Using the 5 Whys to Re-evaluate Your Career Path

Sep 18, 2023

In our quest for success and satisfaction in our professional lives, many of us often find ourselves tethered to roles that drain rather than energize us. But understanding the meaning behind our discontent is critical to forging a path that not only counts but aligns with who we are. This is where the 5 Whys exercise comes in. Borrowed from problem-solving methodologies, this tool can offer clarity and direction for the mission-driven professional.

The Essence of the 5 Whys

The power of this exercise lies in its simplicity. The objective is to pose the question "Why?" to yourself consecutively five times. This iterative questioning helps you to delve deep into the subconscious layers of your discontent or aspirations, pushing you beyond surface-level responses and down into the root of your motivations.

Let me share with you an example from one of my recent coaching conversations to help: 

  1. Why are you unhappy with your job? Because I don’t feel engaged.
  2. Why don’t you feel engaged? Because the tasks are repetitive and don't challenge me.
  3. Why do you want to be challenged? Because it makes me feel like I’m growing and contributing.
  4. Why is growth and contribution important to you? Because they give me a sense of purpose and achievement.
  5. Why do you need a sense of purpose in your job? Because I want my work to align with my personal values and passions.

In just five steps on this call, we were able to move from a general sentiment of dissatisfaction to a profound realization about personal alignment and value-based living.

Reflect and Realign

Once you've completed the Five-Whys, it's important to take some time to reflect on your findings:

1-What core values and desires did you uncover about yourself through this exercise?  

Perhaps you realized that autonomy, creativity, or social impact are more vital to your career satisfaction than you'd previously recognized.

2-How can you align a new career or role with these values and interests?

With these new insights, consider what professions or roles cater to these values. If creativity is your driving force, perhaps a role in design or content creation might be your calling. If you're fueled by having an impact, roles in non-profits or other sustainable enterprises might resonate more.

Moving Forward with Purpose

For those who are looking for more alignment in their life and work, a career that counts is not just about climbing the ladder or achieving financial success. It's about finding opportunities that truly resonate with who you are and what you believe in. The Five-Whys is a stepping stone to this self-understanding. 

Every professional journey is deeply personal. It's about more than just what you do; it's about why you do it. As you embark on this journey of self-discovery and alignment, know that a fulfilling career is within your reach.

"The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle." - Steve Jobs

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