My ‘Five Whys’ of Running


A couple of weeks ago Megan posted on ‘Finding Your Why’, looking at what motivates you to do things. It is a great post (as is true with most of Megan’s stuff, I would say ‘all’ but that sounds too pandering 🙂 ) Anyway, in my comment I noted how her post drew my mind to the common Six Sigma technique ‘The Five Whys’, saying:

There is a root-cause seeking process in manufacturing called the ‘Five Whys’ – and it is a continuation of what you are discussing: getting below the surface. Five Whys will take a problem and almost always get to the root cause.

Seeking your WHY is critical to determining whether or not you will succeed, and also what the things are that will help or hinder you along the way. As bloggers most of us put many of our WHYS out there on a regular basis (I sure feel like I do), but they are still just the top couple of layers.

Seeking to get at the root cause of why we do and think as we do is really important for understanding ourselves and our paths to happiness!

So I had a very simple exercise I wanted to do … I wanted to ask myself why I would get up at 4AM every day to go running, when I am not training for anything, don’t need to lose weight, and so on. Here we go!

Starting point

I want to go for a run.


Because I always go for a run at 4:30 on weekdays.


Because I relieve stress, feel physically great, am at one with nature, and can truly think for a while.


Because that is an important part of my healthy routine, which means a lot to me.


Because being healthy makes me the best version of me.


Because I want to do everything I can to be around with my wife and boys for as long as possible and be healthy and happy while doing it.

Conclusions and What Comes Next

In most Five Why exercises, the output is a ‘solution’ or ‘counter-measure’ … because it is generally used to get to the root cause of a problem. In this case it is more seeking motivations … and while I knew all of this before I started, I actually did this ‘on the fly’ – so I was asking myself the questions in real time.

My ‘first why’ (because i always do it) was somewhat flippant and a typical manufacturing line answer, but it is also how I do so well with my routines … because I take them on pretty fully – once I commit I am ‘all in’! But from there I got straight to the real reason … maximize quality of life for as long as possible.

And that is something that is fully actionable – even outside of running. So while it doesn’t change anything about my running, it helps put everything into a broader context that can help me in the long run (hehe) achieve my goals.

What thing that you do would you like to get to the ‘root cause’?
Do you use quality improvement tools in your everyday life?
What are your 5 Whys?

27 thoughts on “My ‘Five Whys’ of Running

  1. This is really interesting and I like your approach to this. As you made your progression I felt like I could relate a lot to all of those. I think those are all great reasons for making running a part of your life, especially your last one. As I have continued with my running coaching and had the chance to coach so many athletes this summer that is the one thing I really hope they take away from this. Running isn’t just some stupid thing you have to do to get through a marathon or because you are at the gym. It can be a means to getting through a hard day or a bout of depression. And it can be a gift you give yourself to creating a happier, healthier life.

    • Thanks Sarah – I think by coaching you get to have a unique view of others going through things as well. And I think really knowing why you do something can be really important to maximizing what you get from it. Thanks again!

  2. Interesting exercise…I started to think of my whys and started with “it puts me in a good mood”. I’ll need to think about it more, but I know there are many reasons involved including that it clears my mind and prepares me for day ahead like nothing else can!

  3. I often get asked why I run/workout like I do and my Why’s are very similar to yours. I would add that it allows me to a better, more balanced person as well. When I don’t get my workouts in, my mood is definitely affected, along with my decision making ability, my confidence in what I’m doing, etc.

    I also use this exercise when I am trying to make complicated decisions. It helps me think through all the possible solutions and helps me arrive at the best answer.

    • Definitely agree – and as i said to Lisa, I include mental state with ‘healthy’!

      Great point on the decision-making process. I definitely find it a great centering time, enabling me to clear out the cobwebs and see things much more clearly.

    • Thanks Quan … and I find it interesting how some days it is a ‘think’ time, other times it is ‘no thinking’ time, and still others it is meditation …

  4. Interesting topic. I don’t often ask myself why I do things. I may have to do this more often.

    For me, running is definitely “me time,” and a way to relieve stress and anxiety, so I guess that’s a big “why.” But there are so many reasons I don’t think 5 would cover it!

    • The thing with this process is to look deeper – in other words, you could actually say ‘relieve stress and anxiety’, then ask WHY, and so on. 🙂

  5. I’ve never heard of this before, but I like it. Definitely makes you think harder about what’s going on in your life and how/why it’s making you feel what you feel, which I find to be helpful. I think there are too many questions going through my head right now to try and pick one ha, but I will definitely be giving this a try later in my journal 🙂 thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks Caitlin … and you DO have a lot going on now .. 😦

      The method was really designed to get at nagging industrial problems that never truly go away, but it works well when we have issues in our personal lives that we struggle with … or just fun stuff like this 🙂

  6. I’ve never tried to implement anything like this in my daily life and maybe I should. I could use a little clarity on a lot of things. 🙂 This made me giggle though because WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY is all I hear right now when I’m with Betty. 🙂

    • OK, the Betty ‘WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY’ thing totally cracked me up … you can tell you no longer have toddlers when you don’t think that anymore! haha

  7. So to tie your recent posts together, what if it all boils down to wanting to look like someone in a fitness magazine or on a Pinterest board working out in their underwear? Wanting to be hot, sexy, all that jazz? Hahaha!

  8. I like this idea. Except that I think that I would ultimately talk myself into circles, so instead of arriving at the root of the problem, I would arrive back at the beginning..

  9. I like that approach to being introspective because it’s systematic and easy to follow. For me, I could probably come up with at least 20 why’s for everything I do branching in all different directions, depending on my mood 🙂 Although sometimes the last of the why’s for all different behaviors is always the same. Then you know either that something’s really important to you, or, you’ve got a serious issue!

    My son also asks 20 “why’s” for everything we do, and my last answer after everything else is exhausted is always “because I said so that’s why” totally get how that line came about.

    • Very true – and it is also true in business as well – if you are too much branching around, you don’t have a specific enough answer to the last ‘Why’ (or you have multiple issues) … and it is very true also that sometimes you will THINK you have multiple things … until they all converge into one!

      And I crack up at the toddler WHYs … how quickly we forget! And yeah, the dreaded ‘because I said so’ that all parent will NEVER say … until they do 🙂 haha yeah, we did that also. Actually still do as teenagers – but now it is ‘I do not answer to you young man’. 🙂

  10. This is really interesting, thanks for sharing. I feel like you could def do that for anything. I think I’ll probably end up doing it. You just led me into a black hole of my own thoughts LOL.

  11. Pingback: Action Second | Psuche Running

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