How to Stop Living on Excuses

Written by on June 20, 2016 in Accountability, Self-Awareness

Stop Living on Excuses“Where did the day go?! I really meant to exercise but I was just so tired, and wouldn’t you know, my boss threw an extra assignment on my desk, and then I had to go out to lunch with the gang from work because, well you know how it is. Anyway, with all that, getting to the gym just completely slipped my mind.”

Sound familiar? Of course, there are endless substitutions for “exercise” but the point is that for many of us excuses roll off the tongue far too easily.

It’s a pesky self-destructive habit that is far easier to pick up than it is to break because our excuses are so often attached to our egos. And, just for the record, excuses are not valid reasons; we use them to justify feeling better about our behavior (and ourselves) for not pursuing what we want and need in life.

Rationalization may be defined as self-deception by reasoning. ~Karen Horney

The Nature of Excuses

Excuses are rationalizations we make to ourselves and others about people, events, and circumstances. In effect, excuses are a relatively painless way to place blame for our failure to take action on external circumstances.

Here are just a few of the more common excuses:

  • Not enough time.
  • Not enough money.
  • Not enough education.
  • Too old or young.
  • Don’t know how or where to begin.
  • It’s too hard.
  • Tried before and it didn’t work.
  • Waiting to be inspired.

There are of course many reasons why we make excuses, though not surprisingly fear is often the underlying culprit: Fear of failure, of embarrassment, of success, of change, and of uncertainty just to name a few.

Fear is not the only problem. There is also the lack of willpower and self-discipline which leads to lack of focus and procrastination, as well as perceived lack of resources. And sometimes, we make excuses simply to boost our self-esteem.

The ones who find happiness are the ones who don’t make excuses. If it’s broken, they fix it … if it’s wrong, they make it right. ~ Author Unknown

To be fair, it’s surprisingly easy to slip into the habit of making excuses because individually they seem so innocent. After all, aren’t you just being sensible by waiting until you’re better prepared, more confident, or have more time?

And where’s the harm in coming up with a good excuse for failing to hit your goal if it hurts no one else and allows you to feel better about yourself?

The cost of living a life of excuses may not be readily apparent, but long-term it undermines your confidence and prevents you from recognizing opportunities and developing talents and skills you might have learned to help you overcome the very challenges you avoided.

How to Break the Excuse Habit

Changing any habit begins with self-awareness and commitment and the habit of making excuses is no different. The following strategies are by no means quick fixes, but they are effective and will help you to achieve far greater life satisfaction.

Identify Your Excuses

It may seem obvious, but let’s get it out of the way. To overcome your excuses you must first admit that you are making them and then begin the work to identify them.

If you’ve harbored this habit for awhile the process may be challenging at first because – like any habit – it often takes place without conscious awareness. A good place to begin is to think about tasks, commitments, or decisions you’ve been putting off. Spend some time exploring the “why” behind your behavior, and if you’ve been making excuses (to yourself or others) about why you’ve delayed taking action.

Accept Responsibility for Your Choices

We have to be willing to admit (at least to ourselves) when something just isn’t a priority. It may seem innocent enough to make an excuse rather than be honest about the fact you really do not want to serve on that committee or watch your sister’s kids for the day but one excuse leads to another, and another.

It seems easy enough to justify this type of excuse by saying we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, but more often than not it’s really about avoiding confrontations or because you don’t want to have to admit that other things are more important to you.

Own Your Weaknesses

Most people tend to make excuses about particular areas in their life where they feel less secure, especially when it comes to shortcomings – either real or perceived.

Let’s take the “I’m too busy” example. No question, life can be hectic. But we all have the same 24 hours in a day, and how we use these hours always comes down to how well we manage priorities. Maybe the real question isn’t whether the time is available but whether the things (and people) screaming for attention have been allowed to take priority over the things that really matter.

Rather than making excuses for the things you can’t make time for, you could focus your attention on eliminating the things, commitments (and yes, people) sucking your time and energy that don’t really matter or contribute to your well-being.

Too much time is wasted comparing ourselves to others and wishing to be something we aren’t. Everybody has their own strengths and weaknesses, and it’s only when you embrace everything you are – and aren’t – that you will discover your true potential and succeed. ~Author Unknown
Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

When we fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others it becomes very tempting to come up with rationalizations for why we haven’t accomplished as much or why they have more advantages.

This is an especially destructive habit because no matter how much you accomplish in life, there will always be someone, somewhere who has accomplished more. The only person you should be comparing yourself to is the person you were yesterday.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes we get so absorbed in making excuses about things that we forget to focus on making the best of every situation regardless of the circumstances or potential outcome. Think of it this way, if you never really challenge yourself to reach new heights, how will you ever know what you’re truly capable of?

