I can still remember my high school’s days when the then popular “My Dog Ate My Homework” caption was plastered on 3 ring binder folders to serve as the classic excuse for students who had not done their homework. As funny and implausible as that excuse was back in the day, today, many of us use varied excuses to justify our inaction or failure to follow through with important daily tasks and activities. One might even argue that it is human nature for people to come up with reasons or excuses to justify or explain why work projects and tasks were not completed, phone calls were not returned, emails went unacknowledged, key decisions were not taken or dreams and goals were never fully realized. And while there might be good explanations for any or all the above, how do you distinguish between when it is an excuse or a valid reason? Why do people make excuses anyway? And at what point do the excuses no longer add up and need to stop? This article will attempt to answer all these questions.
People use a mix of reasons and excuses to account for their thoughts, behaviors, or actions. And though reasons and excuses are sometimes used interchangeably, the two concepts are not one and the same. Difference Between explains that “a reason simply refers to a cause or explanation. Reasons explains why someone did something or why something happened. On the other hand, “An excuse, is also a type of reason that specifically justifies or defends a fault.” Based on this, the main difference between the two is – a reason is merely an explanation, and an excuse specifically focuses on justifying a fault. So, how do you account for your behaviors and actions? Do you have good reasons, or are you merely making excuses?
Why Do People Make Excuses?
According to Tony Robbins, “Making excuses can almost always be traced back to one of three reasons: fear, uncertainty or lack of purpose”.
- Fear: The fear of failure is perhaps the biggest fear that most people have. Robbins goes on to explain that fear and more specifically the fear of failure can cripple some people and cause them to make excuses that prevent them from going after their dreams. This fear of failure might play out as self -doubt or self-limiting beliefs and result in a lack of confidence in one’s potential and ability to succeed.
- Uncertainty: Robbins explains that “as human beings, we all have Six Human Needs that drive our decisions. And one of our most powerful needs is certainty- that is the desire to avoid pain and seek out things that we know will bring us pleasure”. Because of this, people are more likely to remain in their comfort zone and situations that are less than ideal. So, when we are faced with circumstances that we feel uncertain about, our brains prefer, or are likely to default to making excuses over dealing with uncertainty. Nonetheless, you can override these natural impulses and stop making excuses.
- Lack of Purpose: According to Robbins, “people who make excuses often come across as lazy, uninspired and apathetic.” However, he notes that this perception might not be true as it is more likely that they haven’t yet discovered their purpose. Therefore, Robbins advocates that “People are not lazy. They simply have goals that do not inspire them.” So, if you focus on finding your passion and living a meaningful life, the tendency to make excuses will stop.
Top Excuses People Make
Sometimes, I am just as guilty of making excuses as anyone else. For years, I have used both reasons and excuses about timing to justify not starting a doctoral program I have done the research to identify. I have also used excuses about not knowing how, to delay writing and publishing a book that I hope to. But all my excuses and reasons really mask- is my fear of failure and doubts about my abilities. I share all this to say, making excuses is a part of the human condition and is as natural to many of us as breathing.
So, while the following list of common excuses people make is not exhaustive, you might easily find that the excuses you make are only slightly different from the ones below and might be linked to the reasons given above. Here are seven common excuses that people typically make:
- I don’t have enough time/money/ resources:
- I am afraid of failure
- I am not inspired/ I’m stuck
- This is not new/ it’s not original enough
- I am afraid of the competition
- This is not the right time to do it
- I have too much going on /I don’t have the support
So, how do we move past the excuses and avoid sitting like a frog on a log?
How To Stop Making Excuses
According to Tony Robbins, “making excuses is normal from time to time. But if your excuses start to interfere with your life and prevent you from reaching your goals, it might be time to learn how to quit doing so. As such, Robbins suggests the following tips that you can use to stop making excuses and take meaningful action towards your goals and dreams:
- Take Responsibility: Robbins suggest that “the first step to stop making excuses is always to realize that you alone control your destiny. Robbins reminds us that “No matter what has happened to you in the past, your future is up to you.”
- Shift Your Perspective: Robbins argues that “when you take responsibility, you begin to see that problems are opportunities, not obstacles. Life is happening for you, not to you. Everything that has happened in your life brought you to this moment – and you can either transform your life or keep making excuses.”
- Uncover Your Limiting Beliefs: According to Robbins, “People who make excuses are likely have certain limiting beliefs that are holding them back. These are the stories we tell ourselves about who we are. If you believe deep down that you’re not deserving of success or that you don’t have the inner strength to overcome failure, you’ll continue making excuses to avoid going after what you really want.”
- Change Your Story: Robbins recommends that “Once you’ve identified your limiting beliefs, you can change your story and stop making excuses for good. Do this by identifying negative self-talk and replacing any limiting beliefs with empowering ones. When you change your words – and your story – you change your life.”
- Find The Lesson: Robbins says that “People who make excuses don’t bother to look closely at their mistakes and determine what went wrong. They blame others and never learn the valuable lessons that failure can provide. Successful people always look for the lesson and apply it to future decisions.”
- Stop Overthinking: Robbins tells us that “The path to success is to take massive, determined action.” So, to quit making excuses, you must stop overthinking, let go of the past and take decisive action.”
- Define your vision: Robbins encourages that you “Go back to the drawing board and examine your blueprint for your life. What do you really want? Create a powerful vision that you’ll be proud to follow, and you’ll never make an excuse again.”
- Set Goals: Here Robbins points out that “Discovering your purpose is valuable, but setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible. Working toward actionable goals forces you to stop making excuses and start creating a compelling future. Start small and set achievable SMART goals. As you build confidence, set bigger and bigger goals.”
- Get Support: When all is said and done, Robbins emphasizes that “The key to stop making excuses is to hold yourself accountable for your actions – but this isn’t always easy.” Therefore, lean on your trusted friends and family for your support.
Over to you- what excuses are you using to undermine your progress and chances for success in your personal and professional life? Whatever they are, it’s time to quit. Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!