Vaughan Granier points out that we see everything through the lens of what we were trying to do, and not through the lens of what we actually did.
I remember hearing once that “We judge ourselves by our intentions, but other people by their actions.” As much as I hate to admit it, I have seen many people—including yours truly—do this.
It’s funny that. Living inside our own skin gives us such a skewed view on the world. We see everything through the lens of what we were trying to do, and not through the lens of what we actually did. That way, if things don’t work out quite right, we can avoid the unpleasantness of failure by retreating to our good intentions.
It’s a pity the world is not so forgiving …
Something that easily demonstrates this is that old problem, procrastination. I am pretty good at this one (I joked on a website today that the way to focus in completely on the task at hand, is to procrastinate until the situation is life threatening!) … So, for example, there is something, anything, that needs doing. I have chatted to a few guys, and we don’t know why, but we all agree it is so easy to say “Yup, that needs doing. In a minute.” And then the minute goes by and becomes an hour.
By this stage our dear long-suffering wives are doing it themselves—and are NOT pleased. Our instinctive response to their query is “But I was going to do it! Soon!” It makes us feel better to fall back on our intentions. It helps us avoid the embarrassment of owning our failure bluntly and without excuses.
And they are right. That simply isn’t good enough. They are entitled, as our partners, to rely on our commitment to do something. And we, as their partners, need to honor our commitments!
What about when we say we love them, but we also enjoy looking at well toned bodies that pass by in the street? Or we secretly enjoy the sexy scenes on TV? Or we occasionally watch pornography? Or, worst case, we are actually contemplating or even having an affair?
We SAY we love them, but do we really? Or are we loving ourselves; our desires, needs and our weaknesses?
We look at our intentions—“But I love my wife! I just also need …” and they, quite correctly, are saying “If you can’t control your instincts and protect the exclusivity of our relationship and treasure me with your eyes and body, then what you love is not me. You love yourself.”
Our actions count. Not our intentions. Not. One. Bit.
What about with our children? “Sure, I will take you to the park,” “Of course I will be there for your game,” “Of course I’m coming to the school play …” and then we don’t. The reason doesn’t matter. From their perspective we didn’t come. We can justify it with work, traffic, you name it, we have the reasons lined up.
But our actions count. Not our intentions.
What about the workplace? “Yes, I’ll get that done by the deadline.” Then other work creeps in, or a long lunch, or we lose time trawling social media sites at work, and then the deadline gets missed. Then we don’t get the promotion or the raise and we complain?
Our actions count. Not our intentions.
If we really want to leave a legacy in our families and in our workplace, then what we DO is far more important than what we intend to do. And if we look at ourselves through other people’s eyes, and we don’t let ourselves make any excuses, we will see what we actually are in the eyes of others. I would like to be known as a promise keeper. I have some ways to go, but that is my goal. I want my intentions, and my actions, to be the same.
I want integrity.
So from now on I am going to judge myself by my actions, not my intentions.
Let’s look at our ACTIONS to measure our integrity, not our intentions. We may not like what we see, but at least, with some honesty, we can make a start in the right direction.
This post originally appeared at Notes From the Road
Photo: JD Hancock/Flickr
“We judge ourselves by our intentions, but other people by their actions.” This is probably because we know what our intentions are. We can only infer what others intentions are and do they really not count? Your wife tries to surprise you with a romantic dinner, but accidentally sets fire to the tablecloth while she’s setting the candles. Sorry honey, your intentions don’t matter. The only thing that matters is now I have to replace the table cloth and resurface the table. I think people confuse what counts with consequences. Intentions don’t have consequences only actions do, but intentions do… Read more »