“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.
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.
- It’s Never Too Late to Take Charge of Your Life
- The Choices You Make Every Day Are Creating Your Future
Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.
About 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“.