How to Rid Yourself of Four Common Excuses

Are you an excuse maker? We all are so don’t feel bad. We often make excuses, usually on a daily basis, as to why we don’t do certain things. For a few days (now weeks) I made excuses as to why this very article wasn’t getting written. The truth is our excuses are almost never valid and could be the very reason we aren’t seeing progress in many aspects of our lives, no matter what kernel of truth is buried within them. The trick is seeing through your own BS and deciding to take a different course of action.

Excuses can be tricky because we have become so good at making them that we often do not realize we are doing it. To that end, it may be helpful to start with some definitions to help elucidate what constitutes an excuse. As a noun, an excuse we make is a reason or explanation offered to justify or lessen the blame of a particular action or offense. As a verb, when we excuse ourselves we offer an apology or remove the blame of our action by attributing a justification for it. In addition, an excuse can be viewed as an exemption or release of an obligation.

Keeping those definitions in mind it is quite easy to see just why we do it. If we can let ourselves off the hook by blaming something else or some “immovable” circumstance then we, ourselves, are not the reason something did or didn’t happen. It’s nice and tidy. It’s no longer our fault.

Except it’s not.

It’s almost always our fault, but it makes us feel so much better about our choices if we can believe that it’s not. Like a good story, our excuses are believable to us. Usually containing at least some small bit of truth, they compose a nice personal narrative that allows us to continue making choices and decisions that we know are not congruent with our goals. By doing so it becomes a coping mechanism for dealing with that dissonance between what we want to do, and what we are actually doing.

These stories make us feel better about our actions so we keep making these excuses in order to avoid facing the reality of the situation. And the reality is that every excuse is a lie. Most people don’t tolerate liars in their lives, but for some reason when it comes to lying to ourselves we tend to look the other way so we don’t have to face the bitter truth. If we avoid it, we can pretend like it doesn’t exist and put off that difficult introspection.

If you’ve read this far, then you know what’s coming next. Click away if you’re not ready to face your excuses and identify the stories that you are telling yourself. The truth is ANYONE can make a change, and that change starts with a choice. A choice to own your stories and excuses and begin implementing actions to change that narrative. Yes, it will involve being critical of yourself, but once you identify those negative thoughts it will be much easier to plot of course of action to free yourself from them.

Let’s start with the granddaddy of them all: I don’t have time. How often has this one been your go to. I get it, we are all extremely busy. We work long hours, have an overly long commute, and so many familial obligations that it’s hard to keep track of them all. So we say we don’t have time to work out or to cook our own meals or to even go to the grocery store to pick up fresh food. It becomes a default excuse for the hectic lifestyle.

The stark truth is almost all of us can find twenty, thirty minutes to do these things on most days.  We don’t have time because we don’t make time for it. Everything that I value I find time to squeeze into my day. This includes working out and eating healthy. I do this because it is a priority to me and I understand the benefits. When you say you don’t have time you are really saying that it is not a priority, and instead assigning the blame to another excuse. Next time you contemplate a decision, instead of telling yourself you have no time say “it’s not a priority.” It’s likely that won’t sit well with you (I know it doesn’t for me when I say healthy choices are not a priority) and spur you to action when otherwise you would have just chalked it up to “no time.”

Anything truly worth doing will be a priority. If it’s not, then that only means that you are choosing other priorities to focus on. It’s not that you don’t have time, it’s that you are spending that time on other activities. Stop lying to yourself. That excuse isn’t real.

Another common excuse we make is that we are missing out. I find this mostly used when it comes to food. Whether it’s a decadent dessert, happy hour, or some main dish slathered in sauces that contain God-knows-what, we often feel like we are missing out on an intensely pleasurable experience. Of course it doesn’t help when others around you are telling you how good it is and that one little bite won’t hurt.

This sense of missing out also goes for experiences that pull us away from our workouts or into environments that make us less likely to make good choices. There are always room for indulgences so I’m not saying that we need to be one hundred percent strict all of the time, but too often we use this as a crutch to support our poor decisions. The more you practice making good decisions, you’ll find that it is easier to resist the stuff you are “missing out” on.

It all comes back to being cognizant of our choices and not running on autopilot. When the default is to give in to this excuse then we never actually take the time to consider the choice we are making. Instead every time you should be asking whether or not the choice may cause you to miss out on your goals. That is what you are actually missing out on. That is what you should be worried about, not some sweet treat that gives you ten seconds of pleasure. Nothing is one hundred percent off limits forever, but if you truly want to achieve worthy goals then consider the consequences and try to avoid acting impulsively in the moment.

This impulsive acting also bring out another common excuse that we use to justify that impulsivity to ourselves. We say we lack discipline or self control or willpower or whatever you want to call it. Like it is some trait that we were born without and can never develop it because we don’t have the “discipline gene.” The truth is self control is a skill that can be developed, and the best way to develop that skill is through continuous practice.

Rather than take the time to practice though, we often default to the story of our lack of discipline. It’s much easier to accept our choices if we pretend that we have no control over them. If it is just the way we are, then we can do whatever we want, right? It makes our failed attempts at change easier to cope with, and thus we slide back into our old habits without blinking an eye.

We can change. Every single one of us. And it starts with believing that you have that ability. Use that ability to make just one good choice. One choice isn’t really all that hard. I’m sure you have done it at some point in time. Maybe it was not grabbing that doughnut at the office or fasting before heading into the doctor’s office for blood work. A person with no discipline wouldn’t be able to make even one good choice so that’s proof that you do indeed have it. It’s just a matter of practicing and improving over time. It won’t be easy, but you can do it. Just remember that there is no situation in which you are not in control. Just ask yourself if your choice is going to bring you closer or move you further away from your goals. Ask if the person you want to become would make this choice or not.

The next excuse is one I held on to for years, and one that many people use when they aren’t seeing the results they want. That’s the thought that nothing works. You may have said, or know someone who has said, “Oh nothing really works so why bother.” When progress is slow or nonexistent this is an easy excuse to placate our frustrations. In other cases it is a way to cover up our inability to follow the plan and shift the blame away from our own shortcomings

Either way, instead of leaning on this crutch and giving up, it is going to take a few hard questions to rid yourself of this excuse. The most obvious of which is, “Is the plan not working or am I not working on the plan?” You would be surprised on how many times you find it is the latter. You just haven’t done the work, been consistent, or stayed persistent. Fortunately these are all things that can be fixed if you put yourself in the right frame of mind. It may even involve some slight tweaking of the plan in order to set yourself up to make better choices and thus improve compliance.

If the plan is truly not working, then further investigation is really needed. Slow progress often seems like no progress, but every once in awhile a certain approach will not work for you. This doesn’t mean that it is time to give up. It only means that you need to continue to work on finding something that does. Too often many of us choose to use the excuse that nothing works to justify stopping working on it. Achieving goals isn’t easy. It takes hard work, and furthermore often times what has worked in the past will no longer work.  That only means that it is time to change your approach, not give up. Being persistent is your greatest attribute here.

The approach to dispelling these four common excuse involve deep and difficult introspection to separate the truth from the lies and stories we’ve concocted around our struggles. This isn’t easy even when we know deep down that we are only fooling ourselves. It’s difficult to be critical of ourselves, but the longer we hold on to these stories, the longer we will continue to fail to achieve our goals.

We have to take ownership of our choices and actions. We can no longer outsource our decisions to these excuses. This means consciously considering every choice we make and assuming responsibility for the results, good or bad. No matter what excuses you hold onto you are in control, and have the capacity to choose progress instead.

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