If you don’t want to do something, one excuse is as good as another.~ Yiddish Proverb
An excuse is an internal explanation that helps us justify are actions. Excuses make us exempt from responsibility for whatever we choose to say or do. When we make excuses we are making an allowance for what we are doing or not doing. The excuse frees us from any obligation or duty. It grants us a free pass, pardoning us from leading our life.
And we forget they’re excuses – if we ever admitted they were – because we tell them over and over to our selves and anyone who will listen. Soon they become a belief, a truth. Then they are automatic and habitual. They even become self-fulfilling.
For instance, one of my classic excuses for not doing regular exercise has been that I don’t have time. I became very good at not leaving a moment free, therefore I fulfilled the excuse and I really didn’t have time for exercise. But nothing changed until I decided to admit I hate exercise, never want to do it, yet had to come to terms with competing desires for physical health and strength. Once I started calling out my excuse I was able to take my desire more seriously. It worked. I will never be an Olympian but I get to the gym regularly.
Our excuses become so much a part of us they are “us.” They become the truth, reality, even though they are only assumptions. In fact the real truth is they are stories we tell ourselves that maintain the status quo. They work to keep us in our comfort zone, not rock the boat.
We pull out excuses when we’re afraid, when we’re intimidated, when we’re in a hurry.…
The problem becomes that it is very difficult and often impossible to move forward in any way when we give ourselves an excuse. So even though we’re comfortable we feel frustrated and unable to create what we want. We have to go up against a lot of resistance to achieve our goals and we don’t even realize it. Because when we make an excuse it does not only affect what is; it keeps us from what could be. We are not able to take a chance to succeed at getting what we want.
When we make excuses and don’t recognize that they are excuses we limit ourselves and can even hurt our self and those around us. In order to open up possibility we must get skilled at identifying and challenging our excuses.
In my leadership coaching practice I’ve discovered that there are a group of catchall excuses we use for all sorts of situations. These general excuses get tailored to situations and areas of our life. We pull them out when we are up against our self or when we are struggling with taking responsibility for our life in some way. We generally rely on a couple as our tried and true, fit-any-situation excuses. And they tend to come under a couple headings:
- Time: I don’t have any; I have too much; I’m too busy.
- Identity: It’s not me; It’s who I am; It’s not my job.
- Entitlement: I don’t deserve it; I deserve better.
- Capability: I don’t know how; I know how; I can’t afford it; I can’t handle it.
- Emotionality: I’m scared; It’s too risky; I’d be out of control; It feels so good.
Do any of the above sound familiar?
When we give up making excuses that hold us back we benefit in all sorts of ways. We get out of our own way. We are freed up to accomplish things we’ve been dreaming about. We can get unstuck and move things forward that have been stalled by our excuses. We start to feel free. We are able to make things happen. We also begin to gain confidence. Our self-respect goes up. We feel a sense of pride. We are empowered by our competence. Others take notice either because we are coming through on things that have a direct effect on them or our success shows in the results we achieve.
So, look over the list. Ask your self when you use them and which ones you use. Then the next time you pull out your tried and true excuse take a moment and ask: What would be possible if I didn’t use this excuse? Then rev up your engine and get moving forward!