What’s your story? Have you ever caught yourself making excuses about why you fell short on a goal, didn’t fulfill a commitment, or made a mistake? If so, please consider sharing your story about how you recognized and overcame the issue in the comments below.

Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.
About Marquita Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living  click here.


Thank you for sharing!

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  1. Kimba

    Oh, I am way too familiar with the “I’m too busy” excuse. As a crazed list-making Virgo, I can get overwhelmed. My coping mantra is, “Decide with is urgent and what is important, and do what is important first.” Doesn’t always work, sometimes that squeaky wheel gets all the attention.
    Kimba recently posted…I’d Spray Paint the Cat If She’d Let MeMy Profile

    • That’s a great mantra Kimba, and I wouldn’t worry about attempting to achieve perfection, that would be pretty boring anyway. Thanks for stopping by and sharing. 🙂

  2. Erica says:

    I think social media has been horrible for people comparing themselves to others. Everyone shows the best version of their lives through social media. And I think a lot of people fall into the trap of feeling like they are missing something compared to what everyone else has.

    It is important to get past excuses. And as I read you blog, I’m delaying going out for a morning run. Haha. Ok, I’ll go do it!
    Erica recently posted…Insulin: The Fat-Storing AND Weight-Loss HormoneMy Profile

    • Wonderful point Erica, and so true! This especially seems to be true on Instagram when you’re presented with a sea of selfies. I must admit, I’ve never really understood the fascination so many people have with taking photos of themselves posing. Anyway, thanks for sharing and contributing to the conversation. 🙂

  3. Teresa Salhi

    How can we dig in a little deeper and discover what it is we need to do for ourselves? When we decide to prepare and align ourselves for what it is we really want, we begin to eliminate excuses. We must align our mind body and spirit, we must become that which we desire. If I desire to be a successful woman entrepreneur who makes a difference in the world helping women to gain the confidence, clarity and commitment to do, be and have all that they desire…then I certainly cannot show up with excuses that would prevent we from modeling leadership, feminine power, belief in my abilities and knowing that the universe has my back when I trust and have faith in divine timing. Such an important topic that can gently push us into the right direction….thank you for sharing such wisdom. .
    Teresa Salhi recently posted…Big Fat Lies We Tell and Don’t Know ItMy Profile

  4. Suzie Cheel

    Oh yes the excuses that we allow to stop us shining our light. When we own who we are i believe the not being, having enough etc fall away. I love this today as i feel i am finally moving beyond the excuse mode xxoo
    Suzie Cheel recently posted…YES The Heart Whisper Daily Guidance Cards Are For SaleMy Profile

  5. William Rusho

    Worse thing we do is end up with a bunch of “I should have” in our lives. We must remember excuses put things off, and we have a limited amount of time to do things in our life. Eventually there is no time left to do those things and no one wants to look back at their lives with regret.

    • Well said William! It’s very easy to gloss over how important each day is because it doesn’t take long for them to accumulate. Thanks so much for contributing to the conversation. 🙂

  6. Hello Marquita, You really touched a nerve with this piece! I can just imagine those initial words coming out of my mouth more than once! You’re so right, making excuses becomes a habit that we don’t even notice. But it’s not a very satisfying way to live. Thanks for waking us up to this!

    • So glad you found value in the article Sandra! Making excuses is such an easy habit to fall into. At first, it seems like you’re just being sensible, waiting until you’re ready, etc., but as you point out, it doesn’t take long for it to become a disempowering habit. Thanks for contributing to the conversation. 🙂

  7. Vatsala Shukla

    I’m guilty sometimes, Marquita, of making excuses and wasting time. What I’ve learned over time is to cut myself some slack and set realistic time frames to get things done. I’ve also learned to factor in special time to play computer games and walks with my Miss Coco. The end result is productivity and less of the bane of ‘busy time’.
    Vatsala Shukla recently posted…Where politics and promotions meet – you need to have your finger on the pulseMy Profile

    • You’ve made an excellent point Vatsala about setting realistic time frames. I really have to watch myself or I’ll try to jam too many projects into too short a time and that is never a good thing. Thanks so much for taking the time to contribute to the conversation!

  8. Oh, you had me shifting uncomfortably in my chair, Marquita! I need to work on time management, seriously, to get a better work/life balance. It’s too easy to say work is more important, need billable hours more than a weekend away. Now that summer’s finally here, we need to find an excuse to go and enjoy ourselves, right?!

    • Glad to hear the post made you think Krystyna, that’s always a good thing. I must admit I don’t really believe there is such a thing as “work/life balance” because it sets an almost impossible target to shoot for, and I’d rather focus on managing my time and energy around specific priorities. You are so very right about the value of taking advantage of these beautiful summer months, and that’s a good reminder for me!

