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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

Five Whys: The Secret to Setting Effective Goals

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Five Whys: The Secret to Setting Effective Goals

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 September 27, 2021

8 Reasons Why Goal Setting Is Important to a Fulfilling Life

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8 Reasons Why Goal Setting Is Important to a Fulfilling Life

The importance of effective goal setting cannot be overstated on our personal journeys towards success. This is why there are countless articles out there on how to set your own SMART goals and even why it’s a skill commonly taught to a small degree in classrooms.

Learning the importance of goal setting and the benefits of sticking to those goals can be the defining factor determining whether we truly embrace the importance of goal setting. The more willing we are to embrace this method, the more likely we become to reach our personal definitions of personal and professional success.

Thus, this article is going to walk you through some of the benefits you’ll see from learning to set goals for yourself and answer the question — why is goal setting important?

1. Goals Guide and Align Our Focus

It’s hard to get to where you want to be in life if you don’t know what you’re aiming for. Some people believe avoiding goals means living a more care-free life. How many times have you heard the phrase “If I have no expectations, then I can’t be disappointed”?

But is that really what our lives have come to? Living just to avoid disappointment? It doesn’t seem like an overly optimistic view in my opinion. And since you’re reading this article, I’m willing to bet that you agree with me.

Without goals, we lack a degree of direction and focus. Sure you may be able to avoid disappointment, but just avoiding disappointment doesn’t mean you are necessarily happy.

Without goals, we will pointlessly waste our time, energy, and efforts. Listen to anybody who is the top of their field and they’ll tell you something like this,

“Yes talent is important, but often your success depends much more on what you decide to do with that talent.”

And what you will do with your talent largely depends on your focus.

Your goals give you direction. Your goals give you something to shoot for. This direction and target you create in your mind will help you to progress towards your main life goals rather than simply wander around aimlessly. These goals will help you align your actions and behaviors as you continue moving forward.

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So, why is goal setting important? Because it gives you direction, alignment, and purpose!

2. Goals Help You Avoid ‘Shiny Object Syndrome’

Basically, shiny object syndrome is always being in pursuit of the next big thing, constantly switching your goals based on what you feel is most fun and interesting at the given moment, but never actually giving yourself time to accomplish any of those goals.

You don’t get anywhere because you continually change the direction you are heading in. This is one of the consequences that may result if you decide to live a life without goals.

Your goals can sometimes help you to create mental barriers, or blinders, that help you to remain focused on what you think is important and avoid the things that are second priority. When you outline goals for yourself, you are better able to avoid things that distract you from achieving and accomplishing those goals.

Setting goals helps you to step around the other shiny objects because you’ve taken the time to make some mental notes that remind you what it is that you want from your life. Your goals act as subconscious deterrents to anything less than your main priorities. This is what helps you to reach your personal definition of success.

So, why is goal setting important? Because not only do goals tell you what you want from life, but they also help you realize what you need to give up and avoid to achieve that.

3. Goals Turn Our Largest Goals into Manageable Steps

A lot of us have big hopes and dreams. It’s one of the things that make our lives exciting!

But a lot of us never take the time to figure out how we can effectively get from point A to point B. So, sadly, we never fully achieve those goals. We look at our dreams and convince ourselves that only a select few people ever achieve them, so we write ourselves off as people not meant to reach that level of success. Looking at the end product of a goal can be intimidating, daunting, and discourage us from even pursuing them.

Thankfully, goal setting helps us break large intimidating goals into smaller ones. These small steps and more achievable goals will help us to build momentum and will encourage us to keep working towards the next phase of our goal. The form the foundation from which we can begin building the life that we truly hope to have for ourselves, our families, and may even for our communities depending on how big your goals are!

Whenever I get talking about this aspect of goal setting, I can’t help but think about the mountain climbing analogy, and that the easiest way to climb a mountain is simply step by step.

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So, why is goal setting important? Goal setting gives you a list of manageable steps that you can take in order to take your life from where it is now to where you want it to go both effectively and efficiently.

4. Goals Encourage You to Take Action

This builds on the last benefit of goal setting. Not only does effective goal setting help you break down your larger goals into smaller, more manageable ones, but it also encourages you to actually begin taking action on those goals. After all, a plan is completely worthless if you aren’t willing to invest the effort required to execute it.

Setting your goals and putting your plan in place motivates you to begin taking action towards achieving them. These goals give you something to plan and work towards. Essentially, they help propel you forward.

What I like to do is write out and place my goals somewhere that I’ll regularly see them. This constantly serves as a reminder of my top priorities. It allows me to focus on taking small progressive actions towards achieving these goals daily.

