You think you want x, but maybe what you really want is something that comes along with x. And maybe there are other ways to get it.
What’s the goal behind the goal?
This is a useful question when you feel stuck. When x feels impossible. It’s a jiggle, a nudge that shifts your perspective a little bit and might just give you an answer or a thing to try.
It’s a useful question in a negotiation or conflict situation. If you feel at odds with somebody, asking yourself about your deeper motivations (or theirs) can turn up new ideas. Maybe there are ways in which you each can win without the other losing.
It’s a useful question for productivity, too. Focusing on root causes and bigger pictures is the road to leverage. It’s how you find ways to do more with less. It’s how you find the little changes that provide big benefits.