Monday, September 28, 2009

The Why behind the What

"What are you doing?" Facebook wants to know with immediacy.  Twitter wants to know in general.  People calling on the phone often open with that line.  "What do you do?" is another loaded question.  Both can seem obtrusive in certain settings.  "Why do you do what you do?" is more interesting.  Should we upgrade Facebook to Mindbook? 

Why are you a teacher?  What made you decide to study physics?  Why do you travel for your job?  Why stay home with children?  Why did you get married?  I like to ask these "why" questions, but I normally reserve them for just the right person or occasion.  I can always ask myself why I am doing something without fear of offense or intrusion; so I do. 

If we know the why behind the what, then we are lucky.  If we don't like the what, the why can be our jail key.  If we do like the what, the why is a nice bonus.  We each have different gifts...and also different needs.

In elementary school, my friend resolved to become a doctor when she was diagnosed with childhood diabetes.  Thirty years later, she is indeed a doctor. 

A law school friend told me that she chose her field to advocate for others because she felt oppressed throughout her childhood.  When she had needed a real advocate no one was there to fill that void.  Now she advocates for others, accepting that her own life experiences revealed her calling. 

A clinical psychologist once told me that part of her journey to heal from childhood sexual abuse and religious dysfunction was learning and practicing psychotherapy.  In the process, she was able to guide the healing of others. 

Certain professions have an obvious motivation--others less so.  Some professionals have an entirely different motivation than that which appears on the surface. 

Some people claim that life decisions are more the product of circumstance than of intention.  In the short term, this is believable.  What happens when the circumstances change and intention can guide daily pursuits?  What happens when we discover our intentions? 

For the very first time, I am open to the possibility that circumstances are perceived rather than imposed.  I am willing to act based on authentic intention.  Authentic intention is the marriage of purpose and desire.  So often there is a purpose without desire or a desire unguided by purpose.  I am allowing my authentic intention to unfold.  This is a new kind of freedom precluding statements of certainty.  I would rather be prohibited by freedom than propelled by false intention.

When the Why precedes the What, there is no dead end.  The path is wide open. 


  1. Thanks for sharing this. This reached something deep down in my core. Absolutely fabulous writing in the tradition of Montaigne.


  2. I like it! "When the Why precedes the What, there is no dead end. The path is wide open."

    The why, is most of the time, more important than the what.

    Hi there, I stopped over today to say and invite to stop over and say hello. It's nice "meeting" you.

    I enjoyed reading your blog today, and look forward to what you post in the future!

  3. Thanks for stopping by :) I am now following you as well, and will put your blog on my roll so I can come back and read often!

    I just reread my comment from last time and laughed at myself LOL...I think I missed a few words :0