In terms of achieving goals, making excuses gets us nowhere. Yet many, including myself, use them. They offer a temporary reprieve from responsibility. Like a tease, excuses lure us in with their false sense of comfort in a given moment. But, and it’s a big but, eventually we realize that they come with consequences.

What we put off today will likely come back at us at some point in the future. Put off completing an important work or school assignment, and soon we’ll suffer the dread of falling behind. The excuse we made for not diving into an assignment suddenly comes back to bite us.

Making excuses is an expressed behavior that hurts our own performance and motivation. Basically, making excuses is sabotage! Overall, making excuses on things that are important to us stunts our growth potential. It also can severely hurt our self-esteem. How? Well, think about how excuses affect others. If someone is counting on us to do our part in something and we toss out an excuse instead or a result, respect is lost. That doesn’t feel empowering.

So why do we do this?

Reasons we keep making excuses

We fear:

  • Failure
  • Shame
  • Success
  • Change
  • Risk
  • Responsibility
  • Messing up

Resulting Consequences of Making Excuses:

  • Stagnation
  • Regret
  • Loss in credibility
  • Mental blocks
  • Pessimism

Essentially, if we want to grow, we need to stop making excuses. Excuses are useless and only stand in the way of progress.

An Interesting Quote

I came across this quote on a friend’s Facebook profile and it rang so true for me. “If it’s important you’ll find a way. If it’s not, you’ll find an excuse.” Ryan Blair

When we deem something important, we’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen. Whatever our focus, be it health, friends, family, learning, business, or reading, we’ll always find a way to carve out time for things that are important to us. Some things like starting a new business or enrolling in a graduate program can seem daunting. But, if it’s critical, we’ll make it happen. No excuse in the world will hold up to it.

With this in mind, it’s important to understand our priorities. If something aligns with our priorities, we’re less likely to make excuses to avoid it. So, if something doesn’t align with our priorities, instead of making excuses, just say no. It’s okay to say no, and even more so, it’s okay to do so without offering justification.

Staying in tune with this distinction will help us to know what to say yes to. Here’s my rule of thumb: if I’ve said yes, I fully commit and leave the excuses behind.

A Closer Look at Priorities

As human beings we’re hard-wired for survival. If our survival, be it emotional, spiritual, or physical, depends on our being able to sit and read a good book or to spend quality time engaging in conversation and laughter with friends, then we will see to it that it gets done. We will overlook the pesky dust on our furniture, the lure of gossip, and the urge to snack on Cheetos if a run better solves the important need of, say, health. No excuse will get in the way.

If you find yourself making excuses over and over again, it might be worth examining whether you’re procrastinating because it’s simply not that important to the core of your life. If it’s not, and it’s reasonable to do, move forward with other things that are more affirming to you. Look for ways to help yourself move forward. I’ve seen a lot of Meet Our Therapy Dog posts that have helped people with anxiety. Don’t stay stagnant. Look for ways to grow.

Here’s a personal tidbit:

I used to be really hard on myself to learn everything I could about opening up a hair salon. This was important to me since the day I started cutting and styling hair. But, then, life took a different turn. I fell deeper in love with writing. I was in the middle of finding a publisher for my novel, The Fiche Room, when I began to question my future.

As my writing career took off, I would find every excuse not to research the hair salon business further. I’d made so many excuses, I felt bad and it started to affect my writing. Finally, after a good long analysis, I realized that my goals had changed and I wanted to focus solely on writing. I let go of the hair salon dream and, in so doing, freed myself up to be more creative and productive as a novelist. Being a novelist is obviously more important to me! I retired a former goal and gave rise to a new one. By shifting, I stopped making excuses and got to work!

How to Stop Making Excuses

Accept that you have a choice.

You can choose which way to go once you land in front of that intersection. You can turn towards an excuse and be off the hook. Or you can turn the other way and face reality. Take responsibility for the choice. Turn it into a thoughtful decision, carefully weighing the pros and cons of each choice.

Remind yourself that excuses can hurt you.

What are the consequences of that excuse? Is it more painful to deal with the result than doing the thing you’re making excuses for? Are you making an excuse not to go to the gym because you didn’t get enough sleep the night before? Are you trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle? If so, and you’ve committed to that, skipping the gym will now place you at two losses: lack of sleep and exercise.

Admit that you’re making an excuse.

Be honest with yourself. Have a heart-to-heart and discuss it with yourself. Ask why you’re making the excuse. Own up to it. If you come out of it knowing you made it because it doesn’t align with your priorities, then don’t commit to such things again. If you made the excuse out of fear, laziness, etc. and the excuse is keeping you from your goals, power up and get it done.

Bottom line is you have the power of choice. You can decide right now what you’re willing to do and what you’re not. If you find yourself plagued by excuses, then it’s time to sit down with a pen and pad and figure out what’s most important in your life. Decide now so when challenges arise, you’ll know what you need to do to get the job done. Control your life so no one or nothing else can.

Over to you. What is your strategy for staying tuned into your goals and not making excuses that will sabotage them?