If It’s a Good Idea… Don’t Do It

Not a Good Idea

For a long time, I’ve held the belief that if something is a good idea, it’s worth doing.

Now, I completely reject that notion.

I just can’t operate that way anymore. I know better and my brain can’t be fooled.

In 2007 Tim Ferriss coined the term “work for work’s sake.” Since then, something worse has emerged: “improving for improvement’s sake.” (Honestly, this conundrum has probably been around for centuries. I just came up with it now because I desperately want to coin a phrase of my own, so I can be cool, too.) In other words: “improving for improvement’s sake” is doing something just because it’s a “good idea.”

Yeah, I’ve been there, and what is neatly packaged as a “good idea” is often OCD and egotism in disguise.

It’s at that point where passion is ransacked and Ego reigns king of the hill.

There are many instances where passion can turn into just a good idea

  • Passions turns into obsession. When I first started learning Jeet Kune Do, I was incredibly excited. I’ve wanted to study martial arts since I first saw The Karate Kid at the ripe age of seven. So when I was presented the opportunity to learn the style of martial arts that Bruce Lee formed, I could barely contain my excitement (and, I’ll be honest, my nervousness at the thought of possibly sucking really bad). But when my ego got hold of me, it became hard not to practice just because I felt I should; just because it was a “good idea.” In other words: I forgot about my passion and started aiming to improve simply for the sake of improvement.
  • Your love becomes your job. This seems like the most backward thing, right? I mean, in the beginning we complain that we don’t have enough time to do what we really care about, but when we’re presented the opportunity to make money from it, it becomes a turnoff. At first, it might seem exhilarating and thrilling for the chance to do what we love for a living. But after a while, that excitement tends to wear off and it becomes a chore. It’s a must instead of a fun option kind of thing. (A little later in this article we’ll get into why this happens and how to can get out of it.)
  • You mistake avoidance for apathy. We often think that because we’re avoiding doing what we love, it must not matter enough to us. Of course it matters! That very avoidance and fear is a sign that it does matter. But it’s hard not to let that fear discourage you and lead you to believe that because you’re avoiding it, you must not want it bad enough. If you let that happen, you forfeit your passion and the worst happens… it turns into just a good idea.

What’s happening here is one of two things: A.) Your passion is getting stifled somewhere along the way, or B.) You’ve simply lost interest.

If the latter is the case and your supposed true love (with your new career pursuit, or whatever it may be), was simply infatuation, then you can safely let it go. There’s no point in clinging to goals that no longer serve you.

If you can honestly say that you truly are passionate about whatever you’re aspiring to — and your spark was simply extinguished somewhere along the way — there is hope for you yet.

It’s not too late to resuscitate, even if your love has flatlined.

“Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” -Helen Keller

The point here that I can’t stress enough is this:

Whether or not your passion was genuine or fleeting enchantment… When what you initially loved becomes just a “good idea,” it’s time to reevaluate.

Maybe you didn’t really love what you were doing in the first place. Perhaps you just thought that it would be cool; perhaps you just jumped in the river because everyone else was swimming. If that’s the case, that’s OK. It’s okay if studying prehistoric insects didn’t turn out to be as fascinating as you were originally convinced.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way — and if you truly are insanely passionate about your work — let’s continue. But only if you know for sure that that magnetic, uncontainable, pandemonium was real love, is there a reason to keep going. Because if it’s anything less than madness, why bother?

If thinking about doing what you love doesn’t keep you up at night, it’s probably not worth chasing. If it scares you to death that you will inevitably might fail, you know it’s real love. (If you’re not sure what your passion is and nothing keeps you up at night, that’s OK, too. My book, Reclaim Your Dreams, can help you figure that out.)

This is especially true if you’re trying to make a living out of these endeavors. If you’re heart is not completely in it, someone out there that’s fanatically in love with what they’re doing will out hustle you. Now, you don’t have to go running around as if your hair’s on fire. But what must be clear is that living less than wholeheartedly simply isn’t worth it. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. Nothing great was ever achieved by staying in the middle.

Do you think we got a man on the moon because it was a just “good idea”?

