Why Good Intentions Are Not Good Enough

Photo by A. Siegel

Good intentions are a great start, but they’re not enough. 

Intentions lay behind every action, even if you don’t realize it. Before you go to the kitchen to grab a snack, you first think about and visualize it. That thought and visualization is an intention.

Even when a good intention is set with awareness, sometimes people fall off the wagon. We’ve probably all experienced this with failed New Years resolutions at least once. And sometimes it turns out that our well-intended actions do not help, or worse, cause harm. 

Consider the story of a group of tourists who tried to save baby sea turtles. They saw a few turtles being eaten by crabs, so they removed the young hatchlings from their sandpit. As the baby sea turtles scrambled toward the ocean, the tourists watched in horror as seagulls ate every single one of them. Epic fail.

So what to do? We don’t want to give up on our good intentions, but we don’t want to fail or hurt others, either. 

Photo by BrieIsRestless

Spiritually speaking, good intentions matter. They are important for the evolution of the heart and the soul. They motivate us and inspire us to keep going. But good intentions, and even the commitment to them during an action, are only part of the picture. Below you will learn 12 simple steps to successfully manifest good intentions here and now.

Guidelines for Setting a Good Intention

1. Address what you would like to change from a calm, contented mental state.

Remember, no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it. The end result will be of a similar nature of your mindset while setting the intention. 

Be in a safe and quiet space, free from distractions and negative thought environments. You can set your intention by an altar to receive divine inspiration.

Get in the zone with a little Yoga, meditation, Qi Gong or similar relaxation practice. Then ask yourself what it is you would like to see change through contemplation, reflection or journaling.

Photo by Lerina Winter

 2. Choose an intention that is realistic and specific.

You want an intention that you know you will be able to follow through, and that means you need to set a goal that is specific and measurable in terms of time and quantity.

The Permaculture Principle “Use Small and Slow Solutions” comes to mind here. For example, if you want to start meditating every day, start with 5 minutes a day for the first few weeks, then gradually work your way up to 15 minutes, 30 minutes, and so on. Measure your progress and set goals specific to a time period. Reward yourself for successes.

There is a universal law that states every time you set an intention and you follow through, you gain willpower. Starting small and slow will help you gain willpower bit by bit. It saves you from taking on something too big and unrealistic, which in the end discourages you and reduces your willpower for future attempts.

3. Use positive language whenever possible.

A good intention is more powerful when it uses affirmations rather than negations. If you want to drop the nasty habit of judging others, for example, you might say “I choose to be compassionate and loving” rather than “I will not be judgmental”. (See more guidelines on creating positive affirmations here.)

"You will only be content when you get (into) your heart and out of your head!"
Photo by Brieana Breeze

Sometimes you need to say no or use a negative word. “I will quit smoking cigarettes in three months,” is a good intention that would be hard to say without negations such as “quit” or “stop”. 

After you use a negation, it is helpful to follow up with an affirmation. For example, “I am making healthier life choices by only putting healthy things in my body” would be an appropriate follow up affirmation for a smoker.

4. Write down your intentions.

Writing it down is the first step to summon your intention from the ether into physical, tangible reality. You can refer back to your written intention later and see if your actions align with it.

You can also make a vision board, using images and words. This uses the right side of the brain and helps you visualize your intention more creatively. 

These practices etch the intention into your memory and subconscious, where it can operate to automatically keep you on track.

Photo by Daniel Lucia

5. Create a selfless element to your intentions.

Examine your motives. If the intention is to help other beings, are there any ideas of selfish gain? Are there ideas of recognition, of self-righteousness, or of getting something for yourself? Then it’s not really a good intention! 

If self-serving thoughts are there, that’s OK – write down these thoughts and you can work on them. Ask yourself how you can transform selfish intentions into self-love and compassion towards others. Self-love may motivate you to stick to your willpower in the beginning. Adding a selfless element to the intention taps you into the spiritual law that happiness comes from serving others. This is how to ensure the intention comes from your Higher Self.

With this in mind, watch out for the “Savior Complex,” or the egoistic idea that you are the hero and others would be helpless without you. Without receiving feedback on how someone would like to be helped, you may be putting yourself in a position of power and putting the other in a position of dependence. Before thinking you know how to fix a problem, first ask those you wish to serve how you can best support and collaborate with them.

