The alarm blares. You open your eyes to a dark room, lit only by the glow of your phone. It’s 5 am and you’re supposed to head to the gym in fifteen minutes. Like a well-practiced symphony, your brain begins a perfect, rational sequence of mounting excuses:
- Five more minutes and you’ll be ready to go.
- You can just eat less today and you’ll still lose weight.
- You don’t want to stress your body out — you just went two days ago.
- Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, anyway. Why try to slim down?
Each excuse builds until its powerful enough to take over your drive. Before you know it, you’ve hit snooze so many times you’ve already got to head to work.
That’s the power of excuses. They’re the brain’s way of dampening guilt and allowing you to get by not doing what you should.
Remember that — an excuse is a reason not to do something that you know, despite all indications, you should do.
Your mind can create complex excuses at a moment’s notice. After all, your brain is a biological computer that knows more about you than Facebook or Google ever will. In fact, your unconscious is more complicit in your excuse-making than your conscious thoughts. That’s why it’s so hard to stem the tide.
If it were up to rationality alone, we’d be able to see right through our excuses and use true logic to overturn them. But with our more powerful emotional aspects in play, our job is that much harder.
Before we get into crushing excuses before they take over, let’s go over reasons why we make them in the first place.
- Task Difficulty
- This is the most common and most rational reason behind excuses. A difficult task is hard to start, which makes it an easy target for your excuse-engine.
- You can prevent these excuses by creating smaller goals to break up large projects. Read more about setting goals here.
- Fear of failure
- Fear of failure creates preemptive excuses, which “predict” the outcome of a situation.
- To expand on our opening example, it might look like: “I should just stop working out now since I’ll just end up quitting soon anyway.”
- Fear of Success
- This one is far harder to spot than fear of failure. Fear of success is the optimistic side of preemptive excuse-making. Success is often seen as a positive aspect, so the mind often glosses over it as a potential reason for an excuse.
- Fear of success is often related to fear of unknown new circumstances, new pressures, and demands that may exceed your previous capacity.
- Fear of success might also come from a deep-seated belief that you don’t deserve success.
- You just don’t want what you’re going after
- Could it be that your goals aren’t aligning with you any more?
- For some individuals, goals they keep for many years (despite circumstances) often take on a habitual mental space. This creates a reflexive reaction when they consider what they want out of life.
- For these types of scenarios, re-evaluation of your WHY is necessary to move past “stuckness.”
The Excuse Exterminator: “Why?”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Why? might be the most important question you ask yourself in this lifetime. Why resolves so many of our mental and emotional inconsistencies. It is the great aligner. If you know Why you want what you’re striving for, you have the ultimate weapon against excuses.
Excuses are opportunistic. They sneak into mental spots where there’s enough room for them to roost. When you have the clarity of your mission, it’s harder for excuses to take root.
Let’s go back to the gym-goer example. If they’re vague on their goal for losing weight — if they lack a specific Why — they’ll find it more difficult to stay on track.
People often diet or exercises because they know they should, but they may lack the goals and reasons to continue despite challenges.
So for the gym-goer, a good goal might be “Lose 1 pound every week.” It’s specific and bite-sized — it gives them a number and a deadline to mark their progress. A Why looks different. It’s the heart-centered reason you want to achieve your goal. The gym-goer’s Why might be, “To finally feel good about the way I look so I can be more confident when I go out.”
That’s a good Why. The Why speaks to the heart. It helps you ignore excuses by showing you the bright future beyond your accomplished goals.
And you can use your Why for any excuse origin. It can help you move past your reluctance based on fear of failure. It can help you evaluate the benefits of success and outweigh the difficulties. It can even help you reassess your new path in life if you’ve been stuck with habitual goals for a long time. I hope this post helps you identify your common excuses and the reasons behind them.
Wishing you all the best,