So now we know that that passion, that thing you loved, simply became just a good idea. It’s okay, it happens to the best of us. It happens to me, too. When I first started writing this blog, I was completely ravenous. Cutting my teeth on personal development articles and books was an obsession. It was real love. But after that initial infatuation, the emotions died down and I couldn’t help but feel like my fire had been put out.

My intentions in writing this blog has always been to make a living writing about personal development and help other people live to their fullest potential. But I can’t help but become bored at times when I’m not learning anything new. I know at that point that I’ve reached a plateau. Sometimes writing articles just doesn’t seem that exciting to me, it just seems like a good idea. That’s when I know that something needs to change.

“If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” – Bruce Lee

What we’re basically trying to get at is this: if you know your original passion was genuine, how do you reignite it? How much effort do you spend trying to fan dying embers?

Question everything (why?).

While the answer to that will take a little soul-searching, there are some questions I’ve found helpful to ask my own self. It’s amazing how helpful asking the right questions can be. To figure out just exactly what’s stifling our passion, ask yourself:

  1. Am I doing this simply because it’s an ego driven goal? Am I placing too much importance on numbers and reaching quotas of completed tasks? If so, I need to reevaluate and remember what’s most important: enjoying my life.
  2. Am I caring too much about the supposed expectations of other people? Am I trying to impress people too much? Nothing stifles creativity and spirit like rooting your choices on impressing others and trying to be cool.
  3. Is there too much pressure? If I’m trying to make money from doing what I love, it’s hard not to get too wrapped up in what other people will think of my work. After all, I want to charge them something for this, and I want it to be worth it. That can often create a lot of pressure, and the only proper response is disconnecting from the end result (to exchange your work for money), and refocus on the joy of creating. Not always easy to do (incredibly difficult, is more like it), but it’s a noble effort. And if you figure out this is causing you a lot of grief, at least you know where it’s coming from. Not a panacea by any means, but it’s better than being utterly confused.
  4. Are there too many distractions? I, and a lot of people I know, like to pursue many different things. I got completely infatuated with raw/living food at the beginning of this year. I immersed myself in studying and learning everything I could about it. Then a few weeks later, I started taking Jeet Kune Do classes. Then a couple of weeks later, my wife bought me a guitar. THEN I met this cool, barefoot hippy guy in Old Town Pasadena a few days ago, who plays the didgeridoo like Beethoven. He is offering lessons for free until he has enough paying students. Now, all of these things are immensely fascinating to me… but I have to choose what I’ll devote my attention to. If I slip into the abyss and allow myself to get too ADD, I’ll spread myself too thin and will never master any of these things. (Since Mastery is one of my core values, I don’t really dig on everlasting toe dipping.) The point is, you can choose to pursue many different passions, but it’s best if you have a major focus. Devote at least 70% of your free time to the most important interest, then divvy up the time leftover between the rest.
  5. Has this become too much of a must? If I’m trying to make money doing what I love, do I feel like I no longer have the option any more? Does that bother me?
  6. Is a temporary sacrifice of passion necessary? In order to quit my day job and write full time, I could write a lot of guest articles for other blogs that would probably be half-hearted. Hell, they might even be three-quarter-hearted. The question is, should I settle for being only kind-of, sort-of passionate about what I’m sharing, in order to reach my goals faster? Is a temporary sacrifice of “pushing” myself to do something where my heart isn’t completely “in it” an acceptable trade for reaching my goal of doing what I love full time? Is the trade-off worth it?

Whew. So those are the questions that I commonly ask myself to help realign me with what’s important. By getting a better idea of what’s blocking your passion, you can more easily determine what to do to refuel the fire.

Embracing your inner pyromaniac.


Now that we’ve figured out what’s blocking our passion, it’s time to re-oxidize and reignite.

Here are a few things that work for me. Please feel free to do whatever is most natural or inspiring to you. If dancing on a table inspires you, do that. Just make sure your boss is out to lunch.