This ensures that I don’t fall into the trap of setting a goal, beginning to work towards it for a while, but then having my motivation fade resulting in me falling off track. This is exactly what many people see happen when it comes to their “New Year’s Resolutions.”

If you want to learn about how to take action towards achieving your goal, here’s how: How To Take Action Towards Your Goals Right Now

So, why is goal setting important? Because goal setting actually motivates you to stop thinking about your goals and actually get out there and achieve them!

5. Goal Setting Helps You Continually Improve

This is something that a lot of personal development and self-improvement writers talk about, continual improvement. For those of you who are not aware of the term, continual improvement is exactly what it sounds like — taking small steps towards improvement as frequently as you can to develop into the person you want to become.

What’s the point in improving a little bit each day if you’re not improving in the areas that you want to improve in after all?

The goals that you define for yourself will inevitably shape you into the person who you want to become. They’ll shape your character. Your goals can help you measure your progress as you strive for this type of development.

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Essentially, having goals helps you determine where you started, where you are now, and how much further you need to go. In this manner, your goal setting can serve as milestones and benchmarks that help you determine how well you’re progressing towards your most important goals!

So, why is goal setting important? Goal setting helps you make improvements each day that will slowly transition you into the person you want to become.

6. Goal Setting Keeps You Accountable

Not only does setting goals help you measure your progress, but it also is a means through which you can keep yourself accountable. Too many goals fail because they lack this crucial aspect of outlining accountability.

For example, if I have the goal to do 50 push-ups, that’s great. Most people would support that goal. However, this goal lacks accountability. When do I want to accomplish this goal by and what steps do I take to get there? These are important questions that the original goal leaves unanswered.

A much more descriptive and specific goal could be to do 50 push-ups within the next 3 months by starting at 5 push-ups, and then adding 5 each week. This goal outlines the deadline as well as the steps I’m going to take to achieve it. This plan will keep me accountable because if I fail to retain my progression schedule, I will know that I’m not going to achieve the goal on time.

Additionally, it can serve as a marker helping to signify when something is impeding my progress that I may not have initially accounted for. This tells me that I need to re-evaluate what I’m doing and figure out what adjustments I can make to facilitate my success.

So, why is goal setting important? Setting goals is key to keeping ourselves accountable and on-track towards accomplishing our goals according to the schedules and deadlines we set for ourselves.

7. Goals Make You Feel Good

Trust me, the progress you feel as you set and achieve goals can become super motivating and super addicting (in a good way)! The dopamine release you get from achieving your goals is like a little reward for our brains that continually motivates us to try and hit that next goal!

Having some clearly defined goals will help you to feel better about yourself and your life in general, especially when you stick to those goals, actively work towards achieving them, and end up accomplishing and surpassing your initial expectations. I’m not the oldest book on the shelf myself, but I can attest that there are not many feelings quite like the one you experience when you truly get on a roll!

Additionally, our goals give us an endpoint to shoot for. Rather than progress for progress’s sake, you can actually see where you’re heading! That’s so much more rewarding. Think about a long car trip as a kid. You ask “if you’re there yet?” ever 20 minutes. It seems like the drive drags on forever.

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If you don’t know where you’re going, you risk the journey becoming tedious. It doesn’t tend to be much fun wandering around aimlessly. Goals make us feel good about where we’re directing ourselves.

So, why is goal setting important? Because setting goals and accomplishing them plain and simply make us feel better about ourselves and our lives!

8. Goals Help You Live Your Best Life

I’ve talked a lot in this article about how goal setting helps us progress towards our top priorities and live the way we truly want to live. So I think it’s fit to end the article with this goal because, in the end, I feel it’s the most important one.

Setting your goals and clearly defining what they mean to you will help you live a life that is tailored to your beliefs and values. Your life will become directed towards the things that you most want to achieve.

Life is a tricky game and only in very rare circumstances are things handed to us on a silver platter. Often it takes a great degree of work, planning, and effortful execution of both.

There is no point clinging on to things in your life if they don’t bring you happiness or help you accomplish something that, in some way, aligns with your goals.

Simply put, setting goals helps us live a life that allows us to pursue the challenges and rewards that we truly want to achieve.

So, why is goal setting important? Because our time is always limited, and setting clearly defined goals can help ensure that you make the most of your life and live to the fullest! Find out more here: How to Use SMART Goal to Become Highly Successful in Life

Final Thoughts

These are just a few of the benefits of goal setting that outline why it truly is so important. If you take a moment or two, I bet that you can even think of a few more benefits yourself that you could add to this list.

If I could leave you with something, it would be this:

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Goal setting has the potential to take us to some amazing places in life because we all have talent and ambitions. To achieve your biggest dreams, you need to be willing to sit down and create a life design uniquely tailored to you that will help you achieve them!

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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