A few weeks ago I was whingeing about why I hadn’t completed something I had undertaken to do. My language and rhetoric went something like this: “I was going to go for a run today but it was too wet and cold to go out”. What I do recall however, is my 13 year old son admonishing me and saying “Excuses disempower you Mom!” I was taken aback on two fronts: Firstly, that he had recognised my complaining was an excuse and secondly that he actually listens to what I have to say (mostly) and has adopted some of my philosophies into his way of being.
Do you ever hear yourself making excuses when things don’t turn out how you wanted them to? Do you make excuses instead of taking responsibility for your choices? Have you often tried to explain or look for a way out of why you didn’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t or shouldn’t do something?
So what is the difference between a reason and an excuse and how can you work out whether you have a legitimate reason for not doing something, or whether you are making rationalizations to defend yourself, avoiding responsibility, or neglecting to take certain action?
A reason is defined as “a statement, fact or explanation given to an event or series of events”, whereas an excuse is defined as “a reason or explanation given to justify a fault and intended to lessen or eliminate liability, accountability or responsibility”. In other words excuses can be “invented reasons” we create to defend our behaviour and to justify not taking certain action or responsibility for our actions.
Continuously playing the blame game and making excuses can not only prevent you from discovering and fulfilling your true potential, but can have the additional adverse effect of entrenching already limiting beliefs. When you blame others or continuously make excuses to avoid taking responsibility for choices you have made, you give up your power to change.
So why do we all make excuses? Research says one of the main reasons people make excuses is an underlying fear of failure, fear of responsibility, fear of success, fear of embarrassment, fear of change, fear of uncertainty, fear of making mistakes and lack of confidence. This fear in essence paralyses the brain and it automatically goes into excuse mode as a habitual unconscious behaviour, with the result of momentarily avoiding the fear associated with the responsibility and accountability of the situation. However, there are long lasting consequences. Continuously making excuses does not deal with the root cause of the fear and the cycle of excuses, and shifting the blame becomes a pattern that can become impossible to break.
From a coaching perspective people often find reasons to prevent themselves from taking action and moving forward. We all have amazing abilities to justify why we can’t do something and our brains can convince us and justify these reasons perfectly. These “reasons” are actually excuses which are blocking our success and our path to fulfilling our true potential. Excuses can also be a form of self-sabotage and self-destruction. They focus on problems rather than solutions and this pattern does not foster a growth mindset.
Next time you hear yourself making one of your usual excuses, stop for a minute and ask yourself these empowering questions:
- Why am I making an excuse?
- Where did the excuse come from? Reflect back and try to remember how something in your life may have influenced and shaped your belief systems.
- Is the rationalisation a genuine reason or is it an excuse? Is the excuse actually true?
- How can I move beyond this excuse? What resources do I need to help me? What would my life look like if I didn’t make this excuse?
- What is the next step I need to take to move me closer to my desired outcome and the life I want to live?
- Make a conscious choice to change your language from negative to positive and stop the excuse in its tracks.
- How can I reinforce my new habit and way of thinking and live in accordance with my values?
Marty Rubin’s simple words are a true wakeup call and this month’s mantra: “Truth is what’s left when you run out of excuses”.
If you are really honest with yourself, you will discover how some of the everyday excuses that have become a habit are taking you away from being the person you know you can be. Excuses indeed disempower you, as my son boldly reminded me. Start leading the life you deserve and get rid of all the excuses that are preventing you from moving forward.
When you doubt your power, you give your power to doubt. As Steve Maraboli says: “Your greatest self has been waiting your whole life, don’t make it wait any longer”. No more if’s, and’s or but’s. The truth is that there is absolutely NO Excuse!
With love and inspiration