What Lies at the Root of Your Problems? The Seven Whys Exercise

Seven Whys is an iterative interrogative technique used to explore the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a specific problem. Each time you question why? You gain deeper insights into the cause of an issue. 

The great thing about this exercise is you can use it on just about any problems and it will provide always provide a clear path forward. The challenging part is finding objectively true answers that square the responsibility on our own shoulders. This provides the circumstances to develop an actionable plan forward.

You don't have to ask why seven times, I find sometimes the deeper you go the better. The goal is to discover the root of the problem, whether that takes three, five (most common) or seven. Here's an example:

The root of the problem:

Find functional sales training.


  1. I will find a course, coach, or training session and develop a sales script I believe in. 
  2. Then prioritize a disciplined high quantity calling schedule to gain comfort in it. 

Notice the core of the problem is training. However, the solution will still involve multiple tiers before it. Typically, the deepest insight provides the first and primary cause to uproot, but the reasons just before it provide us with a path to success in that problem area. 

Also, notice the significance of each solution is more profound the deeper we go. When studying life problems, we often rob ourselves of the profound causes because we accept the first one without further digging. Not to mention, we usually frame any causes in ways that clear us of responsibility. Among others, personal biases like these steer us away from underlying problems in our life, cursing us to repeat the cycle.

While completing this exercise, it's essential to ward off these internal weaknesses and take full responsibility for the issues at hand. This way, it keeps the solutions within your control and gives you an actionable means of changing the circumstances. 

They're easy habits to fall prey to. My goal is to flush all these out and discover ways to live more optimally and effectively. If that interests you, sign up to my weekly Strive Journal, where I share 1 - 5 insights, stories, and lessons every week. 

Perform your own

Don't believe what your eyes tell you. All they'll show is what you wish to see. Look with your rational mind, find out what you already know and then, dig deeper.

This exercise isn't just something to passively read and store away in the someday-never folder. Practicing this just a couple of times with relevant problems or obstacles you're currently facing will cultivate an ability to do this intuitively.

You have to see the exercise work on paper, though. You'll only gain an intuitive feel of this thoughtful digging by seeing how it applies to real circumstances. You cannot expect to watch a backflip and intuitively know how it feels to do one; you must feel the motion to pick up a sense for it. And although this is only mental acrobats, the same constitution applies.

Like everything, a small investment at the beginning leverages high yields throughout life.

Grab this guided walkthrough and test this exercise out for yourself.

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