Using the “Five Whys” to discover the desires behind our goals

My last post was about goals, and ironically I need to apologize for the lack of posting. I’m working on a goal myself, and it’s taking away all my free time. I’m trying to draw a 48-page graphic novel by the end of the month, for National Graphic Novel Writing Month.

While it’s important to have goals, it’s even more important to understand why you’ve chosen your goals, out of all the millions of goals in the world.

I found a really simple and effective tip, while reading this great business book, The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman. It’s called the “Five Whys”. Here’s how it works:

Whenever you set a goal, ask yourself why you want to achieve it. If you want to be a millionaire, ask yourself why you want a million dollars. When you think of an answer, ask “why?” again. Keep asking yourself why until you get into a loop where the answer is “because I want it”, which suggests you’ve gotten to the desire behind the goal.

Here’s Kaufman’s “millionaire” example:

  1. Why do I want a million dollars? Because I don’t want to be stressed about money.
  2. Why don’t I want to be stressed about money? So I don’t feel anxious.
  3. Why don’t I want to feel anxious? So I can feel secure.
  4. Why do I want to feel secure? So I feel free.
  5. Why do I want to feel free? Because I want to feel free!

The answer to each question may seem obvious, but look how we got from a run-of-the-mill money goal to a very deeply rooted human desire, in just five steps!

Once you know why you want to achieve a goal, you can sometimes figure out a more direct way to the desire behind the goal. If becoming a millionaire is really about freedom, look for changes you can make today that will get you there, like quitting a 9-to-5 and starting your own business.

Happy goal-setting!

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