It’s the Thought That Counts – Or Is It?


It’s the thought that counts! Why do we say this? This phrase is typically said in relation to gift-giving. It is used to say that good or kind intentions are the most important thing, even if what you do or give someone is not perfect. Picture a small child who offers his mother a hand-picked bouquet of “flowers” that turn out to be weeds. They may even be covered in the dirt from which they were just extracted! 

Now, as a mother, I can say with assurance, that if I were presented with such a “bouquet” I would accept it graciously, knowing the true intent of the giver. And this could be said of all kinds of gifts that are given with noble intention, whether from a child or an adult.

But I’m wondering if the thought counts in other situations. Say, for example, you forget a close friend’s birthday. You don’t send a card in the mail but you thought about it. You don’t call but you thought about it. What about a gift? Hmmm, you thought about it. And you don’t apologize for missing it but you thought about it. Does the thought still count?

Let’s say your husband asked you to pick up his dry cleaning because he needs those items for a business trip. He’s leaving very early the next morning and needs his lucky suit to give him the confidence to make the sale. You forget all about his dry cleaning as you go about your busy schedule. Then at 6:15 pm, just before he walks through the door but after the cleaners closed at 6:00 pm, you think about his request and the forgotten dry cleaning. Does the thought still count?

What about your kids? Have you ever used the “it’s the thought that counts” phrase on them? How did that go over? What if your daughter has a dance recital and you promise you will be there? As a busy, working mom maybe it’s not always possible to be at every single event. But the dance recital is a special one you promised to attend. The project you are working on has a hard deadline and you find yourself thinking about the dance recital and the promise you made, weighing your choices in your mind. However, you decide to work overtime to finish the project. Does the thought still count?

What I’m talking about here is intention and consideration for others. These are two very important values to me. There’s an old saying which says, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” While this may seem a bit harsh, the gist of the message is clear. Good intentions imply a lack of action. 

It’s the thought that counts. I don’t believe it’s true and I have a theory about this saying. This phrase was probably coined by a procrastinator! Think about it. A procrastinator does a lot of thinking about doing things but struggles with the actual doing of things. There have been many times when I have thought about calling someone to say “hi” or dropping a card in the mail to a friend I miss (you can tell I’m old school just to think that thought–right?). Did I do it? Not usually. But it’s the thought that counts, right? See, that’s why I say I disagree with that phrase.

We say “it’s the thought that counts” to make ourselves look better.

We know it isn’t really true, even while we’re saying it, don’t we? It just makes us feel better when we don’t follow through. If it is our intention to be thoughtful and considerate, what keeps us from being that? We, ourselves, are responsible for whether we follow through or not. If this is an area you struggle with, please keep reading.

How do we change ourselves? What will it take to motivate us to be different? My husband has a saying that he’s been using for years. He says, “growth begins with awareness.” It sounds simple and it is. Simple yet profound. Change is simple but not easy. The trick, once you become aware of something about yourself that you want to change, is to take one step toward being more like the person you want to be. It may seem simple but as I said, it is not always easy.  


Taking the first step is often the hardest one to take but each subsequent step becomes a little easier. As we continue to move closer to the person we want to become, we realize that we are different. We have changed. It’s important to stop for a moment to recognize it. Give yourself credit for the positive changes you make. It is a big deal. Many people never get that far. Most people never risk that first step. 

However, it is never too late to change. I’m living proof. I’m growing and changing more in my late 50’s than any other time in my life! Will you join me? Take a chance on the first step toward becoming a better person–the one you wish you were. Make your thoughts count by putting them into action. You’ll be so glad you did.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Absolutely love this post… growth really does begin with awareness. I wonder how many times I have thought about doing things that I later wish I had taken action on. This could create an interesting conversation. Thoughts in and of themselves don’t count but no great action is ever taken without first there being a thought. At the end of the day it is action that matters but I don’t want to minimize the importance of checking your thought life because it will define the kinds of actions you take.

    Great post!

    1. Thanks, Babe! Yes, I agree, no great action takes place without a thought first. Perhaps I will tackle that idea in another blog post 😉

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