I remember when I was a kid, my mom and grandfather had a big debate about me and my brother.

My grandfather didn’t like it when we kids asked, “Why?” But my mom was proud of that fact. She actually encouraged it. “I want my children to have questioning minds,” she told him. “I want them to grow up to be adults who ask questions.” (How awesome was that? Answer: very!)

And now I’m going to channel a little of our mom for you, and encourage you to ask yourself, “Why?”

When you’re stuck when it comes to accomplishing a goal, solving a particular life issue, or even just coming to the gym, ask yourself, “Why?” And then keep asking that question, and I’m guessing that 5 or 6 “whys” later, you’ll find the real answer.

I was reminded of this trick last week when I was listening to a podcast. I’ve been stuck on something for a while and when the “Five Whys” technique was mentioned on The Fitcast, I had to immediately try it on myself. And it worked. Five times I asked myself the question, “Why?” and eventually drilled down to the underlying issue and had a deeper understanding of what was holding me back.

Why does this work? Because answering that “why” question from a really deep or knowing place can make all the difference when it comes to attaining your goals. The actual “why” underlying your reasons for setting that goal in the first place or what is stopping you from achieving it might surprise you.

This is not a technique for the meek because the more “whys” you ask yourself, the scarier it can become because you might tread into uncomfortable territory. Go with that, I say! Be brave!

I’m going to be brave here and do an illustration for you.

Let’s say I want to lose 5-7 pounds. Let’s also say I’ve been stalled on this process for a few months — hypothetically, let’s say I make a few stabs at refining my diet and then decide, “donuts.” (Or, maybe more precisely, “donut holes.”)

I’d ask myself 5 “whys” to uncover the root reason(s) that is stopping me.

1) Why do I want to lose 5-7 pounds? I have gained a few pounds and I want to be able to fit into my pants comfortably again.

2) Why do I want to fit into my pants comfortably? Because when my pants don’t fit properly, I don’t feel good about myself and I feel kind of like a fraud.

3) Why do I feel like a fraud? Because I’m a fitness professional whose pants don’t fit. 😉 Seriously, though, I don’t feel as fit or light on my feet as I like to feel, and I think maybe my stamina and strength is suffering a little bit because I’m not feeling uber fit right now.

4) Why is my stamina decreased? Because I haven’t been following my usual routine due to the fact my sleep/eating/working patterns have been somewhat disrupted.

5) Why haven’t I been following my usual routine? Because I’ve been feeling a lot of stress lately, on several fronts, and have been feeling hamstrung when it comes to solving the issues.

Obviously, this could keep going, but see how this works? By asking the questions, what at first seemed to be an aesthetic goal turned into something else. It’s really about the stress. By working on THAT, which is the “real” issue/problem/sticking point, the weight loss issue will be much easier to address.

You could even do the process a couple different times, following slightly different tracks with your questions, to see if there might be a couple of issues at play.

This technique works not only for fitness, but for almost any goal you want to set or problem you need to solve. It was originally created for Toyota when company officials were trying to work out kinks in their manufacturing process, but it’s really great for personal use. Say you want to go after a big new job, or start a business or go back to school but you’re having a hard time making it happen.

Just ask why. And then, just do it! 🙂