Good Intentions Without Action: Breaking the Habit

What are good intentions without action? Pretty much nothing.

Sometimes, they’re even worse than nothing. The saying “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” is around for a reason. We mean well, but things go way astray. Or we take on more than we can handle, and find ourselves struggling to get back on track.

Good intentions without action just hold you back. So I’ve been working on breaking that habit, which means knowing myself.

For example, I just got back from BlogWorld LA, where I heard a whole bunch of great talks. There were so many talks that I wanted to listen to — which isn’t surprising since there were more than 160 talks — but I was only able to hear from Guy Kawasaki, Chris Brogan, Peter Shankman, Marcus Sheridan, Debba Haupert, Michael Margolis, Amber Naslund, Darren Rouse, Pat Flynn, Adam Baker, CC Chapman, Pace & Kyeli Smith, and Srinivas Rao.

So when I saw this sign:

I was sorely tempted.

I could hear everyone, I thought. Or at least so much more!

But then reality set in

What would I really do, most likely, once I paid my $49? I’d get busy. Maybe I’d listen to one or two more talks, if I were lucky. Most likely though, the information would sit on my computer, neglected and lonely, while I felt guilty about one more undone item on my to-do list.

Much better to just admit that I don’t have time to do it all. And much more important to act on some of the things I learned while I was at BlogWorld.

Acting is the key. You can listen all you want, and have the best of intentions, but without action they are nothing.

Breaking the habit of good intentions

So if you often find yourself filled with good intentions that don’t come to fruition, it’s time to stop.

Start with some good old-fashioned self honesty. Admit that you can’t, won’t, or don’t want to do it all.

Then say no. (160 talks at 45 minutes each? No thank you, I don’t want to spend 120 hours listening, even though I’m sure I’ll be missing a ton of valuable information.)

Finally, act on what you do want to do. Make it a priority. Be satisfied with enough. Let the rest go, and you’ll be happier and less stressed for it.


  • This is a great post Jackie. I have great plans sometimes, and then life gets in the way and my plans go to the backburner. For me, a big stumbling block is I tend to put everyone else in the family ahead of me. Next thing I know, I have forgotten what my great idea was! :) (I think that is a common affliction with moms…)

    After fincon, I had so many thought and plans. My little notebook was chock full of ‘to dos’ and I still have so many left to do. Another roadblock for me (in this case) is narrowing focus. I was a bit overwhelmed after the conference and my head was just spinning in too many directions.

    Not to mention the weather has been really nice up here in Michigan…

    Great post!

    • Yeah, that’s definitely a common affliction with moms. It sounds like you have done some of your to-dos from FINCON though, right? Keep circling back :)

  • I’ve certainly been guilty of that. Sometimes life just gets in the way, but other times, I think for me that;s just an excuse for not following through. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of forgetting entirely, which is why I have to start using technology better and leave myself little notes whenever something comes to mind.

    It’s almost like the full plate effect. You already have a ton of stuff going on, but someone needs help and you simply feel terrible turning them down. One of two things will result: either something gets lost in the shuffle, or the quality of what needs to be done will suffer. Even though the intentions were good, the execution was ill-advised and the results generally won’t be up to par.

    • Yeah, I think we can all only juggle so many plates at once before they start to drop. Better to keep on the important ones and not add little ones that just make things harder.

  • This happens all the time with my blogging. I set goals of what I want to every month and then never get them done. I need to start just doing things rather than setting goals I won’t reach.

  • I think you were smart. You likely already heard more good info than you’re going to be able to process or implement. Better to focus on a few actionable items than to try to fill your brain with even more.

  • Best to focus on a few things at a time. My to-do list is miles long, but I can only start at the top of the first page!

    • Don’t you feel frustrated with having such a long to-do list though? I feel like a success when I just don’t add additional things to mine!

  • Awesome post! ProBlogger’s biggest takeaway from BWELA is “Do It”. He goes on to say, we all learned so much, but are we even working on the basic things that we already know? What’s next on your plate?

    • I think a lot of us (myself included) spend way too much time just doing things that seem urgent but that aren’t really important in the long run — let alone getting to the things we already know and learning new things.

      What’s next on my plate is getting through a week that’s sure to be hectic at work next week, and then doing some more podcast interviews with folks :)