“There are thousand excuses for every failure but never a good reason.”—Mark Twain
We often become our own worst enemies when it comes to achieving our goals and find ourselves making excuses to explain why we didn’t, couldn’t, shouldn’t or just wouldn’t do somethings that are important to us. We do so by saying things to ourselves that make us feel better about not doing what we know we should. Also, we tend to have these handy excuses we offer when we disappoint other people. They may not be convenient and are often made up on the spot. We don’t exercise because “it’s boring” or we just don’t have time.” We are late for work because of “traffic” or we hurt someone because we “we didn’t have a choice.”
We all tend to whine, complain, rationalise and justify our unfinished endeavours or why we fail to create positive change in our life, be it relationships, health, attitude, habits or lifestyle. We all have reasons why we can’t change and privately harbour certain rationalisations when we disappoint ourselves. For instance, “I am too old to pursue this new skill”establishes a limiting belief. We thus fall back on a set of beliefs that take us into resistance or self-delusion. We come up with such justifications for not doing a task, for keeping wrong habits, for justifying wrong behaviours, for not able to keep up with routines or to-do lists. Excuses we tend to make in a daily basis add up overtime and become a habitual response where it negatively affects our motivation. They hold us back from making a change or progress and confine us to our current situation.
Excuses vs explanations/reasons.
When we deal with situations or events that call for accountability or justification, we tend to confuse excuses with explanations/reasons. This is because, both reason and excuse are defined “as an explanation put forward to defend or justify a fault or offence”. But there is huge difference between making excuses and providing explanations/reasons. Excuses are not valid reasons and are rationalisations we make to ourselves, to others, about people, events and circumstances. On the other hand, you provide explanations/reasons, when you recognise fault, accept responsibility and are ready to face the consequences. Excuse focuses mostly on justifying a fact whereas explanation is a fact-filled statement and provides clarity.
There may be reasons for failure and not excuses.The difference between reason and excuse lies in the results, actions and the consequences that follow. Excuses are negative and irresponsible, while reasons are natural occurrences and if acted upon they lead to responsible result driven behaviour. An excuse is to justify, blame or defend a fault with the intent to defend ourselves. Whereas we explain when someone wants to be understood and when we want others to understand the reasons behind our actions, behaviours, habits or decisions. An excuse will never be followed by positive, goal-directed or solution-oriented behaviour. The reason on the other hand is the stimulus that causes something to change, have a resulting action and manage to stay in control of your desired outcomes without turning it into an excuse. They are not to justify but to explain.
Why do we resort to excuses?
There are many reasons why we make excuses. Excuse-making is psychological and this habit comes down to not wanting to come out of our comfort zones and for fear of failure, uncertainty, change, making mistakes, unknown and fear of not being good enough. Sometimes, we use them as a preventative measure to avoid to be seen in a bad light. Other reasons include, lack of personal responsibility, self-limiting beliefs, continuous ‘What-if’ scenarios. They are also fuelled by our desire to protect the status quo, lack of perspective and unwillingness to take risks.
Excuses are used as defence mechanism to protect a positive self identity. So by blaming something that seems like it was out of your control, you feel like you are able to protect yourself from feelings of shame or anxiety. This kind of self serving bias makes you find some external reason to cite as an excuse or blame for. They also stem from a deeper, subconscious desire to protect yourself from anxiety. The more anxious, the more likely you are to build barriers that interfere with your ability to achieve your goal. Excuses are made to convince ourselves that we could not have changed the outcome and thus become dependent on the false and deceptive beliefs so, it becomes easier to accept ourselves.
Excuses Vs productivity
It is easy to rely on excuses to give us a way out of an uncomfortable situation, but constant justification will wear down your productivity, confidence and can make you complacent. An excuse explains why we fall short of expectations after the fact and trigger failure before it happens. On a personal or professional level, excuses have negative impact when it comes to change, be it behaviour or habits. By getting into the habit of excuse mindset, we mortgage our long-term needs to fulfil our short-term desires as they make it easy for us to stay in our comfort zones by convincing ourselves that we simply cannot achieve. Here are some more ways they impact your productivity negatively.