  9. So true, Marty. We do go thru life making up excuses for what could or should have been. I think that as long as we achieve the important goals in our life, or at least make significant progress in them, we’re on the right track. The things we make excuses for are likely the things that are of less importance to us.
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…best chocolate in GrenadaMy Profile

    • For some, your point about excuses being relegated to unimportant things may be true Doreen. But for far too many people, mustering the courage to overcome their fears and reach for what they want most in life represents a pretty scary hill to climb and one that they find less painful to avoid through excuses than risk appearing foolish or failing. If excuses weren’t so common, there wouldn’t be so many not making time to care for their own needs, staying in unhappy relationships, or living smaller lives than they dream of as they remain safely tucked behind the walls of their comfort zone. Excuses come in all shapes and sizes but there is no shortage of them out there, and when making excuses (even for smaller things) becomes a habit, it doesn’t take long for that to define one’s life. Thanks so much for stopping by and contributing to the conversation!

  10. lenie

    Marquita, the last little while I have been super tired which makes it so easy to use the excuse “I can’t, I’m just too tired”. But there has been this little voice in my head that keeps telling me to just push through it and once I get to the other side I’ll be fine. Don’t know if that is true or not because I simply haven’t challenged that – the excuse was easier.
    You have now motivated me to try today and see where it takes me. Thanks for the motivation.
    lenie recently posted…Twitter Basics: Know These to Twitter SmarterMy Profile

    • You know what Lenie, there are few things in life that come with a guarantee, but pushing through to accomplish something that matters to you is pretty much guaranteed to be worth the effort even if it’s only for the satisfaction. That is where self-awareness can really help us because so often we make excuses about things that we believe we “should” do rather than really “want” to do, and that makes it much easier to put them off. Find a compelling reason why it’s worth doing, and it will be much easier to make the effort. 🙂

  11. Excellent Article and thoughts. It does pass through the message, that a person is beautiful as they are, it takes us only themselves to make that beauty shine in the world. They have the choice, face the world with their beauty or hide behind a million excuse not to share it with the rest of us.

  12. Stella Chiu

    Hi, Marquita

    We, human, are lazy in nature. Each of us used excuse(s) to avoid doing something at least one in our life times.

    When we think deeper, we sure can’t allow excuses to control our life if we want to advance to higher levels.

    I did use many excuses during my younger years. But as I grow older, I try not to use excuses anymore because excuses are stuck.

    will share!

    Stella chiu
    Stella Chiu recently posted…7 Ways to achieve Life with BalanceMy Profile

    • Well said Stella. 🙂 I do think there’s a big of couch potato in each of us, but more often than we realize excuses step from insecurity and limiting beliefs, which take a good deal of work to overcome, but it is well worth the effort. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  13. Marquita — you must have been reading my mind. I made every excuse in the world not to exercise today. I know rationally I need to build exercise into my daily routine, but it’s easier to hop in the car. When I lived in NY, I didn’t need to plan exercise because I walked everywhere and loved it. It’s too hot in Florida to walk any length of time so that means I now have to carve out time just for this activity. Wish me luck as I grapple with the challenge. Thanks!

    • I do wish you luck Jeannette! It’s challenging enough building a new habit, but even MORE so when the habit is a “should” rather than something we genuinely enjoy doing. Hang in there, I know you’ll get there. 🙂

  14. Marquita, great inspiring ideas as always. I agree with you completely that we really have to fight against all unnecessary excuses and we need to eliminate them from our life if we want to grow! Probably, the first and the most difficult step is to admit them

    • So glad you enjoyed the post Kristina, and you are so right about the challenge that comes with admitting we are making excuses. Some will find excuses for their excuses. 🙂

  15. Sandy says:

    So, what’s the difference between a reason and an excuse? Are excuses for one person ever legitimate reasons for someone else? If “not enough money” is an excuse, should we all be going into debt to do the things we don’t have enough money to do?

    I have been frustrated all my life by having everything I say in this sort of situation be called an excuse. People who are of the organized, efficient persuasion insisting I’m just making excuses when I explain that I have ADD and being organized is a battle that requires a large amount of focus. So much focus that other things that need to get done don’t. “Oh, NO! You’re just making excuses!” I get told over and over.

    It amazes me how people see their own stuff as “reasons” but insist that everyone else’s stuff is “excuses.”

    I do make excuses.

    But, yes, some of my “excuses” are for me legitimate “reasons” and I wish people would quit just throwing the excuse excuse on me for why they don’t want to acknowledge that we don’t all function in the same ways.

