Why Do We Make Excuses?
To start, let’s ask a simple question that you might have:
“Why do we often make excuses whenever we encounter a difficult challenge or obstacle?”
Unfortunately, the answer depends on both your personal situation and the challenge that you’re currently facing. You may come up with excuses in your head in order to maintain your own comfort, or an excuse to tell someone else because you simply can’t say “no”. Here are eight common reasons why people make excuses throughout their lives.
Reason #1: You’re experiencing fear
The feeling of fear keeps us inside of our comfort zone and prevents us from venturing out into the unknown. However, fear is largely misunderstood. People are often afraid of things because they don’t understand them or they are lacking all of the information they need.
The good news is that the more you educate yourself about a challenge or process, the easier it will be to overcome a fear. It doesn’t matter what obstacle you’re dealing with — somebody, somewhere has probably gone through it. All you have to do is find out how they overcame it and your fears/anxieties will be eliminated.
Reason #2: You don’t want to fail
Failure is unavoidable. It is inevitable that at some point during your life…You. Will. Fail. This is just part of the different seasons of life.
So whenever you’re trying something new or taking some risks, there is always a chance that you’ll fail.
However, it is also important to remember that you don’t lose everything when you fail. Failure just means that things are not going the way you expected them to go and you need to remain flexible to get back on track. So, if you make excuses to reduce your risk of failing, it means you are never trying anything new.
One way to help you overcome your fear of failure is to embrace the idea that making mistakes and failing can be a good thing.
Reason #3: You don’t know what to expect
The fear of uncertainty means that you are worrying about unknown future events or circumstances that could come your way. Uncertainty makes people uncomfortable because they don’t have enough experience to give them confidence.
Without experience and perspective, people often make assumptions or jump to conclusions about possible outcomes that could negatively impact them.
You can overcome the fear of uncertainty by using the “if-then” planning concept. The idea here is to think of every possible obstacle or challenge that you’ll probably encounter, then create a strategy for how you’ll handle them. And if you do this throughout all aspects of your life, it’ll be hard to make excuses about why you can’t follow up with a task.
Reason #4: You don’t have a specific goal
If you don’t have specific and measurable goals, it is easy to make excuses to avoid doing something that you don’t want to do.
For example, can you see the difference between: I want to lose weight this year and I am going to lose 10 pounds in the next 6 weeks?
With that specific goal in mind, you are less likely to come up with an excuse every day to skip the gym or to eat junk food. Vague goals will not get you very far.
Reason #5: You’re scared of making a mistake
You may make excuses because you are scared to make a mistake. Mistakes might seem like the end of the world to you. However, mistakes are actually valuable. Remember: failure is the mother of success.
Think about the mistakes you have made in your life and consider the ways that they have actually added strength to your character. Think about all of the skills your mistakes have taught you and how they have shaped your body of knowledge and personal development.
It is important to see mistakes as being a beneficial and critical part of your life and embrace them. If you make excuses to avoid mistakes, you may miss out on some of your biggest mistakes that could have ended up being your best learning experiences.
If you want to feel more comfortable doing something and reduce your chances of making an initial mistake, you can proactively learn about the task first. From taking classes to learning from an expert to even becoming self-taught through books and online resources–you can learn how to do anything that you really want to do.
Reason #6: You compare yourself to others
People often fear being compared to others who they perceive to be more talented or better than themselves. Oftentimes, we measure ourselves up to see if we perform better or worse than others.
It is important to not make excuses so you won’t be compared to other people because then you aren’t even giving yourself a chance to succeed. Who knows, compared with someone else, you may be the best.
Reason #7: You’re protecting your identity
It is common to want to protect yourself from harm in any way. Whether it is physical, emotional, or mental, you are likely always at least a little bit aware of your surroundings in order to keep yourself safe.
For this reason, you may come up with excuses to not do things. You want to protect yourself and not put yourself in harm’s way. While sometimes this is a very smart thing to do, other times it may hold you back.
Reason #8: You’re not motivated
“Be stronger than your excuses.”
Sure, you don’t want to make a healthy dinner at home, and you don’t want to go to the gym. Without motivation, you can come up with any excuse in the book to stay complacent.
Reason #9: You think you lack the resources
You may tell yourself that you don’t have the time, money, or education to pursue something. However, the way you choose to spend your time and money is how you define your priorities. Would you be willing to make the time or spend the money to gain the advice that you need? It is never too late to change your health either, so don’t try to blame your lack of time on your age.
There is usually a way to get around these types of excuses if there is something on the horizon that would be really beneficial to you if you were to complete it.
If this is your excuse, go back and think about your priorities and consider whether or not the excuse is, in fact, valid.
Reason #10: You’re set in your ways
You may be so stubborn and set in your ways that you tell yourself you’re unable to change. But when you think about it, is it that you can’t change or you don’t want to change?
Yes, making changes takes effort and commitment and it can be very difficult.
If you just become defeated about an aspect of your personality without even attempting to change it, then you are just making excuses to stay complacent.
Steps to Stop Making Excuses
So now that you know why you might make excuses and how it can derail your personal success, let’s dive into the steps you can use to stop making excuses.
Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
When you compare yourself to other people, especially those who have already achieved what you want to achieve, you’re focusing on your weaknesses rather than your strengths. This probably makes you feel defeated and hopeless if you see a big gap between where you are today and where they are.
While this may seem intimidating to you, you have to remember that they were once in the position you’re in now. They are just at a different stage in the learning process.
