The Power of Why in Goal Setting

As a 6 sigma Master Black Belt, one of the tools we were taught was the ‘fishbone’ diagram; a tool to identify the root causes of a problem. Not symptoms, but to id the root causes.  To get to those causes, you must continually ask why. (For those so inclined, the ‘fishbone’ is also known as the Ishikawa Diagram or Cause & Effect Diagram). In terms of the ‘asking why’, I have something called the 5 why effect for setting goals..

The power of why is understated, but when utilized, very dramatic! When you really use ‘but why’, much like a 3-4 year old in their annoying curious phase, the power of why provides you power. To illustrate, let’s look at resolutions vs goals.

 It’s the new year, and as such, most people shoot for new resolutions, and most businesses shoot for new goals in their fiscal year planning.  Goals are typically more fruitful and productive because more often than not, there are dates and measurable outcomes. Read Michael Varma’s Find Your Focus article to help you define and go for your goals.  I offer you another goal-resolution method, one less sports related, but most equally, if not more so, effective. Think of this method as a ‘he said – she said’ for goal setting, giving all types a chance at success.

You can measure and strive for something that’s defined, just as you can manage what you measure; which is what helps goals trump resolutions in most instances. Resolutions are stated like: “I want to get paid to speak this year”. On the other hand, a (good) goal is stated as: “I will be paid at least $500 for a minimum of 2 speaking gigs by 4/30/12, midnight.” That goal is specific – it’s measurable.

That restated goal has infinitely more power, because the mind has been provided Focus, as Michael states. It definiteness of purpose. I counter that it is something more – you’ve given your mind something to latch onto, and it creates a bond. But only for some people.  I’ve done an unscientific study because it interested me, and what I have uncovered is that for many, it is not the actual detail or definition, it was an underlying driver of why that goal had to be achieved.  That power, that drover, actually drove the success, not the detailed definition.

What makes you drive a goal or resolution is the emotional connection….you have to achieve or have that resolution ‘BECAUSE…”.  Once you assign an emotional quotient to it, you will do it.  You want something so badly that nothing will stand in your way.

Ever notice how at work, it’s Deadline / Outline, then maybe goal (if there’s even one created at all)? Or notice how you can achieve some goal or project at work following Michael’s Goal / Outline / Deadline, but for the life of you cannot get the same results in your personal life, or new business? If you think about that project at work – there was another motivator.  Maybe something like: “If I get this completed successfully, I can get that bonus, and if I get that bonus I can take my kids on that Disney cruise vacation, because I’ve really been working too much and really miss my kids.”


Here’s how to create the power of the 5 why effect:

The Goal:  “I will be paid at least $500 each for a minimum of 2 speaking gigs by 4/30/12, midnight”

         Ask:  Why do I want that?

                     “To prove to myself and others that I am a credible speaker.”

Ask: Why is that important?

“Because proving/improving credibility will drive business.”

Ask: Why is that important?

 “Because as a new business owner, credibility is important especially since people  do business with people they know, like, & trust. Speaking will help with me establishing that knowledge & trust.

Ask: And Why is that important?

“Because I want to become the leader/ go to person, in my niche.  I want people to know I can help them drive their business by focusing on the right things.  Their success is my success. I want to help people succeed, and getting paid speaking gigs drives my credibility, exposure, skill base & helps more people know me.  It provides more money for me to invest in better tools & service to more effectively grow my clients.”

BINGO! Stop – the nerve was hit. An emotional connection is now established because it ties in directly with business & life missions.

I will be honest – some times this process is excruciatingly painful, but I guarantee, well worth it.  Some times this process happens in an instant, subconsciously.  Something like this: “I want to get paid to speak this year” actually originated from “I so badly want to prove my worth to my daughter & my mother because I want them to be proud of me & not have to worry about me.  Getting paid also gives me $ to help with the wedding, and to be able to afford a nurse case manager for my mom”.

Which are you more likely to achieve or accomplish? Something with a real emotionally charged connection, a burning desire, or just another something you have to do?

Are you setting resolutions or why powered goals? I challenge you to put more meaning, or the power of the 5 why effect into your goals, and truly drive your success this year!  Because, bottom-line: Everyone has a message and a voice that needs to be heard, is here for a reason, and deserves success.


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