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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

Five Whys: The Secret to Setting Effective Goals

Five Whys: The Secret to Setting Effective Goals
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Do you have strong willpower to accomplish something in life yet always fail to be successful? If yes, you need to be introduced to the “five whys.”

Determination and intention are not enough. If you wish to reach the stage that you have always been dreaming of, you need to strengthen your goal setting strategy. The five whys are all about defining effective goals that are practical and achievable.

Read on to find out more about this technique and how you can benefit from it, too!

What Are the Five Whys?

Let’s start with an explanation of what exactly the five whys are. It’s no rocket science. The five whys are simply five questions based on reasons. The idea is to dig deep into whatever is going on in your head.

The Main Idea

The five whys method is an interrogatory technique. Imagine being a detective sitting in front of a potential culprit. Just like you would question every single answer that comes out from their mouth, you question yourself as well.

Of course, you’re both the culprit and the detective in this case. So, don’t even try to fool yourself. Be very honest and open. The answer to one question should lead to another question until you reach a crystal clear conclusion.

Being clear with your true intentions is a major part of setting effective goals. Unless you don’t listen to your true self, you won’t know the real reasons behind your goals. Since the true intention will be blurry, your entire path will be full of hurdles. What will that do? It will not just elongate the process and wear you out, but it will also increase your chances of failure.

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The five whys are questions that vary from situation to situation. Depending on your answers and goals, the exact questions will differ every time. However, the intent is always the same.

You want to find out more about the reasons behind your goal. You may think you know the answer, but once you start digging deep, you’ll learn a lot more.[1] Even if that’s not the case, it’s best to make sure that the reason is well-known and solid.

What to Ask Yourself

Start with the main question of what exactly your goal is. The five whys will follow this big question.

The first why should be focused on why you think you have this goal in mind. Is it going to bring you mental peace or financial stability? Or is it just a hobby you want to adopt.

Next, question its importance. Why did you choose this goal? There are probably many alternative routes available that can fulfill your needs.

For example, if you’re opting for something to satisfy a hobby, you can go for painting, music, dancing, and so much more. So, what makes you choose one of them over the others?

The third why is a continuation of the importance. But here you’ll learn how to focus on the ways that this goal directly affects your life. Why is this goal going to be a safe bet for improving your existing life?

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Moving forward, ask yourself why you can’t achieve what you want without this goal. Here you need to figure out the reasons that this goal makes your life complete or fills an empty spot.

Lastly, ask yourself why this goal will make you feel better. It is a given that if you’re struggling to achieve something, you’re expecting it to make you feel better than you already do. So, why will a new hobby or financial stability or mental peace make you more excited about life?

Once again, these questions are not very strict. You can adjust them according to your situation. The only thing to ensure is that you truly interrogate yourself and leave no doubts.

How to Implement the Five Whys?

You now have a rough idea of what exactly the five whys are and what kind of questions you need to ask yourself. For a better understanding, let’s look at an example so that you know how to implement this technique in your real life.

John is a man in his 30s. He has a decent job in a well-known firm. He lives alone in a rental apartment, uses public transport, and has an average American’s social life. His pay rate is good enough to allow him to live a decent life.

However, John has been thinking about starting a side business. He will initiate a start-up from home, run it online, and gradually upsize it as the business grows. Here’s how the five whys will be implemented in a situation like this:

  • Why does John need a second source of earning?
  • Why can’t John fulfill his financial needs with his pay?
  • Why is a business his choice among many other options?
  • Why is now the right time to start the business?
  • Why will a side business make his life easier and lifestyle better?

John will answer the questions one by one. He may even think of a few more whys as he goes down the road. But in the end, he’ll have a clear picture of what exactly his needs are and what makes him opt for this route.

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The Analysis

John has a fiancée. He plans on marrying her in the coming year and starting a family in a couple more. When he gets married, John wants to have his own car and house. Although his pay is enough to fulfill his daily expenses even after marriage, there’s a lot of more that he needs to save up for.

A side business will allow him to save enough money for all his future goals including the wedding, honeymoon, house, car, etc. If he lays roots of the business now, by the time he starts a family, his business will be in a position where he won’t have to put in much time to it but still generate decent revenue.

With unexpected circumstances in the times of coronavirus, John was worried that he may lose his job. What if a similar crisis or any other tragedy makes John lose his job when he has kids to feed? That’s when his business will be enough for him to continue his life without any financial worries.

Since John will have all the answers in mind, he can devise a plan accordingly. He knows that his aim is to have a running business in a few years. So, even if the business isn’t profitable for the first 6 months, that won’t be a worry.

Converting the Whys to Step-by-Step Goals

Now, you don’t have to struggle with a mental conversation. If you’re just starting with this technique, try using a flow-chart approach.[2]

Even if you conducted the interrogation in your mind, it’s best to write down the key points. It will help you in this second part of the process. Having the answers and clarity alone is not enough. You need to put this information to use as well.

