No, good intentions are not enough

Lara walks into the living room. Miko, her five year old son, is sitting on the floor. Scattered around him are snippets of something vaguely familiar. When he turns around, big smile on his face and scissors in his hand, she understands where the snippets come from.
“But sweetheart, why have you cut my driver’s license into pieces?”
Miko’s smile fades a little as he hears the tone in mummy’s voice.
“I needed a picture of you”, he stretches out his hand. 
 “For your mother’s day card.” 
In his hand is a carefully cut out picture of her face.

When it comes to kids, all that matters is the good intention. Lara will of course hug her son tightly before she starts the process of getting a new driver’s license.

However, from grown-ups, from ourselves, we can expect more. 

Good intentions should not be used as an excuse for not doing well.

You may disagree with this opinion. There are many who think that good intentions and hard work should be enough.

Like those who work at a company with the best of intentions, but without creating results, who still expect  a yearly raise and a promotion.

Or coaches in sports that yell at the kids on their team, making them hate the sport they once loved, or even worse, making them dislike themselves. Some of these trainers say that they do it for the kids’ sake; they believe it is good for all kids to be pushed.  Such trainers may have good intentions but if they do not bother to learn how to help all the different persons in their team, I do not think it is good enough.  (The above example is also applicable for many bosses.)

Another example is a story I heard recently, about an animal shelter opening in the outskirts of Madrid.  A group of young people wanted to take care of some of the many abandoned animals.  They had lots of good intentions, but not the will to achieve the necessary knowledge, and several animals died under their care – or rather their lack of appropriate care.

It may sound hard, but to me, it is important to not just mean well, but to do well. And that will require more than just a good intention.

Let me conclude with a statement I use when I talk to school classes about writing and possibly choosing that as a career:

“Follow your heart, but take your brain with you.”


  1. Interestingly enough, the title is quite ambiguous :) Thanks for sharing the though. I wonder what triggered it into your mind.
    I use to tell myself that it is harder to be coherent than to mean it, but let's keeping trying.

  2. Well you are right, it sure is important to keep the comma there and if it is missed the title will be confusing! I have been thinking about it some time and there have been several triggers, like an article in Time about the coach I mention above and the story of the people who started a shelter in which animals died.
    Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  3. I once read about Dalai Lama's answer to a question about how to tell good actions apart from bad actions. According to him, it has nothing to do with good or bad intentions. A good action is an action with mostly good consequences. A bad action is an action with mostly bad consequences. This is called consequentialism ("konsekvensetik" in Swedish).
    Your title "good intentions are not enough" would then be an understatement. A consequentialist would say that "good intentions are not what counts".
    I guess this shifts our focus from your dogmas to your values, since your evaluation of the consequences is what will then determine what action you prefer.

    1. Thanks, I must say I agree with Dalai Lama regarding this (and much else...) :-)