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JUN 2019

Pen & Mug

The 5-Year-Old Test

A simple self-check-in that helps me reaffirm positive aspects of my life and identify areas that could use some change.

Have you ever had a young child ask you “Why? Why? Why?” over and over?

Or, a harder question: Have you ever stopped to take a step back from your routines and ask YOURSELF “Why?” a few times in a row?

Why do you work where you work, doing the job that you do? “To earn a paycheck” is not the answer, there are loads of different ways to do that. Perhaps “a bigger paycheck than I’d make doing that other job” could be an answer, but then ask yourself “Why?” again. Why do you want a bigger paycheck? Answer that, and ask “Why?” a third time. And a fourth. Maybe a fifth?

What is your favorite thing about what you do? Why? Why?

What day-to-day decisions have become your habits? Are they still benefitting you? Why? Why?

Here’s my own example of the 5-Year-Old Test:

What’s your job?

Graphic designer and web designer.


It’s right smack in the center of a Venn diagram between my natural interests, practiced talents, and the needs of the community around me.

How so?

Because most modern businesses need a brand and a website, and because I love the blend of creative puzzle-solving, visual art, and client service that this work entails.


I am wired to create things, and it’s awesome to get paid to do so for others.


I love the feeling of being affiliated with all the awesome businesses and brands that Pen & Mug works with.


It makes me feel connected, accomplished, fulfilled.


When was the last time you asked yourself “Why?” a few times in a row? Do you ever dig deep on your occupation, your stances, your relationships? Try treating yourself like your favorite TV character and analyze why you do what you do, and challenge yourself to go a few layers deeper than dodgy answers like “because that’s the way it is” or “because that’s what I was told.”

Brutal honesty is key; fortunately, this exercise happens entirely within the safety of your own head.

The 5-Year-Old Test helps me reaffirm positive aspects of my life and identify areas that could use some change. I hope it serves you well, too!

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