How many times an issue you thought you had solved in the past, came to haunt you once again? How many times did you think you found a solution to a negative emotion you felt, just to see it appear again for you to deal with it from scratch? Innumerable times I imagine. To me, this happens very often…
Unfortunately, our first thought, anxiety, or concern is nothing but the symptom of a deeper problem, worry or need. I will not bore you anymore with theoretical terms. On the contrary, I will share with you a very recent and very personal experience that made me realise something very useful!
"I Want To Go To Colombia."
You may know it, you may hear it for the first time, in March 2017 I resigned from my job in London and I spent three months backpacking in Latin America. At the end of my trip, I asked myself the following question:
“What do you want to do now?”
The answer to this question was very simple.
“I want to go to Colombia for three months!”
During the three months traveling, everyone who had visited Colombia was telling me that if there is a place to see in Latin America, that is Colombia. So it was clear in my mind that Colombia should be my next destination, so I could experience what my different traveling companions have shared with me.
I felt this was the right answer to my question. I was sure. People from all over the world have suggested to me the same thing. I thought how I would go, when I would go, what I would do, everything!
I returned to Greece for a few days and a day I was relaxing under the hot sun, I made the following spontaneous dialogue with myself:
– “ Why do you want to go to Colombia?”
– “Because I want to continue my journey.”
– “ Why do you want to continue your journey?”
– “Because as long as I travel I really live at the moment and feel full.”
– “ Why do you really live at the moment while you are traveling and feel full?”
– “Because while traveling I learn myself and I learn to live.”
– “ Why while traveling you learn yourself and you learn how to live?”
– “Because every day is different.”
– “ Why is every day different?”
– “Because I meet different people and try different activities.”
And then it hit me! Surely the trip to Colombia would be amazing. Surely it would be what we call a unique experience. An experience like the one I had just experienced for three months in Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, and Uruguay. But my need to go to Colombia was simply the symptom of another key issue. The real root of the problem I was facing was not that I want to go to Colombia to see one more country and continue my journey, but that I need to meet different people and try different activities. Without realising it, I had just applied the “ 5-Whys” technique to a problem of my real life!
"Ask “Why" Five Times About Every Matter. "
The "5-Whys" Technique In A Nutshell.
- The “ 5-Whys” is perhaps the simplest process that helps us to explore the cause-effect relationship behind a problem, just by repeating the question “ Why?”. Each answer is the basis of the next question.
- The creator of this technique is Taiichi Ohno ( founder of Toyota), and was originally used by Toyota Motor Corporation during the “revolution” of its manufacturing methodologies.
- The “ 5-Whys” were mostly used worldwide to investigate a failure in the operation of machinery, equipment, or security incidents in the workplace. But we can also very easily apply them to our everyday life, to any situation where we seek to understand the real cause of a problem, anxiety or behavior.
- The “ 5″ in the name comes from the observation that usually after 5 questions you will get to the cause of the problem. There are, of course, cases that may require more or less “ Whys”. The important thing is to stop when no more useful answers are produced.
- Start with a problem that concerns you just by asking “why” it happens. Make sure your answer answers this “ Why?” and then ask again. Continue until you reach the root of the problem and find out how to deal with it so that it does not happen again.
- The “5-Whys” technique does not solve the problem. Instead, it helps you to find the real cause of it, in order to cope with it effectively. We usually focus on confronting our first assumption, which is often not the real problem, our real need, but the symptom of another deeper cause. By asking “ Why?” 5 times we reach to the fundamental problem.
Advantages Of The "5-Whys" Technique.
- It’s simple.
- It’s fast.
- It’s effective.
- It does not stay in the symptom but moves deeper to the cause of the problem.
The "5-Whys" In Our Everyday Life.
We meet the “5-Whys” technique daily in our lives without realising it. For example, when we go to a doctor because of an annoying headache, rarely the doctor will tell us immediately to take a painkiller. A headache is usually only the symptom of a deeper problem. The painkiller will simply remove the symptom for a while, but until the real problem is resolved, the symptom will reappear and with it, it can bring other symptoms and other problems with far more serious consequences. Usually (I would like to believe always!) the doctor will dig deeper to find the real cause of the problem.
Apart from the example with Colombia, by using the “5-Whys” I realized how important in my life, as well as stepping!
Of course, there is not always a single cause that creates a problem. If you want to discover multiple roots, you can use the same method by exploring more paths for each “ Why?”. Virtually this will look like this:
Try The "5-Whys" Yourself.
Simple, is it not?
I know I’ll go to Colombia at some point. I’ll go when the “ 5-Whys” in the original thought “ I want to go to Colombia” will “show” me that I want to go not in order to escape from something else but because it is a conscious decision. When I reach the answer “ Because I want to discover Colombia.”
But first I have to discover other things. What about you;
Try it today. Ask yourself:
“What is the most important priority in my life?”
Whatever you think, then ask “Why”, then again, and then again (5 times). Try to face your thoughts as the doctor faces your headache.
Do not take a “painkiller” immediately. Find what is truly the issue that creates the “headache” and tackle it!