Intention: an aim, plan, or goal. Outcome: effect, real life happening.
Intentions play a large role in how we go about our lives. It dictates why we make the choices that we do, but sometimes, it’s questionable whether we even know what our intentions are. In a court of law, it is extremely hard to prove intent, and socially it is commonly misconstrued and based on opinion. In the end, the only guarantee is the outcome that results from our actions. It’s been argued that our society has taken a perspective of “it’s the thought that counts” over the reality of the outcomes. This phrase in itself, is problematic, however, taking it a level deeper makes it become even more problematic. If the outcome of this thought journey is that you are requestioning your thoughts, motives, and actions, then the intentions have been met (if that even matters).
Example: “Why” Intentions
I do not deny that the thoughts and motives behind why people do what they do are important. Personally, I am a huge “why” person! I am constantly looking to understand the process of why I am performing a certain task or cultural ritual. For me, having a motive or thoughtful intention going into a project helps me tackle the situation with my most prepared self. This area of ‘why asking’ can come from different intentional places. It could either come from the above, wanting to gain all knowledge possible in order to fulfill a task (good intention) or it could come from a place of questioning power and challenging social dynamics (bad? intention). Let’s not even get into the philosophy of defining what good vs bad intentions are!!
The intention of asking why could go either way, as could the outcome. For example, you may ask why with a bad intention and still receive the knowledge to help you complete the task. Or, with a good intented why, you may just manage to upset the person you are questioning and cause an uncomfortable riff that no one wants. In the end, it didn’t really matter what your intention was, the outcome is what dictates the rest of the environment you are in.
What happens when good intentions result in bad outcomes?
So if we can all agree to this point, and I hope we all do, because the following won’t make much sense to those who don’t, the answer to all of our questions drops intention out entirely. What happens when good intentions result in bad outcomes?? You ditch the idea of intentions, look at the outcome and change your actions to result in a better outcome.
Sure.. yeah.. maybe you can say, “my intention is a better outcome and that’s a good intention which resulted in a better outcome so it is still about intention.” Ok, I’ll throw you the bone, but know it’s just to make you happy not because I find credibility in what you’re saying. (See what I did there: you’re happy you get the bone, I’m happy you leave me alone. My annoyed and spiteful intentions can hardly be considered “good” but the outcome is mutual happiness so I don’t think we can really complain anymore).
Along with living in a world that puts great emphasis on intention, it is also a world that thinks they can do no wrong. Too often I hear, “well, my intentions are good and if you interpreted that wrong then that’s your problem.” (Ok.. I don’t know many people who are quite that forward, but many say just as much). Going back to my second paragraph, I think intentions are very important in our social world! I also believe that, if our outcomes cause pain, tension, and/or offense in others we are obligated to change the actions or behaviors that resulted in that outcome- no matter what the intentions may have been. Or, if one chooses to think they are above changing their behavior, they should get used to being in environments of tension and/or offense and that is the outcome they are refusing to change.
The intention vs outcome of writing this post
Well, as we’ve discussed (or rather I’ve discussed and you’ve read). It doesn’t really matter what my intention of writing this was. But, if you must know, I mostly wanted to express where I think our society’s priorities should lie: not with the introspective idea of our own intentions but rather the larger scale reality of the outcomes they produce, and to hopefully persuade others to see through the same lens I do. I guess I’ll see the outcomes as it happens and therefore adjust my approach and message accordingly. If you feel differently about this, please, create a conversation! How will we ever learn what the appropriate actions are if there are no reactions to their outcomes?