  • Regroup. When I feel like I must write, I know it’s a sure sign that I need to take a break. I don’t like writing just because it’s a good idea. I don’t like trying to pump out articles to fuel the info porn internet complex. When I take a break it helps the really good ideas I have germinate and grow naturally on their own. When they’ve reached their potential, I know it’s time to write because I feel like I’m hemorrhaging ideas. I feel like it would be harder not to write than to write. I find that sometimes the best way to reignite is to hold back.
  • Reconnect. This is the best thing to do when you feel your passion has been stifled by musts and obligations. If your passion is your job, you may need to reconnect as often as necessary. Reconnecting is all about getting back in touch with the reason you were inspired to pursue your passion in the first place. Make it about playing again, before it became a necessity. Google your passion and just read about it for a little bit to take off the pressure. Let yourself reconnect with the inner curiosity that got you excited in the beginning.
  • Reunite. The power of a group behind you is an amazing thing. Simply going to a class or meet-up, and being able to share your obsession with other people can be instantly rejuvenating. When passion is shared it magnetizes and multiplies. Check out Meetup.com for a list of meet-ups in your area. It’s how I started practicing Jeet Kune Do.
  • Reignite. We often lose passion on our quest because we’ve reached a plateau. What was once sizzling has become lifeless, and we can’t remember how this happened. This is when exploring new avenues becomes vital to revitalizing what we love. Try to find a different approach; take things to the next level. Diversify and see what happens. Experimentation and allowing yourself to just explore is the key.

What I want to make clear is that these aren’t just a bunch of hacks. These aren’t ways to trick yourself into being more passionate. The reason that I put a “Re” before each point is because it’s about Reclaiming something. You can’t reclaim something that was never there.

If you feel like you have to fool yourself into excitement, it’s not worth it. I’m sure you’ve tried that before, as I have. You can’t fake passion and you can’t fool your soul.

These things are highly intimate, highly personal ways of remembering the love you lost. I’m sure you’ll find that your passion was never really lost in the first place. It was just waiting for you to rekindle and reconnect with your inner fire starter.

So if you think the fire’s out, you’re wrong. And if you think it will erupt without you giving yourself to it, you’re also wrong. It’s up to you to reclaim your dreams and set your own path on fire.

Just remember… If it’s a good idea, don’t do it.

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Right on. Forcing inspiration will only leave you more drained.

There have been so many “good ideas”–especially with regards to things I could improve about myself–that I’ve decided to drop.

I’ve similarly been thinking about the big rocks, asking myself, “what will matter over the medium to long-term?” when looking at my todo and project lists.


Thank you for this wonderfully written and inspiring and authentic post. I am so glad to have read this today. Helped me delete a bunch of “shoulds” from my list.

As a blogger/writer also it helps my rankings to have daily posts but writing in a non should way daily is difficult for me. Inspiration doesn’t just show up because you need more pageviews. But thankfully I write about my passion so it is a little easier. Does that make sense?

Peter Levin

That is so true that sometimes you know that you need to do something but you do not feel like doing it at all, in your example writing post. I often force myself to do things even if I don’t want to which is probably not a right thing to do, but it works for me in terms of forming a habit and stick with something. I have many ideas and definitely can’t act on all of them,so in this case it is definitely not a good idea to start some new thing because you just exited. I have done… Read more »


You bring up so many important points here. The “expectations of other people” point jumped out at me, because I think we often don’t even realize how much other people’s expectations seep into our goals and desires. I consider myself a pretty independent person who creates her own path, but I often have to stop and reassess if things I’m doing are motivated by my values or by someone else’s…


This was an article well worth doing, large enough that I will have to digest it again tomorrow (some good links).

But my favorite part (besides all the great reminders to not ruin a very good thing, or at least jettison it if it’s not good any more) is “THEN I met this cool, barefoot hippy guy in Old Town Pasadena a few days ago, who plays the didgeridoo like Beethoven. He is offering lessons for free…” Lucky you!!


Hi Jonathan,

I have never thought of my passion turning into a chore and this article had struck something in me. I am wondering what would happen if I find what I used to think that will be a great idea turned out into something stifling… Something that I will want to think of.

