“It’s the thought that counts” – a tale of a misunderstood phrase

“It’s the thought that counts” – it’s an overused and tired phrase. It’s often used to compensate a lack of thinking by placing more weight on the fact that the act of thinking was performed.

Today, we challenge you to redefine your understanding of the phrase and encourage you to think deeper about it’s meaning. Does it champion the importance of thinking or, does it just fixate on the fact that thinking was performed?

In other words, is it enough just to think or is it the quality of thought that matters?


To investigate its purpose, we must understand it’s utility. We break it down to two forms of utility.

The first, is the one we’re most accustomed to – to use as an excuse.

Here the concept of thought becomes distorted to only focus on the fact that the act of thinking was performed. There is also a lack of regard for how much or well said thought was performed. 

The definition of thought within this utility is really, intention.

The second utility – to challenge the value of thought.

When we narrow it down to the phrase – “thought that counts”, it seems like it’s telling us that there is immense weight in the concept of thought. 

It can be interpreted to imply that nothing, apart from the type of thinking (especially good thinking), counts.

 Our Thoughts on Thinking Perhaps we've been using the phrase to cower behind a socially constructed incorrect definition of "thought" as intention. But it's not the intention that counts, it's the thought.

If it’s truly the thought that counts, then maybe we should embrace the spirit of thinking.

The spirit of thinking enough to understand and fulfil a desired purpose well but not so much that it evades action by over-thinking.

So, the next time you’re tempted to cover up a lack of thinking by hiding behind the excuse of intention – think twice and remember, it’s the thought that counts!

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