What's your why?

Recently I wrote an article titled ‘What are your goals for therapy?’ In that offering, I discussed how clear and tangible goals are important for both client and counsellor as they help guide the work and give us a marker for progress but perhaps the first step to consider the value of the goals we are setting from a ‘felt’ perspective. What is their value emotionally to us? What will the changes they bring when we meet them mean to us?


To get the best from counselling and indeed life moving forward, it helps to understand and know our ‘why’, and I mean really know it; see it, feel it, be emotionally connected to it. 

To help illustrate this, let’s consider the following scenario:

You have won the lottery!

Picture one – visualise the outsized cheque you have been presented with and now picture that number showing on the screen every time you check your bank account. 

Picture two – visualise the experiences and things you can do for yourself and those close to you with your winnings. Perhaps you would donate to a charity, pay off mortgages, buy a new car and take others on holiday – see everyone’s faces smiling as you make a real difference. 

Hopefully, you will notice a difference between the two. The first feels cold and sterile, the amount is tangible but it has no feeling whereas the second evokes a warm glow, a positive emotion. That’s the emotion you need to feel when you think of your ‘why’ – that’s your driving force that will keep you going when things feel challenging and we have to step out of our comfort zone as is often the case with counselling. 

Let’s now consider another scenario that feels more plausible than a lottery win and one which many more of us may be able to relate to….

You want to lose weight

You engage a fitness instructor saying you want to lose weight as you are unable to partake in physical activity for more than a few minutes. Without asking any questions or engaging in conversation about why and what it means to you, the instructor sets about taking all the necessary body measurements and devises a training programme.

You start out full of good intentions and are overjoyed with the initial weight loss but things become more challenging – fitting workouts into a busy weekly schedule, weight loss slows down, workouts become more progressive etc. and so enthusiasm wanes and old habits creep back in, you know the score. Had you taken the time to get to know your why and really visualise what success would feel like, this would have given you purpose and kept you going when things became tough.

For example:

Client – I want to lose weight.

Instructor – Why?

Client – It will make me happy.

Instructor – How?

Client – I will be fitter and healthier.

Instructor – So how will that make you feel happier? What will you be able to do if you are fitter and healthier, that you can’t do now?

Client – I will be able to play football in the park with my son whereas now I have to just watch.

Instructor – And what would it mean to you to play football with him?

Client – Rather than watching from the sidelines feeling embarrassed and like I’m letting him down I will feel more connected to him and engaged with him through being able to actively share the experience rather than watching from afar. 

You can see by asking yourself just a few simple questions and drilling down into the emotional aspect of why you are doing something how you can come to determine your purpose for doing something. 

Having purpose brings meaning to our goals and is our continuing motivation when initial good intention and willpower wane, which they will! Without purpose, we quickly become disheartened, bored and easily distracted. We get caught up in the busyness of modern-day life and all its demands as well as being easily tempted and led into bad habits which although initially feel good, lead to feeling worse in the long term. Not knowing our ‘why’, it’s easy to get stuck on the merry go round of life and rather than you making your choices, they somehow find you, often leaving you feeling not so merry.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Sittingbourne, Kent, ME9
Written by Carrie Boyle, MBACP (Accred), ACTO | Shyness and Social Anxiety Specialist
Sittingbourne, Kent, ME9

Carrie Munday - 'Trauma Counsellor' based in Sittingbourne Kent offering both 'in-person and online counselling.

I help adults to heal, recover and reclaim life after trauma, releasing them from feeling hostage to what happened to them and finding balance without the need to rely on medication.

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