In other situations, the truth is that other people could be comparing themselves to you and you don’t even realize it. It’s important to remember to never make assumptions when it comes to what other people are thinking or what their true experience is.
Action Step: Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, focus on your strengths and adopt a mindset of gratitude. Being grateful for the opportunities that are available to you to help you grow will start to improve the way you feel about yourself.
Stop Fearing the Unknown
People tend to be wary of taking risks that could disrupt their current reality, and are often opposed to making even the smallest change to the comfort of their daily behaviors, even if their current actions aren’t in their best interest.
A simple example of this is that people are often slow to try new hobbies because it disrupts their normal routine.
Sure, things may go wrong. But, things may also go very right. The unknown can be scary, but that doesn’t mean that it is necessarily bad.
So many good things can come into your life from the risks you take in areas that are unknown to you. Don’t just assume that anything that is unknown to you is going to turn out to be a negative thing.
Action Step: Get used to stepping into the unknown by doing it more often. Break up your daily routine by taking a different route to work or going to a new exercise group.
Stop Blaming Others
One of the most destructive things you can do in life is to play the blame game. It is the basis for a considerable amount of frustration and unhappiness in people’s lives.
The blame game entails blaming someone else for something that happened to you that was undesirable, and staying convinced that it was someone else’s fault instead of being proactive and making the necessary changes to resolve a situation. This often stems from irrational thinking and is not healthy for you or for the person you are blaming.
People also tend to blame outside circumstances or conditions for their downfalls. Doing this takes away a sense of personal responsibility for something that person wants to change about their lives.
Action Step: Take ownership of your life and recognize when you’re blaming others. Exercise the authority you have over your life by taking charge of anything that is within your control.
Take Responsibility For ALL Your Actions
Being responsible requires acting on your ability to respond to things that happen. It involves using your power to change and to offer the most practical responses to life’s everyday problems.
There are two components of taking responsibility. One is accepting personal responsibility and the other is accepting indirect responsibility.
Taking personal responsibility refers to taking ownership of your own actions and their consequences. If you haven’t gone to the gym in a year, yet you’re trying to get healthier, it wasn’t a time constraint that was holding you back. Take ownership of the control you have over your actions and ability to make decisions and set your own priorities. If you are unable to accept responsibility for your actions or mistakes, it is very hard to gain the respect of other people.
Action Step: We can’t change some of life’s circumstances or how other people behave towards us, but we can control our responses to these things to change an outcome. Taking responsibility also requires changing your mindset. This may sound cheesy, but reciting to yourself, “If it is to be, it is up to me” is simple to remember and will remind you that you’re responsible for doing anything that you’re able to do if there is a need.
Take Action Every Day
Part of taking action is taking risks. You may have big plans that sound great in theory, but you never plan on actually following through with them. Stop making excuses and take the action that is needed to achieve the goals you want in life and create success for yourself.
One of the first things you have to do to eliminate your excuses is to take that first step.
Have you been avoiding the gym because of “time”? Dedicate specific blocks in your schedule for the gym and get dressed and go. You have to act on your intentions to stop even entertaining the idea of coming up with an excuse.
Action Step: Recognize that the first step will be the hardest. You’re the only person who can make it happen, though. Act on it. So challenge yourself to do at least one thing every day for each of your goals.
Learn from Your Mistakes
Not only can you learn what not to do when you make a mistake, but you can also analyze what went wrong and figure out how you can do better in the future. All mistakes are learning opportunities, no matter how big or small the mistake may be. Often, trial and error is the best way to work something out.
Action Step: Determine what specific action led to the mistake.
Don’t Focus on Your Weaknesses
Be aware of your weaknesses, but don’t focus on them. Rather, focus on your strengths and the things that you have to offer that other people do not.
Change your Attitude
Realize that you have the power to change. You just have to be motivated to do so. You can’t feel defeated or complacent with your life just being “okay.” Without making excuses, you have the power to change anything in your life.
If you don’t feel like you can do it on your own, seek help from other people in order to achieve your goals and get the results you are looking for. Never think that you simply cannot change an aspect of your life.
Visualize Your Success
Literally visualize what it would look like and feel like to achieve your goal and have success.
Close your eyes and think about who will be waiting for you at the finish line and the amount of pride you will be feeling as you’re running your final few meters. Notice as much detail as possible, such as your clothes, the look on your face, people cheering for you, the weather, the sounds of other runners around you, and anything else you can think of. Imagine your feelings as you are completing your first marathon.
Doing this can add some motivation to your agenda, as you will want to actually be able to feel those feelings of accomplishment.
Action Step: Get comfortable, close your eyes, and imagine what you would see if your dream was realized. Practice doing this any time you feel a dip in motivation.
Remember: It’s Okay to Not Be Perfect
Accept your mistakes and know that other people are willing to accept your mistakes as well, especially if you own up to them and learn from them. This is something that happens to everyone, even the most successful people.
People often have a tendency to dwell on their mistakes, but doing so will damage your self-confidence. Dwelling on your mistakes can lead to feelings of anger, frustration, and stress, which can then lead to procrastination.
Action Step: Next time you make a mistake, find the lesson in it and move on. Analyze your decisions, correct your behavior, and get back on the right path.
Know You Can Change Your “Excuses Habit”
If you are used to coming up with excuses to get out of doing things, this is a habit that can be changed. Think about what you are actually trying to avoid when you make an excuse. Are you avoiding going to the gym? Or maybe you don’t want to give up your free time or move around your priorities?
Try to figure out what you are really trying to get away from and address it head on. You can stop making excuses and start getting the results you want if you are able to have a clear vision of what you want for the future.