Why do you do what you do? What is important about it to you? What excites you about it? These are questions I ask individuals when attempting to identify their deeper motivation or what is meaningful about a certain pursuit or activity.

It is my experience that most people don’t have clarity on what it is that truly motivates them. An example would be: “I want to retire, get an R.V., and travel the country with my wife.” This is not your deeper ‘Why’ but a means to an end to attain your ‘Why’. Maybe, spending time with the person you love gives you a deeper feeling of connection or traveling puts you more in touch with nature and transcendence.

One of the reasons I bring this issue up is people frequently mistake their means for their why. Then if the means becomes blocked or impeded in some way, they feel they have lost access to their why.

I once worked with a young man who had become addicted to opiate medications. He was a successful athlete and had received a full scholarship to a division I school to play football. He had begun using prescription opiates following a surgery for a sports injury. After repeated surgeries and rehabs, he was unable to return to his former ability and lost his scholarship. Despite, numerous attempts to become sober, he was unsuccessful. It became apparent to me, he would not achieve sobriety until he developed a new meaningful life direction.

His whole identity had been shaped around being an athlete since he was a young child. The opiates were not only medicating the loss of football but temporarily filling the void of his lack of a sense of self and purpose. I began to explore and identify each aspect of what he found so meaningful about football: the physical challenge; the comradery of the team; competition, etc.

After identifying each facet of what drew him to football, we then correlated an associated feeling state he acquired. We began to explore other means or vehicles for him to acquire these states. Following a period of exploration, he chose to pursue a career in the military. It was still necessary for him to grieve the loss of football. But he now had a new, meaningful life direction that would provide him with many of the fulfilling characteristics provided by football.

We often lose dreams due to age, injury, loss, or circumstances. I hope these examples can give guidance that one can still obtain what gives fulfillment and meaning in a variety of ways. Just keep asking the next ‘Why’ question to get the answer to the true ‘Why’.


John Hawkins Jr., M.S., L.M.H.C.

Boynton Beach Counseling Center
Gateway Counseling Center
1034 Gateway Blvd. #104
Boynton Beach, FL 33426
Phone: (561) 468-6464
Phone: (561) 678-0036

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