• They hold you back from living a life in harmony with your natural self and wasted time and potential.
• Excuses are easier as they place blame on external factor and thus hinder lifestyle changes and personal improvement.
• It’s a distraction avoidance behaviour that prevents you from getting what you really want and leads to lack of focus and procrastination.
• This habit makes others think of you as not trustworthy and creates a sense of low self-worth where you let your fears and anxiety dictate your life. And we also do this sometimes by neglecting to take responsibility for the events and circumstances of our life.
• They hold you back from recognising opportunities, strengths and skills you might have that could help you overcome your life’s problems.
• They sabotage your goals by canceling their possibility, abilities, performance and motivation.
• When you make excuses to yourself, you give up on what you can and could create a false self where you blame an external force that is supposedly out of your control.
Making excuses not only holds you back from accomplishing your daily goals but also confuses you into not doing something you know is right. An excuse ensures failure not just now, but spirals into your future endeavours as well.
Here are some excuses that stand between you and your goals.
Excuses we make to justify our actions, behaviour, lack of planning or discipline which are straight-up lies like, “I would have been here on time, but I hit traffic on the way.”these excuses make it seem as if the situation was out of hands and you had no choice but to miss an important appointment or meeting.
Fixed mindset excuses like, ‘I don’t know how’ ‘I have no idea where to begin’ ‘it’s just too hard ‘ ‘I am not cut for that’ won’t help you improve or make those changes which you want to bring about.
Blame related excuses like, ‘ it doesn’t involve me anymore’ ‘I had wrong people in my life’ or ‘I was in the wrong place’ lead you to justify for not taking responsibility for yourself.
Self-sabotaging Excuses like, ‘I don’t have skills to do that.’ ‘that’s not my job’ ‘It will be difficult’ ‘It’s going to be risky’ ‘it will take a long time’ ‘I don’t deserve it’ ‘ ‘I am not strong’ or ‘smart enough’ ‘I am too busy’ ‘I am too old’ ‘I don’t have the time or energy.’ lead to self-sabotage your abilities, confidence and motivation.
“Ninety-nine percent of the failures comes from people who have the habit of making excuses.”— George Washington Carver
How to let go of the habit of making excuses
The cost of living life of excuses may not be apparent immediately or in short-term, but in long-term, it undermines your confidence and prevents you from recognising opportunities and develop talents or skills you might have learned that would help you to overcome challenges. These sneaky little lies we tell ourselves about why we cannot move ahead until we have more time, more support or more resources are always counterproductive and if you are to achieve your goals and do the big things you want to do, you should learn to say ‘No’ to excuses. Here are some strategies to overcome excuse making habit/mindset.
Develop awareness of your habit
Many of our habit patterns that which we are not aware of come from our subconscious mind and so they tend to influence our behaviour. To let go of your habit of coming up with excuses, you must first become aware that you are making them. Reflect on tasks, commitments or decisions you have been putting off. Spend some time to figure out the ‘why’ behind your behaviour or why you have delayed taking action. For instance, ‘not enough time,’ suggests you lack priorities, focus, discipline and direction. Why behind excuse like ‘It’s difficult for me’ means you lack necessary skill, information and resources.
Ask yourself, What excuses do I tend to make? Where did this excuse come from?Why am I making these and how they are preventing me from achieving my full potential and taking desired actions or outcomes?What could be the benefits of saying no to these excuses?
Being aware of your excuses can provide you with insights into your feelings, flaws, weaknesses and fears and can help you work through issues and problems more easily. This also makes you aware of how not making a change could lead to negative consequences.
Your reasons must outweigh your excuses
We make excuses when we don’t have firm convictions for what we are pursuing. You need to feed your mind with right reasons to overcome fear or procrastination. you don’t, you will be stuck making excuses every time you need to do important tasks.Because reasons have a resulting action, the more reasons you have to do the right things, the less persuaded you will be to give into excuses. When your reasons are more goal/solution-oriented, they result in positive actions and behaviours. And you will find necessary motivation to accomplish your goals.
