What’s the quality of your excuses? 8 steps to raising the bar!
What aspect of your life don’t you feel really great about?Is it your job and the direction of your career (or lack thereof), a relationship, your fitness level, your finances, where you live? Now ask yourself what you could do by the end of this year that would make a real difference to how you feel about this area of your life.
Aaaahh, but what’s that I hear you mumbling under your breath? “I’m just too busy right now. I’ve got so much going on I don’t have time for dealing with this. . . not now anyway. . . perhaps next month. . . besides, this is the way it has always been. . . this is the way I have always been. . . and on top of all that I just don’t know where to start. . . so really, what’s the point?”
Whatever your excuses first consider this: the quality of your excuses determines the quality of your life! Now I’m not saying that you don’t have some really outstanding excuses for why things are as they are and why this particular area of your life isn’t doing so well. However, whilst you are prepared to continue to put up with parts of your life not being the way you’d love them to be — without any firm and consistent action toward improving them — you are selling yourself way short and selling out on all that you and your life could be.
Often what lies at the core of our excuses and resistance to taking proactive actions is fear. Fear of failing, of being rejected, of not be good enough, of not being lovable (or at least not lovable enough!), of looking foolish or simply fear of messing up. Your fears are driven by an intention to protect you from pain (a survival instinct that saved us Homo Sapiens from being lion’s dinner long ago). The problem is though, your fears want to protect you from pain at any cost! Even the cost of living a life where you settle for way less than you’d like simply because to take action toward more and better involves risk — of rejection, of failure, of pain!
If you don’t own your fears and self-doubts they will own you. Too often instead of acknowledging your fears and how they may be trying to serve you, you look around your environment for excuses as to why things aren’t as you’d like them to be and to justify your inaction to make them otherwise. Psychological research has found that when people have an opinion about something (in this case an excuse) they actively seek out evidence to support the validity of their opinions (or excuses) whilst avoiding, ignoring or discrediting anything that might contradict them (triggering, what’s called The Perceptual Defense Mechanism). Ultimately people end up feeling resigned, convincing themselves that it’s better to stay with the status quo, despite its many shortcomings, than to try to make things different.
To move beyond your excuses you have to be prepared to leave the predictable for the unknown. To overcome your fear of the unknown it is important to first acknowledge the “payoff” you’ve been getting (and I can assure you there is always a payoff on some level!) from choosing (whether consciously or not) to stay where you are. For instance, you may have become very attached to feeling like a victim of your parents’ incompetent or neglectful parenting and blaming them for your lack of success in life. Another favorite is the payoff of feeling like a martyr (to your children, your husband or your boss) because you have had to give up your life (figuratively at least) in order to further the lives of those around you. Ah. . . how we all love a good martyr!
Sure, taking action to address those areas of your life you’re dissatisfied with can be scary. No argument there. But one thing I will push back on you about is this: That you have everything you need within you — courage, resourcefulness, strength — right now to transform your life into whatever it is you’d like it to be. You just have to tap into it. After all, courage is not absence of fear or self-doubt but action in its presence.
Don’t give your excuses the power to stop you from doing whatever it takes to transform your life into one that inspires you (which literally translates as “breathing life into.”) Take a deep breath then step up to the high board and dive deep, trusting in your ability to make the changes, take the chances and achieve whatever it is that will make your experience of life a more enjoyable one.
Samuel Johnston once said, “nothing great would ever have been accomplished if all possible objections (i.e. excuses!!) had first been overcome.” You see, there will always be plenty of reasons “why not” to take a risk, make a change and address the issues that undermine your happiness and limit your success, personally and professionally. But where will that land you? Likely, right where it’s gotten you! So, don’t let your excuses keep you from looking back on this year, and one day, on your life, and feeling absolutely fabulous about what you made of it. There’s never a better time than the present so begin today, yes that’s right, not tomorrow, toward creating a life that you really love. Why today? Well, why not? Life shrinks or expands in proportion to your willingness to drop the excuses and, as I’ve read on a billboard or two, JUST DO IT!
Get out a pen and paper (or your journal or a napkin if necessary!) and take yourself through the following excuse busting exercise:
- Write it down with “it” being whatever it is that you would like to accomplish or change in your life right now.
- Now list all the excuses (which you may have been labeling “reasons” or “justifications” — they are all the same thing!) you’ve been using for not having taken the actions you know you need to take to accomplish your goal or change whatever it is that isn’t working for you. Some may be pretty pathetic and easily spotted as lousy excuses and others may be a little more valid. Write the lot down.
- Now write down what those excuses have cost you in terms of how you feel about yourself, your future and your life in general. What’s the price you’ve paid for procrastinating and staying in inaction?
- Challenge the logic and reasoning behind each of your excuses by looking for evidence that does not support their validity. For instance if you wrote down that you just don’t have time to fit regular work outs into your week because you’ve got a busy job and young kids, then look (or ask) around to find some women in a similar situation that do.
- Write down the payoff you’ve got from allowing those excuses to keep you in inaction (e.g. you’ve avoided risking failure, you haven’t had to take responsibility for your life, it’s been easy, it’s allowed you to sleep in rather than get your butt out of bed and to the gym, etc.)
- Ask yourself if you’re ready to let go of that payoff. If so then write that down too. “From this moment on I am ready to give up the payoff of. . . (list the payoff/s). . . which this excuse/s has been giving me.”
- Now write down what it is that you need to do (or at least the first few actions that you can readily identify) that will start you moving forward toward your goal and set deadlines against the first 3-5 of these (at least one of which should be within the next 24 hours!)
- Get support! Share your goal with at least one person (the more the better) and ask them to hold you accountable in achieving it (actually, better still, give them your express permission to give you a kick in the behind if you start slacking off and resorting back to those old familiar excuses). Also consider either joining a group of like-minded individuals, finding a mentor or even hiring someone to help keep you on track and living an excuse-free life!