take 3 deep breathes.

Pay attention to the air coming in as you inhale, holding it for a count of 3…

Exhale slowly…

Repeat this two more times.

A deep breath in…

And exhale slowly…

And one more time…

A deep breath in…

And exhale slowly…

In a moment, I want you to ask yourself: “How old am I?” Answering truthfully.

As you do, notice how you feel in your body. Is there any tension? Any contractions?

Let’s do this now.

What did you notice? Jot it down in your journal.

Now I’d like you to ask the same question, but give a dishonest answer. So if you’re 27, give a little fib – say you’re 25 or something.

Again, pay attention to your body as you give your answer.

Do this now.

What did you notice?

Jot it down in your journal.

2) Write it Down

At the top of your page write down your most important goal.

3) Why #1

Below your goal, write out why you want to accomplish it. It helps me to write it out

“Why do I want to…”

You may have more than one.

In fact, you should have more than one.

4) Identify Your Why’s

Put a circle around all your big answers. This will help you identify them in the later steps.

5) Examine Each Reason

Next, you’re going to start looking at each reason you gave.

Again, it helps to write out the entire question.

Do this no less than 5 times, paying attention to your bodies reaction as you give your answers.

If you feel any contraction or restriction in the body, ask yourself – do I really believe this? Asking ‘why’ regardless of the answer you receive.

6) Repeat

Repeat this process with all of your circled topics.

I also recommend putting any other major goals you may have under the same scrutiny.

Don’t forget, it’s important to get in tune before you start!


Goal setting is a great way to stretch yourself.

With it, you can grow your bank account, your dreams, your relationships.

In order to set the best goals we can, we’ve gotta examine them.

It’s quick, it’s easy.

It could save you TONS of time and energy.

Take Action

Now its your turn.

Follow the instructions above and start looking at why you’ve set the goals you’ve set.

If you haven’t set any, you can learn to do so here.


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