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?