Personal Development Blogger

Mark Foo | TheBigDreamer.com

Quote: “My intentions in writing this blog has always been to make a living writing about personal development and help other people live to their fullest potential. But I can’t help but become bored at times when I’m not learning anything new. ” I can absolutely relate to this as this is precisely how I’m feeling at this very moment. I’ve been trying to sort my thoughts and work my way out of this feeling, but to no avail so far. Your article couldn’t have come at a better time than now. Thank you for sharing ‘the way’ and I… Read more »


Great article… Truthfully, most of us get passionate on a thing be it – photography, painting, martial arts… out of self-doubt, a quest to push our limits, a thirst to grow further. But as we get better at what we are pursuing, we try to scale our growth and try to absorb people’s ideas about our skill, their opinions, our peers review on us and try to jump to the pinacle without no further hard work… We wan’t to make it quick because now we are seeing the pinacle which was not visible before… When we started it was not… Read more »

Roger - A Content Life

This is one of the best articles that I have read in awhile because it surprised me.

It is very hard to distinguish between a plateau and whether you have genuinely lost interest. I guess the smart thing to do is assume it is a plateau until you prove otherwise.

Jens Upton

Hiya A thought provoking post! I like the 4 Re’s. Its my first time reading your blog and its a great post. Thanks for your honesty and insights. Each week I experience one or more things you’ve listed above and I consider that a normal part of life. Thankfully, I discovered really useful ways to relax years ago that help me adapt. Life is in constant motion and sometimes we get temporarily fascinated by the ‘bowel’ movements of existence instead of the more ‘heavenly’ movements that may serve us better. I agree with what you suggest about Love. Its always… Read more »


You are absolutely right. Sometimes we have to realize where our drive comes from and as much as it hurts ditching a hobby or goal we have, if it isn’t grounded in what we truly want then we will never be happy.


As always, you hit the nail on the head and manage to inspire at the same time.

We already know all the important things we need to; it’s about cutting through the clutter we choose to surround ourselves with (for me, this is ideas) and actually Doing the things that are a passion.

I think what’s hard is feeling like you don’t have time to give birth to all your good ideas, so you get frustrated, overwhelmed, and give up on the great ideas along the way too.

Susan Pogorzelski

First, I just have to say that I’ve been wanting to take martial arts ever since I saw the Karate Kid as well. I think it has that effect on kids ;) Gladly, I took that plunge a few months ago and just went for it — a great feeling when you let go of all your reservations. What a great post, Jonathan. Your words, once again, speak to exactly where I am right now. While all of my other dreams and goals may kind of flame out, there’s one that’s been driving me ever since I could talk: I… Read more »


Jonathan, let me first say two things: 1. I really respect what you do and think you help people by what you’re doing. 2. I haven’t yet read all the way through the entire article. With those two things in mind consider the following observations. I know that NASA has helped us as a world quite a bit because of the research and technology that they’ve developed over the years but sincerely have we gained anything from actually landing a human on the moon? I didn’t follow that point. The more important observations that I’d want readers to consider is… Read more »

Mark Foo | TheBigDreamer.com

@Richard: Quote: “It seems awfully self centered to do things because of how it makes us feel. What ever happened to serving other people or putting other people first?” I seriously do not see anything wrong in pursuing something that makes us feel good. What’s the point of serving others when it doesn’t make you feel good or excite you? Successful people are both great givers and receivers. Why deprive yourself of something great, which you deserve, while serving other people? We should always strive to do something that we’re excited about and serve other people at the same time.… Read more »

Chris Edgar | Purpose Power Coaching

Thanks for this post. I like the suggestion about regrouping and I’d add that, whenever I feel like I “have” to write another article, what I am doing is running from my state of creative emptiness in that moment. I’m getting scared of the blankness in my mind. But when I embrace the blankness and allow it to be there, often my best ideas of the week arise out of it.

Wouter Meyers
Wouter Meyers

Johnatan, according to me this is the best article you’ve written so far. A very original way of looking at life and passion and very helpful advice here!


Brian Clark

This is a great article. I struggle with this very thing a lot.

I’m fortunate that people bring me great opportunities left and right. If I give any of them serious consideration, it’s a really great idea.

But I’m often unhappy due to my own ambition. Chasing all these great opportunities seems like “the right thing to do” and yet the result is often that I’m straying from my true goals (not to mention causing me work way too hard).


Great article! There’s no point being a “Jack of all trades, master at none”… and there’s also no point in doing something you hate just because you feel like you “have” to.