Photo by Clovis IV

6. Visualize your intentions and let them go to the Universe.

The Law of Attraction teaches us how to bring into our life whatever we focus on. When you visualize the fruits of your intention, and you believe within yourself that you already have them, it makes the manifestation more successful. When you are done visualizing, surrender your intention to the universe.

Again, remaining calm and content makes this practice much more powerful. Practices such as conscious relaxation, Yoga Nidra, and breathing techniques help to get your mind and body into a tranquil state. From this state you move from the physical realm to the astral realm (the realm of thought), where you will be able to tap into the cosmic consciousness and manifest any reality you choose.

The Universe is a boon-giving tree, so be careful what you wish for! If your intention is too selfish, you will likely suffer when it manifests.

Guidelines for Cultivating Good Action and Responsibility

A well-thought out, ethically supported plan of action is the best followup to a good intention. Follow these steps to manifest your ideal vision of the world into the grounded present.

Photo by Lerina Winter

7. Focus on one intention at a time.

It’s great to have many good intentions. But when we focus on too many at once, the mind can get overwhelmed and distracted, ultimately diminishing concentration and will power. 

You can act towards multiple good intentions in the same day, but give each one your full time and attention before moving on to the next one.

Commit to having your full awareness, love and dedication in each moment. The result of your actions will be imbued with with the consciousness and positive qualities of your original intention. 

8. Observe and Interact

Remember the story of the baby sea turtles? If the tourists had taken time to observe nature and her cycles, they would have known that the baby sea turtles safely make their voyage to the ocean at night when the seagulls are sleeping.

When we design our actions and lives around good intentions, we must also design based on observations and interactions from the grounded reality we live in. 

Photo by Brieana Breeze

9. Remind yourself of the good intentions often

Stay grounded in your intention, cultivating patience and persistence.

When you wake up in the morning, and before you go to bed at night, call in those good intentions to your mind, and take a few moments of holding them in your heart. This is especially powerful if you made affirmations out of your good intentions.

10. Stay positive

Sometimes we have to get into the trenches of life to manifest our good intentions. It may take years of blood, sweat and tears. Despite challenges, the most successful people learn to cultivate gratitude and a cheerful attitude.

If you’re not able to have a smile on your face while doing something, take a short break and take three deep breaths. Remind yourself of the good intention behind it, and how lucky you are to have the opportunity to manifest your dreams. 

Write down five things you’re grateful for. It may be the progress you’ve already made, the helpful skills and qualities you may have, help from others, or the multitude of opportunities to serve others, beautify this Earth, and improve yourself. 

If you still have trouble after that, examine whether the intentions behind your actions are truly good or if they are selfish. 

Photo by Fish Makes Photos

11.  Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback

Acting out of good intentions is more complex than simply trying to help. It requires collaboration, listening, relationship building and sometimes caution. Key skills to build for this step are active listening and non-violent communication

Be willing to accept that you may be wrong. Ask yourself and others: What was the apparent result of my actions? How can I do better next time? This is how we learn and grow together. 

12. Let go of attachments

Do your best and surrender the rest. You are too blessed to be stressed. Remember that intentions are spiritual, but they can also bind you and cause suffering if you are too attached to the results. 

At the end of the day, the results are out of your hands anyway. It may not turn out how you imagined, creating further opportunity for you to learn, grow and adapt.

Good Intentions Pave The Road to Destiny

You may have heard the proverb, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”. Consider this optimistic alternative: The destination depends on the perseverance, dedication, and selflessness behind well intended actions.

Heaven or Hell is not some distant spiritual realm; it is what we create on this Earth and within ourselves through our intentions and actions. While good intention is not enough, it is still important and is the first step towards manifesting the beautiful reality we seek. 

So hold on to your good intentions. Cultivate more responsibility, will-power, and humility by following the above guidelines. May your journey on the path of good intention be fruitful and beneficial towards all beings!

2 thoughts on “Why Good Intentions Are Not Good Enough

  1. This article is very easy to understand and has shifted me. I am excited to use some of the practices mentioned. I have also shared the article to a handful of my soul-sisters. Thank you so much for delivering this message in perfect timing. 🙏🌈🔮

  2. Oh what sweet guidance and kindness written here! Thank you for taking the time and intention to share this. Although I have read many suggestions on making and acting on intentions, this was the most wholistic, non-preachy, simply yet deeply meaningful article. Thank you so much; perfect timing and balance. Lisa xo

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