I coach youth soccer in our community. When we lose a game, I tell our kids that failure to meet our goals is an opportunity for improvement, but only if we learn from what went wrong. At that point we have a discussion about what went wrong in the last game and then we focus our practice on improving those things that we identified.
Let me ask you a couple questions…Have you ever applied this philosophy in your weight loss? How many times have you failed? How many times have you learned from those failures? This article is all about offering a simple tool that you can use to help identify the reasons behind a failure including a failure to lose weight. The process is called the “5-Whys”
The 5 Why process is quite simple; you continue to ask yourself “Why?” over and over again until you get to the root of the problem. It’s called the “5-Whys” because typically you can get to the root of most problems if you at least go through the process 5 times, but there is nothing magical about that number. You simply keep asking why until you can’t ask it anymore.
Now it might sound simple, but it can sometimes to be tough to do. First of all, you sometime can have multiple answers or "roots" to a question. When that happens you have to explore each root individually. Also, it can sometimes be difficult to know when you really have reached the root cause simply because you can alway keep asking why. Stop asking when the answer doesn't make sense or doesn't pertain to the problem you are trying to solve.
The best way to illustrate this technique is with an example. Fortunately for me, I fail quite a bit, so I figured I would use one of my recent failures as an example. Below you find my 5-Why analysis, for my recent failure to lose any weight between my Day 20 and Day 30 Weigh-ins:
Failure To Be Analyzed - I didn’t lose any weight in the last 10 days
Why didn’t I lose any weight?
(Root 1) I went out to eat several times during the week and as a result went over my calorie limit significantly multiple times
Why did I go out to eat?
I went out to eat because I was stressed out from work
Why does stress trigger a need to go out to eat?
Because I don’t have a good/healthy way to deal with stress
Why don’t I have a good/healthy way to deal with stress?
Good Question (root cause #1)
(Root 2) I ended up cheating several times on the weekend including nachos and several desserts on Sunday
Why did I cheat on the weekend?
Because the SuperBowl was on
Why did the SuperBowl cause me to cheat?
Because the Superbowl is a special event
Why do I cheat on special events
It gives me a good excuse to cheat
Why do I need an excuse?
Good Question (root cause #2)
(Root 3) I didn’t exercise at all
Why didn’t I exercise
Because I had a busy, stressfull week
Why does a busy, stressfull week keep me from exercising?Because I can’t fit it into my schedule
Why can’t I find time to fit exercise into my schedule?
Because it takes me an hour every day (in my mind)
Why does it have to take an hour every day?
It doesn’t (root Cause #3)
Based on this simple analysis, I was able to come up with 3 main causes for my failure:
- I don’t have a good/healthy way to deal with stress, so when I’m stressed out I tend to use food to comfort me
- I have a tendency to use special events or changes in my normal routine as a reason to be unhealthy
- When it comes to exercise, I have an outdated view of what exercise looks like and that view is not conducive with my busy life
I want to finish this post with just a few tips should you decide to try to do this type of analysis:
- Don’t get hung up on coming up with exactly 5 whys. The purpose of the 5 is to try to get you to dig deeper into the “surface” reasons. Dig as far as you can go, but don’t overdo it
- Don’t get stuck on the word “Why”. Feel free to substitute “Who”, “What”, “Where”, and “When” into the questioning sentence
- If you have multiple answers to a question, pick one and take it all the way through to the root cause before going back to a different answer. Also be ready, sometimes multiple roots will take you to the same root cause
- Focus on the process more than the final results. The whole point of this process is to get you to really think through to possible causes of the failure. I spent over an hour on the very simple analysis above and I had all sorts of other thoughts before I got to the roots above.
[Photo: Flickr / Ksayer1]