One question though… why DID we put a man on the moon? It seems like a completely pointless ego-tistical action to me. What did we get out of it? (And did it really happen? He he he… *joke*)

Carolyn Ann

America put a man on the Moon because it was a good idea.

Too many forget that. Too many shoot for the mediocre – because good ideas are hard.

Carolyn Ann


Extremely interesting points… Some questions: >Do you think we got a man on the moon >because it was a just “good idea”? To be honest, I think that’s precisely why! The US got there first to make sure the USSR didn’t. But no denying, it was a superb achievement – which begs the deeper question why do we assume we need any ‘motivation’ just to get stuff done? Think about it: why should we need ‘passion’ or ‘motivation’ powering anything we do? That’s bizarre! Surely the ultimate goal is to do what needs to be done simply for the sake… Read more »


Nice post. Many great questions (which can lead us to enlightening answers).

We have come to expect so much from ourselves in the journey. Often we take on too much, especially when trying to do good things. Reaching out to others is a huge part of being in the family of man. Development and improvement in the various facets of our being in equally important. Balance, it seems, is what we all seek.

Keep up the good work. Blessings,


@Duncan You reminded me of a book that saved my life once. I was stressed from too much pressure and responsibility. I saw a book in the store called “Chop wood, carry water.” I didn’t buy it. I knew what it meant. It meant that sometimes our saving grace is just to do the things that need being done and let the rest go (the future, goals, etc). I kept hearing those words over and over the rest of my life. Whenever I feel like I am not getting somewhere I thought I needed to go…I relax into “be here… Read more »

Dustin @ Beating the Grind

So true. It is easy to become motivated for motivation sake and completely forget what is really important to us.

I also believe that where we direct our energy passion will follow. For example, I have been a musician for 15 years and have always maintained a passion for this pursuit. When I pulled together some friends and started The Reds it took it to a whole new level. The energy that we invested in writing, practicing, marketing and performing brought a whole new dimension to my passion for music.

Great article – looking forward to more great content!


It is important, I think, to hang onto and remember the “re-” part of your whole conversation. One of the laments I often hear is that the passion has gone out of a marriage, or a job, and what not. A similar sense was expressed over on Leo’s Zenhabits blog a week ago. But has it really? I view these things much as I do a relationship. Initially it is all very exhilarating and exciting but as time passes what was new and exciting becomes more or less mundane. It’s not that the anything has really changed between people, rather… Read more »

Bamboo Forest - PunIntended

You write: “Is a temporary sacrifice of “pushing” myself to do something where my heart isn’t completely “in it” an acceptable trade for reaching my goal of doing what I love full time? Is the trade-off worth it?” I’m not 100% sure what you’re saying here. I will say, however… Any athlete who reached the very top of his or her sport of choice,including Bruce Lee, unquestionably trained when they really didn’t want to. They trained when they didn’t feel like it. When it was, perhaps, the last thing they wanted to do. They did this because they knew that… Read more »

Molly Hoyne | Stratejoy

Jonathan– I’ll roll with the new phrase “improving for improvement’s sake”! It’s that same principle that makes me question every goal I set (or watch others set). Why do you want to meditate every day? Why do you want to lose 5 pounds? Why do you want to volunteer? WHY?? What’s the feeling you’re hoping to get? Where’s the passion to fuel your commitment? Does it excite you to the tips of your toes? If we don’t know the answers to those questions and our goal is just a commonly accepted “good idea”, than we’re simply “improving for improvement’s sake”.… Read more »

Philip Dhingra

I really enjoyed this post. I often get excited about my passions, go on a binge, then get a little worried that they don’t go anywhere or make any money.

You’re right, if you’re not a little bit scared about what you’re doing, maybe it’s not worth doing.

The Helen Keller quote’s interesting too, certainly made me stop and think.


Makes sense.. you can’t always keep the passion for something alive.. and with a whole world of ideas and things to do ‘out there’, why should you.. release it.. be at peace with that.. and move on to something you are passionate about now :)


This is probably on the top 5 of articles I’ve read this year, and I read quite a few.

Although I don’t know you, it’s obvious the Bruce Lee influence. That quote from Bruce himself is my favourite quote of all times.

