One of my favourite tools to share for transformational personal growth is the 5 WHYs…. It is so exciting to do this simple exercise with someone and to witness the aha moments that arise in the process.
This exercise is deceptively simple because all you need to do is become the annoying 3 year old in your own life… the one that constantly asks.. ‘But why?’
There is a purpose in the 3 year old asking; it is not to frustrate the parent or bewilder the teacher, but to UNDERSTAND and this is the second phase of growth so it’s an entirely valuable process in evolution.
True and deep understanding is necessary in order for us to move beyond our current paradigm – when you truly understand what is ‘going on’ you can accept, transform or transcend with ease. Without understanding we are going to assume – and we all know what happens then… (we make an ass out of u and me)
The brilliance of this simple tool is that it can quickly get you to the root cause of the issue and apply measures to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
I’ve used it successfully with clients to also get to disruptive or unhelpful beliefs and behaviors that, when cleared and reprogrammed, have changed their lives rapidly and in incredible ways.
The origins of the 5 Why’s
The founder of Toyota – Sakichi Toyoda – developed the technique in the 1930s and it became popular in the 1970s and it is said that Toyota still uses it to solve problems today!
It is really helpful for decision making, as once the 5 whys process has been applied – the decisions are based on an in depth understanding of what is actually happening rather than what someone thinks is happening.
“The 5 Why’s technique is true to its tradition, and is most effective when the answers come from people who have hands-on experience of the problem (in this case.. YOU!)
The method is remarkably simple: when a problem occurs, you drill down to it’s root cause by asking WHY five times – then when a counter measure becomes apparent, you follow through to prevent the issue recurring” Mindtools.com
Mindtools also shares a note – that the 5 Whys uses ‘counter measures’ rather than ‘solutions’ – a counter measure is an action or set of actions that seeks to prevent the problem from arising again, while a solution may just seek to deal with the symptom. As such, counter-measures are more robust and will more likely prevent the problem from recurring.
So how can you make the 5 WHYs work for you?
There are many ways you can approach the process – you can do this alone and speak out loud, you can do it alone and write your questions and answers down or you can connect with a friend/colleague (someone who you trust implicitly and who will hold you to the process) who asks you the WHYs or you can engage a coach/practitioner. All will work – what I’ve found, using the tool myself, is that I want to avoid/procrastinate on going ‘deep’ and so the most powerful way has always been to have a second party to help… it holds a higher degree of accountability. Having said that, I’ve also had incredible shifts and insights doing it myself.. esp at 3am when the problem just seems so big and insurmountable and there is noone else around!
Make sure you are in a quiet and safe space where you can be fully present and vulnerable… this process will work its best magic when you are both!
The journey to the pot of gold
Imagine yourself at the top of a beautiful spiral staircase… if you look over the railings all the way to the bottom you can see that way down there is a pot of gold – and what that pot of gold represents is the TRUTH of who you are and why you do what you do or feel what you feel or give what you give or know what you know…it’s a very special pot of gold – and your focus is to get to that pot of gold, because it is the treasure that will unlock your freedom.
In order to get to the gold you must ask and answer truthfully WHY and each time you answer why and get a profound sense of insight/understanding – you can take a few steps down and get closer to your pot of gold!
Start with the problem/issue
At the top of the stairs we start with the problem you are having (that you want to change) and defining it….eg why can’t I ask for what I want or why does my back hurt so much all the time or why can’t I seem to earn more money or why do I fight all the time with my partner
Once you have it defined – you ask it, outloud OR if you have someone with you – they ask you… and you start the answer….until there is nothing more to say on that and then you take some steps down the staircase towards your pot of GOLD and then… you or your support person asks WHY… and then you answer…until there is nothing more to say on that and then you take some steps down the staircase towards your pot of GOLD and then you or your support person asks WHY… you get the drift?!
No other question, no other digging – just a plain, simple WHY.
I Don’t Know?
IF you find you want to answer ‘I don’t know’.. That’s okay, in fact it’s a great sign that you are onto something as this impulse to not answer is the self protection mechanism of the identity/ego trying to keep you from getting to the pot of gold so you change (because it’s attached to how you are and who you are now!)
So, resist the urge to say it and keep strong OR equip yourself and your friend with the counter to that which is ‘if you did know, how would you answer?’ or ‘if you did know, what would you say?’ or ‘if someone else (this would be someone important to you) was answering this question, what would that say?’
This will help you move beyond the superficial into the depths… and continue to keep taking those steps down the spiral staircase towards your GOLD!
The full five?
You may not need the full 5… you may get THE answer earlier – but I’ve never yet used this tool myself or with clients and NOT got to the answer by the 5th WHY.. but if you still do not quite have it by 5, keep asking until you get it! You will know when you get it by how you feel – you will get a wave of relief of high emotion or head nodding, smile turned up, laugh out loud at how obvious it is relief!
The Pot Of Gold
Once you’ve reached that luxurious feeling of relief and understanding, what do you do now? Now you have the answer (which is really the reason you do what you do) the possibilities are endless. The answer is that it really depends on what the pot of gold is and represents to you. Knowing may be enough – having the information and insight may simply be enough for you to make the changes you need OR you may need to take that information and get support to transform it… it may be a coach, healer, counselor, consultant or other support person who can help you do something powerful with the information… don’t feel despondent if there is another step to take – without the GOLD you’ve attained in thai process you would never have the possibility of even coming close to solving the problem – so well done!! Keep going… and simply see yourself at the top of another spiral staircase and with each process/tool/support you are getting closer to the next pot of GOLD (which, by the way, are unlimited supply!!)
Enjoy the WHYld ride!
If you’d like to join an amazing community of support and practice in WHYld living please check out whyldforwomen.com