Root cause-ing your stress with the Five Whys

If you’re stressed, sometimes the first “why?” isn’t the right one. Try the Five Whys. Here’s an example.

  • Problem: I’m stressed!
  • 1. Why: My upcoming performance review is stressing me out.
  • 2. Why: I’m worried about not getting a good performance review.
  • 3. Why: I’m worried I won’t get a raise because raises are merit based.
  • 4. Why: If I don’t get a raise, I’m worried we won’t be able to get a new dishwasher.
  • 5. Why: If we can’t get a new dishwasher, I’m worried ours will start leaking more and ruin our floors.

You not worried about your performance review, you’re worried about water damage. So do something about it. That problem is actionable, unlike waiting to find out about a raise. Get an estimate. Put down some tarp. Ask your handy brother in law for advice. Start hand-washing the dang dishes. Whatever.

This is of course a ridiculous simple example to illustrate the point. But it can help when you can’t put your finger on why something feels so stressful, or need to find the right level to take action.

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