Why Good Intentions Aren’t Enough


“Five seagulls are sitting on a dock. One of them decides to fly away. How many seagulls are left?”

“Well … four.”

“No,” Jones responded. “There are still five. Deciding to fly away and actually flying away are two very different things.

“Listen carefully to me. Despite popular belief to the contrary, there is absolutely no power in intention. The seagull may intend to fly away, may decide to do so, may talk with the other seagulls about how wonderful it is to fly, but until the seagull flaps his wings and takes to the air, he is still on the dock. There’s no difference between that gull and all the others. Likewise, there is no difference in the person who intends to do things differently and the one who never thinks about it in the first place. Have you ever considered how often we judge ourselves by our intentions while we judge others by their actions? Yet intention without action is an insult to those who expect the best from you.”

(Andy Andrews, The Noticer)

What have you decided to do but are too afraid, or stuck, or comfortable to actually do?

  • Start running?
  • Declutter your kitchen drawers?
  • Wake up early?
  • Finish that book you’ve been working on for months?
  • Travel?
  • Learn how to paint?

It’s a simple equation, but one that trips everyone at some stage.

Intention (I am going to travel to Thailand this year) does not equate to action (I’ve just paid for my flights to Bangkok).

Simply because we intend to do something does not make a dot of difference to our actual situation. We may be 100% certain that we will visit Thailand this year, but until we have booked, paid, packed and boarded the plane, our situation hasn’t changed. We’re still sitting on the dock.

So ask yourself, “What do I intend to do?”

Then, start doing it. Fly away from the dock. Even just a little.

9 Responses to Why Good Intentions Aren’t Enough

  1. You are absolutely right :)
    If we decide to do something, we usually feel that we have done the first steps, we might even feel satisfied :P
    Of course making a decision is an important thing, but it is funny to think about how often we mix up intentions with actions!
    Thanks for the reminder :)

  2. I’ve said way too many times, I’m going to do this that and the other. Like actually use the wisdom I find, instead of just reading it, hoping the change will happen magically.

    Thanks for this powerful message, Brooke. Needed that kick up the butt!

    Romper looks so fun! looking forward to seeing more! :)

  3. Wow, that was a crazy important point! I saw the trailer for that Andy Andrews book and had the best of intentions to buy and read it…ugh!

    It’s funny, I launched my blog in March of this year. That was a difficult and scary day because I revealed information about myself that I had been hiding for years. Okay, that hurdle was crossed and now, more than 50 posts later I have yet to deliver my first workshop. I fully intend to do so, but apparently I haven’t left the doc yet.

    I even gave myself a challenge to help 100 people in 100 days (there’s a post for that, too!) but so far, I have only one testimonial and the clock ticked passed the half-way mark a few days ago.

    I guess what I’m saying is that this intention vs doing thing is really a daily grind. One that you have to keep after and push yourself to do the next step. The hardest things to change or do are bigger than just buying a ticket. If it were that easy, I’d have helped 100 people already. We just have to keep moving forward…taking some action each day…

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post, Brooke!

  4. I loved this post! The seagull story made me laugh out loud but at the same time transmitted a very serious message. You’re absolutely right – we gotta get moving on our intentions!

  5. I don’t agree that “there is no difference in the person who intends to do things differently and the one who never thinks about it in the first place.”

    For us to even consider alternative options, we have to recognize that there are alternatives that could serve us better, and be willing to consider them. Of course this is only the very beginning of making a change, and hard work, dedication and “the daily grind” (as one astute commenter noted above) need to follow for it to be meaningful.

    But that initial widening of our perspectives is often the most difficult, fundamental change that needs to happen. Anyone who has tried to convince someone who simply will not listen to consider an alternative can confirm this. To discard that and say it is not valid until action has occurred fails to recognize an important aspect of the process of change and isn’t terribly encouraging.

    I totally agree with this emphasis on action, and think that “Then, start doing it. Fly away from the dock. Even just a little.” is a great way of looking at things, but first comes intention. Let’s value that, too.