In the case of John, he knows that he needs a second income mainly for his future. So, it won’t be an issue if whatever he starts will take time to generate profits.

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At the same time, he knows that he only needs this earning as a backup. His everyday expense can be covered easily with this pay. However, the extra money will go to his savings which he will use in the coming year for his house, car, and wedding.

Since his plan includes a possibility of giving up the job and relying completely on the business, he knows he’ll have to plan something that is profitable in the long-term and isn’t just a short-term fluke.

John’s Goals

Based on the five whys and the analysis, John’s first goal will be to research his options. Since he doesn’t have enough time to tackle a second job, a business is the only way to go. Based on his investment budget, he has to look for something that can be run online by one man initially but also has the potential to grow into a brick-and-mortar business with multiple employees.

His next goal can be to set up the website. If he’s selling a material product, a warehouse will have to be arranged. Moreover, delivery services and other aspects have to be looked into.

Next, he can move onto making enough time in his routine to be able to focus on his business. As John moves on, his goals will change accordingly.

If you also start to think and plan like John, you can easily define effective goals, tackle problem-solving issues, and restructure your life for more productivity.

Bottom Line

The five whys are nothing but extra steps in the process of defining goals. Everybody has heard of SMART goals, but only a few are successful in actually devising SMART goals.

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With the five whys, the whole process will become way easier and also more effective. It’s not hard to implement nor is it time-consuming. Just listen to your inner-self so that whatever you end up doing brings you the satisfaction that we all are looking for!

More Tips on Setting Effective Goals

Featured photo credit: Ricardo Arce via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on July 29, 2021

A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success

A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success
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If there was a rule book of life, there would be one particular page that was highlighted, underlined, and titled as most important. It would be the one which told you that you need to master effective goal setting and have an aim in mind before you get on with the process. While there may not be an actual rule book of life, we do have this helpful goal setting guide to offer.

Yes, goal setting is important. In fact, it’s more important than achieving the goal itself. This is because it is the sense of direction that is needed for you to fulfill any task in life.

You don’t have to feel overwhelmed if this sounds new to you, as all the following information has you covered.

Today, you’ll find out all about the importance of goal setting, types of goals, and tips to define realistic goals for yourself!

What Are Goals?

To kick off our goal setting tips guide, you need to first recognize what goals are and how they are different from objectives, dreams, and expectations.

A goal is essentially your aim for the long-term future. It is the bigger umbrella, the main focus.

Objectives, on the other hand, fall under the umbrella of goals. They are the stepping stones that help you achieve your goals[1].

Objects vs goals for goal setting tips

    For example, you may decide you want to learn a new language. Your goal is to be fluent in the new language. Everything you do to achieve this goal, such as the daily tasks and monthly learning aims, are the objectives.

    Similarly, your expectations, visions, and dreams are not your goals. If you wish to learn a new language someday, that is your dream. If you see yourself fluently speaking multiple foreign languages, that is your vision. If you think you’re capable of learning a new language, that is your expectation.

    However, if you aim to fulfill these visions, dreams, and expectations practically, that is your goal.

    Why Is Goal Setting Important?

    Why should you bother with goal setting at all? Wouldn’t it be more convenient to just get on with your daily objectives, follow a dream or vision, and let life take you wherever?

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    While that road can feel exciting and spontaneous, if you actually want to tick off things from your list of goals to achieve, learning how to set goals is necessary.

    Being committed to a goal puts your brain to work in one specific direction. Believe it or not, by having a defined goal, your brain does its magic unconsciously, 24/7, with full efficiency, to achieve the desired results[2].

    Goal setting is important to shift your focus, boost your motivation, and give you a sense of direction. Without formally defining a particular aim that you want to reach, you won’t be able to keep your objectives in line.

    Hence, this one tiny step can end up saving you a lot of hassle and time while also encouraging your productivity.

    Types of Goals

    Before we move onto the technique of setting effective goals, we need to first take a look at all types of goals in this goal setting tips guide.

    These categories will not just help you brainstorm new one for yourself, but it will also guide you to list them down in the right way.

    Time-Based

    One of the two broad categories of goals is based on time. These goals define how far in the future you want to achieve them.

    Daily

    There are certain smaller goals that you can easily achieve in a day or two. In fact, some of these daily goals can be recurring, too. For example, you may want to run for an hour every morning.

    Now, these daily goals can also serve as objectives for a long-term goal. You may be running every day because, in the long-term, you want to increase your stamina.

    Daily goals are highly effective for people who want to improve their mental wellbeing, time management skills, and stress management.

    Short-Term

    Next in line are short-term goals. As you would have already guessed, goal setting in this area is aimed at the near future.

    The great thing about these is that they are generally easier to achieve. This is because short-term goals are set for the foreseeable future. You are aware of the circumstances and have a general idea of how much the situation can change.

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    Just like daily goals, short-term goals may also serve as objectives for a long-term goal. Your short-term goal may be to lose 5 pounds in one month. That could be a goal in itself, or maybe it is just one objective to fulfill your goal to adopt a healthy lifestyle in the next two years.

