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The Most Powerful Question You Will Ever Be Asked

I am a therapist. My job is to talk to people and help them to solve their problems. Throughout the course of therapy I ask clients many, many questions.

Questions are the heart of therapy, as they require an individual to think. That thinking process stimulates the brain and perhaps can provide a new way of seeing an old problem. Some questions are deep, such as “what do you believe is the meaning of life?” and some are not quite as profound, such as, “What is your favorite TV show?”

There is one question though, that I ask clients early and often. It’s a question that is pervasive in my sessions and becomes part of my regular conversations with my clients. I will ask a client within the first twenty minutes of the first session, “What do you want?”

What do you want? On the surface it sounds a little superficial and somewhat base. Go deeper than that. What do you really want?

This question is powerful because whatever you want, whatever your motivation is, is what you will likely get. A lot of us say that we want certain things — we want to be healthy, we want to be good people, we want to be successful, and we want to make a difference.

What do you want?

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The question needs a little more investigative work. What do your actions say that you want? Are you moving toward your what you want? If the answer is “no,” then you either don’t want it or you don’t want it badly enough. If you truly want something, if you pour all your heart and soul into achieving your goal, can you do it? I would say “yes.”

What do you want?

I believe that people possess within themselves the capacity for change. There is no external force that is necessary for a person to become who they want to be. In order for a person to change, to truly change, they must decide that a change would be advantageous. Translation – your desire for your goal must be greater than your desire to not put in the work.

The example I use most frequently with clients is my desire for six pack abs. I have always wanted six pack abs and always told people that was my goal; until a realization hit me one day. I want pizza and beer more than I want six pack abs, so the likelihood of me achieving that goal is very slim. And that’s okay. I am not willing to make the sacrifices and put in the work it takes to get six pack abs but I am fine with that.

I just needed to adjust my goals. I was telling myself and everyone else I wanted something I didn’t truly want. I also want to be a great therapist, and being a good one is just not enough for me. My goal for a time was to become the greatest therapist I could possibly be; that sounds like a great goal, right? The problem was that becoming the best possible therapist meant I had to sacrifice my time with other things: Less sleep, less time with my kids, less time with my wife, and less free time. When I weighed what I wanted with the cost, I realized I was not willing to sacrifice all those things to be the best therapist — and that’s okay. I can still be a very good therapist and savor my time with my family.

Ask yourself these questions. “What do I want?” “What am I doing?” “Do my actions move me closer to my goal or further away from it?” If your actions are moving you away from your goal, then ask, “Do I really want this?” If the answer is “yes,” then it is time to make a plan.

What do you want?

The Most Powerful Question You Will Ever Be Asked

Thomas Winterman

Thomas Winterman is a therapist, school counselor, author, and blogger who lives in Panama City, FL. His e-book, The Thrive Life, is available on Amazon. His blog can be found at

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APA Reference
Winterman, T. (2018). The Most Powerful Question You Will Ever Be Asked. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 31, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 22 May 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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