I’ll have this text as a reference for reading it when I want. Thanks for sharing your passion ;).


[…] it’s a good idea to write a post every day. (Thanks to Jonathan Mead for an excellent post, “If It’s a Good Idea, Don’t Do It” from his blog Illuminated […]


Where’s duty factor into this?


Jonathan, I have the same problems when it comes to getting ADD with everything new I try. I also do it with college to the point that I don’t have much time left. It’s good to see that I’m not the only one. Trying to realize this and also being able to see if it’s just a good idea is so hard in the moment. It takes constant reflection to see what’s right in front of you so you can keep changing and following your passions. Great article, It’s really good to think about these things, and way too easy… Read more »

Jennifer Ryan @ I Choose Change

Thanks once again, Jonathan! Great post. There is a difference in a passion and a hobby. Many people have many hobbies, but not all hobbies are passions. I think a passion is something that gives us this “if I don’t do this I might die” feeling — we go after it, do it, pursue it, because we must. A hobby is simply an interest. I have an interest in jogging and biking, but I’m not going to train for a triathalon. Why? Because it doesn’t give me that “I must do it or die” feeling.


I was just wondering, what if you decided to study your passion and lost it because of school?


@ Jacqueline: If studying it made you lose your passion for it, maybe you didn’t really love it in the first place. If you did *truly* love it, or as Jennifer said if it gave you that “if I don’t do this, I might die” feeling, then you’ve got to find a way to rekindle your passion. Maybe you need to quit school, or just allow yourself to play with it again, as you first started.



This is a great post for me right now. I’d liked your suggestions for dealing with the “stuck” times…the four “Rs” and will keep them to remind me.

I have recently given up a job, which got me back to my writing, but ended up stifling it so I didn’t feel like it was coming from my heart. Now that I’ve reconnected with the passion of writing, it’s amazing to me how much easier it is. I imagine I will hit a plateau, but right now it’s such a high :~)

Michael - Love to Spare

Hi, Jonathan,

I really enjoy how you have expressed this.

I think of passion as a dancing fire that has the potential to light our way and bring great warmth. It always starts as a delicate flame – requiring air but also careful shielding from harsh winds. If we can help it to live and grow, it will help us to do the same.

Thank you for the great post!


this is true, i felt the same when learning Aikedo :)


[…] write that post, to launch that site, to land that client, to develop that idea, to take that risk, to give that pitch, to write that […]


[…] und Route, Uhrzeit und Dauer – alles “up to you”. Laufe niemals, weil es eine gute Idee ist – sondern weil’s (wenigstens ein bisschen) Spass macht. Ach ja: einer meiner Motivationen […]

Dan Miranda

If you are not doing things that you think are good ideas, you’re probably thinking irrationally. If you’re thinking irrationally, you’re not enhancing your life in any way, shape, or form.

I understand that your points don’t state what I have just wrote above, but I feel you are poorly stating parts of this article, particularly the introductory portion. Sometimes doing things because it is a “good idea” is the smart thing to do. If everyone just said “f**k it” there would be no man on the moon.


[…] the right thing can easily be a domino effect. While here Jonathan Mead says the complete opposite, “If it’s a good idea… don’t do it”, I have […]


[…] post “If its a good Idea, don’t do it” outlines why you shouldn’t continue on a path because it’s “a good idea”. […]


What a great article! It was entertaining, too; I found myself laughing. I’ve done my share of toe-dipping.


[…] a marathon, or waking up early? Or are you meet settings goals that you conceive would be a good idea? Sometimes we conceive we tending most the things we’re doing, but when we verify a fireman […]


Would you say that your idea that “If it seems like a good idea ,don’t do it” is a good idea. Recursion


this is my favorite article on here. i find myself applying it in many things i do. am i agreeing to do something because it is a good idea? looking back at life, every time i did something because it was a good idea, it turned out to be a mistake. every time i do something because i just really want to, everything works out just fine. thanks jonathan


[…] I can’t find something worth writing about, I don’t write. If it’s just a “good idea,” I don’t write about […]


[…] [From If It’s a Good Idea… Don’t Do It | Illuminated Mind] […]

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