    • Welcome Sandy! To answer your question, only YOU can say what is a legitimate reason vs. an excuse. You are very right that we don’t all function the same way, but one thing that trips all people up is worrying about what others think or comparing themselves to others. Even if you NEVER made an excuse, there are bound to be people who don’t agree with the way you live your life – it is simply human nature. This is obviously an issue that frustrates you so, for what it’s worth, I suggest that you try to stop focusing on what others think and start focusing on believing in yourself more. No one else can know what is in your heart. 🙂

  16. Sabrina Quairoli

    I made excuses like there isn’t enough time to finish the course I want to do. Now that I have the time, I can’t use that excuse. So this summer, my goal is to finish one course. And be able to market it to others. Wish me luck.
    Sabrina Quairoli recently posted…How to keep Food Safe on the go while traveling this summerMy Profile

    • I definitely wish you luck with your goal Sabrina! I have a similar project that has been temporarily shelved due to an unexpected challenge on the home front, but I plan to get back to it next month. I have confidence we will both be able to celebrate completing this goal come fall! 🙂

  17. Ken Dowell

    No question I’ve made excuses to avoid doing something I didn’t want to do. Sometimes it’s a bad substitute for just being transparent and saying no. It’s also, as you alluded to, very much about avoiding accountability.
    Ken Dowell recently posted…The Early Rides: Lots of Thrills and Surely Some SpillsMy Profile

    • Very true Ken. So far the conversation has centered around task-oriented excuses, but I believe the more difficult issues are the ones that have to do with relationships. Many people will do whatever it takes to avoid having to come out and ask for what they want or have a difficult conversation, especially if they believe it will lead to a confrontation of some type.

  18. Jeri

    I’m really good about not making excuses about most everything in my life. I reap what I sow. And yet I really drag my feet when it comes to getting my creative writing done. I have to get over that and stop making excuses. I’ve been taking small steps to form a writing habit again that doesn’t entail blog posts, but it’s hard when I sit at a computer all day for my job and then need to type creative stuff at the end of the day (and mornings are not for me and writing). Wait… here I am making excuses for not getting the writing done 😉
    Jeri recently posted…#WriteTip: How Do You Write a Poem? by Geofrey CrowMy Profile

    • Haha, very good Jeri. 🙂 I think we all have particular areas where we are more inclined to make excuses, I know I do. I think I probably have a bit of an edge on the habit of writing since I am a morning person so the first part of my day is devoted to writing and then I do the other stuff. I’ve tried the other way around and it doesn’t work for me (either) because my brain starts to shut down at 4pm. Of course, that isn’t surprising since I usually get started around 4am. 🙂

  19. Phoenicia

    I have made many excuses for my attitude. I am embarrassed to state that on first marrying my husband, I regularly said
    “This is how I am”. This statement meant I was not willing to take any responsibility for my actions and worse I was not willing to acknowledge change was required.

    Change is hard therefore excuses can easily become crutches. We can lean on excuses as and when it suits. You have given some great examples of common excuses.

    I got to the stage where I knew I wanted to grow spiritually and emotionally. We have to first help ourselves before anyone else can.
    Phoenicia recently posted…How often do you rise to the challenge?My Profile

    • Beautifully said Phoenicia! And I couldn’t agree more with your point about how meaningful change must begin with us. This is a hard lesson to learn for many, especially those of us who have had experiences with people near and dear who suffer from some form of addiction. No matter how much you love them, recovery is only possible when they are ready to take responsibility for it. Thanks for sharing!

  20. Mark

    Oh I’ve most definitely been there M!

    And as you pointed out, our rationalizations,
    always sound extremely plausible, even though, the truth being,
    we really just aren’t sincere and or properly motivated, at that
    particular moment, to do what’s necessary.

    So instead, we tend to try and convince ourselves,the lame excuses we offer up, for not being totally committed, are so how legit and or justified.

    Thanks for helping us to put these lame excuses to bed!Hopefully, once and for all!
    Mark recently posted…Three Simple Ways Savvy Entrepreneurs Make Money While Their Competitors Struggle!My Profile

    • You know what Mark, we ALL have! And the truth is holding off on taking action or making a decision isn’t always a bad thing, sometimes we just need to get ourselves in the right place mentally. It only becomes a bad thing when it becomes a habit or if we find ourselves avoiding making decisions for too long because even a small problem can mushroom into a full-blown crisis if left to stew long enough. Thanks for contributing to the conversation Mark, always appreciate your thoughtful insights.

  21. This is a very inspiring quote, Marquita, “…if you never really challenge yourself to reach new heights, how will you ever know what you’re truly capable of?”
    And, like always, you are writing about a timely topic for me. I’m going to spend the week thinking about my priorities and what excuses I’ve been conjuring up and why.
    RoseMary Griffith recently posted…Genuine Conversations with the Fun-Loving WelshMy Profile

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the post RoseMary! I think it’s a good thing to periodically review our goals and priorities. I can alway tell when I’m falling into “excuse mode” because something on my task list keeps getting shifted to the bottom of the list. 🙂 Thanks for sharing and contributing to the conversation.

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