Keep asking why to find the root cause
You probably have heard of the "5 why's" as a way to get to root cause of a problem or annoyance in your life. Try to state the problem in the title and keep trying to find the answer to "why" in the items below.
Watch this video for inspiration (though you don't have to go overboard like that girl did):
Here's a more serious example:
Keep in mind most things have multiple causes when you ask "why". While your #1 should directly answer "why" for your original problem, you don't necessarily have to do that for #2, #3, and so on. #2 can answer why for the original problem or #1,for example. Basically, #n can answer why for anything from #1 to #n-1 as well as the original problem.
1. Problem: I can't sleep
Why? - I'm worried about my kids. - I'm worried about my job. - I want to do more things in life and am afraid that I won't have the time if I sleep.
2. Why am I worried about my kids?
I was talking to them on the phone and they seemed stressed out. They didn't sound like themselves. And they were vague when I asked what was going on. Maybe something bad happened at school or with a friend. That would make me worry.
3. Why am I worried about my job?
I don't know where this career is headed and if it will last as long as we need it to so we can pay for our kids college etc. The market is changing, etc so maybe that's why the company hasn't announced whether or not they are keeping me yet (even though they said "soon").
4. Why do I want to do more things in life?
Because, even though the items above seem stressful, there are many good things happening in my life right now and many exciting opportunities coming up that would be fun to explore but might take time away from sleeping (like writing more posts here, reading more books, exercising more often, playing chess with people online). Also, because of item #2 above. Even though my kids are fine now, something could happen tomorrow and then even if nothing happens with them again for a year (and hopefully nothing does), there are still other areas of life that could use some attention from me (like writing this list!). So it seems like every day has only 24 hours and there might not be enough time for everything that comes up during a day so how can you choose between all these opportunities and responsibilities? Like deciding whether or not to go out tonight with friends versus staying home to write this list vs watching an episode of Star Trek vs calling someone who needs help with his/her problems vs reading some books on topics relevant to future opportunities/problems/etc coming up in life. Which one is most important? How can you decide when each opportunity seems important? How do you prioritize among all these opportunities/responsibilities/etc so you get good sleep instead of tossing and turning all night wondering what you should be doing right now? When will the solution come out so we know whether or not they are keeping me at work so I know what to do next instead of waiting by the phone every day until noon figuring out which choice is best today when there are no guarantees that any choice will lead anywhere anyway! This is why it takes me forever to fall asleep sometimes.