When making excuses, ask yourself, Why this particular task is important for me?What are my priorities? What excuses are coming in the way? Is this a genuine reason or is it simply an excuse? If this is an excuse, what is it that I am currently lacking? What do I need that will make me move beyond this excuse? What reasons am I telling myself for these excuses?
Instead of citing problems or regrets as reasons, focus more on solutions, priorities and opportunities.
Accept responsibility for your choices
Living excuse free life is about taking responsibility for every aspect of your life. We make excuses about areas in our life when we feel less secure, especially when you don’t want to take responsibility for your shortcomings either real or perceived. When you take responsibility, you feel empowered to consciously make commitment to improve the situation. Owning up your weaknesses, mistakes or failures can help you work through them rather than making excuses. If you honestly feel something is not your priority, then admit it to yourself and others and don’t give any more of your attention. Similarly, if you want to pursue what you really want , then stop making excuses on why you can’t and take responsibility to create a way that you can.
Ask yourself, What are my priorities? Why am I making this excuse right now?What areas I can take more responsibility?Do I really want to pursue this right now?How important to me is this task in the long-term? How connected and aligned am I with my personal and professional goals?
When we make excuses to justify our actions and behaviour, we end up going in circles and changing nothing that frustrates us the most. It’s only by taking responsibility that you can work through your shortcomings towards your priorities.
Identify your belief triggers for your excuses.
Excuses describe our inner limiting beliefs that represent how we interpret our world. And these beliefs we hold onto justify our inaction. For instance, your excuse is, ‘If I understand, I will do.’but there is a difference between understanding and doing. Just because you understand something doesn’t ensure that you will actually do. We use excuse like, ‘today is a special day’ for some instant gratification and think tomorrow we will be our disciplined self again. In a down moment of failure, we tell ourselves, “At least I am better than.’ This is our excuse to take it easy and it lowers your motivation. The two opposing beliefs we hold in our minds about time like, ‘I don’t have enough time’ leads to underestimate the time available to get anything done and sometimes we use excuse like, ‘we have all the time in the world’ for our self-improvement goals. This triggers procrastination. Understanding your belief triggers can help you overcome your habit of making excuses.
Reframe your excuses as opportunities.
I’ll do this tomorrow/later (or “I have no time” or “I’m too busy”) as opposed to postponing your tasks or goals for later, think about how you can start them now. Instead of waiting for some other time to start on them. If your excuse is ‘it’s better to do this at the last minute’ and feel doing things at the last minute creates pressure and urgency that pushes you to act with the belief that it will help you to be more efficient, realise that leaving things to last minute only wastes your limited resources like time, money and energy. If there’s a goal or task that is important to you, it is better to do it earlier than later. Replace such excuses by focusing on bigger perspective and make them your priority instead.
To reframe, ask yourself, What fears my excuses are expressing? What am I afraid of? What is the reason behind my procrastination? What am I telling myself that I don’t have to do this or that? What kept me doing a task- is it lack of perspective, motivation, fear or laziness?
By reframing you can figure out from where the excuse came from and can create a reason to change old excuse making patterns into new.
What excuses are getting between you and your goals?
How often do you make excuses to justify your actions and behaviour?
How many excuses do you make for yourself on a daily basis in your personal or professional endeavours ?
Which areas of your life, you need to let go of your habit of making excuses—relationships, health or fitness goals, career or financial goals Or goals related to habit or behavioural change?
And how could you change the habit to achieve your desired goals?
What is your favourite excuse?
Before you make your next excuse, ask yourself, what can I do to improve? What opportunities am I going to miss if I make this excuse? Saying ‘no’ to excuses builds trust and you no longer are stopped by obstacles and rather work hard to find solutions and develop a ‘can do’ attitude. Changing an excuse mindset or behaviour may be just as difficult as keeping any resolutions and takes awareness and conscious effort to stop making them. If you are successful, then it opens up a whole new possibilities and accomplishments to follow through on your desired goals. Be honest with yourself about what you can do better, and you can free yourself of the blame and the denial that is sure to hold you back. Take responsibility for your actions to create positive momentum.