    Another example of a short-term goal is to fulfill the checklist for promotion within the next 6 months. Or, you may want to reduce your screen time within the coming week.

    Long-Term

    Lastly, we have long-term goals that are meant to be completed over a stretched period.

    Whatever you want to achieve in a later stage of life is a long-term goal. An insurance plan, for example, is a long-term goal.

    Some long-term goals don’t have any time frame at all. They are goals that you want to accomplish at some point in your life. So, something like traveling the whole world is a lifelong goal with no specific time constraint at all.

    There’s one thing about long-term goals that isn’t great.

    They are the hardest to keep up with since you’re not seeing any huge achievements regularly. This may take a toll on your motivation. To tackle this problem, it is best to divide a long-term goal into various, short-term and daily objectives so that you’re always tracking the progress you’re making.

    Life-Based

    Moving forward, you can also start goal setting based on the results you want to achieve instead of the time period.

    Career

    Like most people, you will likely want to succeed and excel in your career. Anything that has to do with this intention, regardless of the time frame, is a career goal. These are usually measurable goals, such as receiving a promotion within two years, finding a job at a certain company within the next six months, etc.

    You can learn more about how to set successful career goals here.

    Personal

    The past few years have all been about emphasizing your personal health. So, when it comes to goals, how can we forget the ones that have to do with our personal gains?

    From health to finances to relationships, everything that brings you happiness and composure as a person is a personal goal. It’s important that these are realistic and attainable goals for your life.

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    Whether you want to get rid of your debt, quit smoking, start a side hustle, have children, or travel the world, all of these goals are personal and very important to have on your list.

    How to Set Goals

    The best way to guarantee the fulfillment of goals is to set them the right way.

    1. Use SMART Goals

    Every goal you define has to be SMART[3].

    SMART stands for:

    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Attainable
    • Relevant
    • Time-Bound

    In summary, your specific goals should be very well defined. They shouldn’t be generic or broad, and every detail should be clarified as you’re goal setting. 

    If you want to start running, how often do you want to do it? How long will each session be? For how long will you continue this habit?

    There has to be a connection between your goals and beliefs or you’ll never be able to achieve the results you want. Most importantly, do not be unrealistic. You cannot learn to fly, and forcing yourself to try is only going to demotivate and stress you out.

    2. Prioritize Your Goals

    As you’re looking into how to write goals for the next month or year, it’s likely you’ll come up with more than one. In this case, it’s important to prioritize which are the most important or the ones that have the tightest deadline. This is going to be subjective, as only you know which goals will have the most impact on your life.

    3. Think of Those Around You

    As you’re working on goal setting, keep your loved ones in mind. You may have a partner, children, or employees that depend on you, and you should take them into consideration with your goals. For example, if you set a goal to travel to 10 different countries in the next two years, how will this affect your children?

    If you want to lose 30 pounds this year, is there something your partner can do to support you? S/he will need to be made aware of this before you set off on your weight loss journey.

    4. Take Action

    Setting goals is the first step, but in order to be successful, you have to follow this with action. If you set goals but never act on them, they become dreams. Create an action plan laying out the steps you need to take each day or week in order to achieve your big and small goals.

    You can also check out Lifehack’s free guide: The Dreamers’ Guide for Taking Action and Making Goals Happen. This helpful guide will push you to take action on your goals, so check it out today!

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    5. Don’t Forget the Bigger Picture

    Most people refer to the big picture as their vision. Whether it is the long-term result or the connection of the goal with your desire, keep it in mind to keep yourself from getting distracted.

    You can learn more about creating a vision for your life here.

    I also recommend you to watch this video to learn 7 strategies to set goals effectively:

    How to Reach Your Goals

    You can ensure your progress by following some foolproof tactics. The use of relevant helpful tools can also keep you on the right track.

    Tactics

    One rookie mistake that most people make is that they work on too many goals simultaneously. Create an action plan and focus on one thing at a time.

    Divide your goal into smaller, easily achievable tasks. Taking it one step at a time makes it much easier. However, do not break them down too much. For example, for long-term goals, you should go for weekly checkpoints instead of daily ones.

    Also, keep track of your progress. This will keep you motivated to work harder.

    Tools

    With so many categories of goals and so many aims, it is almost impossible to remember, let alone work, on all of them.

    Luckily, numerous goal tracker apps will help you keep track of your goals, as well as your plan to achieve every single one. Have at least one installed in your smartphone so that your plan is always within reach.

    The Bottom Line

    In conclusion, using a goal setting tips guide is not rocket science. All that it takes is strong will power along with all the knowledge that you’ve learned so far.

    Try out the tactics and goals setting tips mentioned above to be able to set successful goals so that you can achieve the life that you want!

    More Tips on Achieving Success

    Featured photo credit: Danielle MacInnes via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Smart Insights: The difference between marketing objectives and marketing goals?
    [2] Confluence: Goal Setting Theory
    [3] University of California: SMART Goals: A How-To Guide

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