(By Molly Cain)
“Regardless of where you stand in this discussion, it brings to light something very important. Excuses are common. So common, in fact, Maria’s image lit a fire under a lot of people…she hit a nerve. We hate to be reminded that our excuses are explaining away laziness, failure, giving up and self-doubt. They’re there when we need them and we reach to them far too often. Our excuses drive us to failure because they let us take the easy way out.“
Does the name Maria Kang ring a bell to you? She’s the sexy mom who posted a picture of herself in workout gear some years back with her three boys sitting around her. Emblazoned at the top were the words, “What’s your excuse?”
The obvious message sat around Maria, as the picture clearly showed three miniature time and attention-needing excuses that would easily explain why she wasn’t in shape. But she was in shape. Many applauded Maria for crafting those abs while still managing to juggle motherhood and a career. Others turned into a large mob on the interwebs, calling Maria a bully and accused her of fat-shaming (Fat-shaming? That’s a thing?).
Regardless of where you stand in this discussion, it brings to light something very important. Excuses are common. So common, in fact, Maria’s image lit a fire under a lot of people…she hit a nerve. We hate to be reminded that our excuses are explaining away laziness, failure, giving up and self-doubt. They’re there when we need them and we reach to them far too often. Our excuses drive us to failure because they let us take the easy way out.
We all have things we could blame for derailing us in life. It’s only when you identify the excuses you’re using in life that you can really get ahead. Are you using any of these 7 excuses today?
This is as good as I can do. Earlier this year I competed in an obstacle course challenge that really ate my lunch (a term I also use to describe the days back when a bully regularly did steal my lunch). In order to qualify, we had to complete four laps through this hellish course. At the end of the course, we were to slide down this giant slide, then break into a full run to make it to the finish line. On my fourth run through the course, the exhaustion nearly took over as I came down the slide.
In my head, I took a break and told myself, “This is seriously as good as I can do.” At that moment, I wanted to throw-up, lie down face first in the grass, cry…there were many good options at that point, but none of them included running to the finish line.
It was right then that someone ran up to me and said, “You’ve got this. Here, I’ll run with you.” And he did. And I finished.
If you’re using the “this is as good as I can do” excuse on something, it’s a sign you’re hitting an exhaustion point. Is the weight not coming off as fast as you would like? Do you feel like your work isn’t getting noticed? Are you interviewing constantly but never getting the job? Are you struggling with a relationship?
This excuse is all about your breaking point. At least the breaking point you think you have. When you catch yourself using this excuse, instead figure out what kind of encouragement or push you need to get to the finish line. Once you have that, you’re golden.
I suck. You’ve got a big goal in mind. Perhaps it’s reaching a certain salary by a certain age. Or reaching a certain social status by a certain age (I’ve celebrated a few 29th birthdays, I know how that works). Maybe you have an ideal number for the scale.
This excuse sneaks in when you feel failure from not reaching a goal or when you don’t get what you’ve been fairy tale wishing for after so long. This is your way of saying, “Well that’s ok, I wasn’t destined for that anyways because I suck.” Well that’s just stupid. You don’t suck, you just aren’t there yet.
While failure is indeed a sign you need to change something up in the equation, it’s not a sign that you’re not any good at what you’re doing. It could be a sign you’re on the right track but aren’t ready for it yet, just made a bad decision or you just flat lost sight of your goal.
Always remember that people who never fail are people who never try. But people who stop after their first failure will never succeed. The next time you feel a setback, I allot you one or two days to excuse yourself and feel like you suck. Then you must make some adjustments and try again.
This sucks. For the past month, I’ve been keeping track of how many times I complain in a day. To do that, I’m following the instructions in a book called “A Complaint Free World.” Each time I catch myself doing any of the above, I move a bracelet from one wrist to the other. This forces me to physically identify the moments where I begin to complain. What I’ve learned? That I complain a lot. And that I tend to direct my complaints toward traffic, food, to-do’s…ok fine, it seems I’m an equal-opportunity complainer.
After analyzing my own and being more aware of what I’m hearing around me. It seems complaints, gossip and criticisms are just excuses cloaked in negativity. And in many cases, they’re simply reasons to see the negative side of things and remain unhappy.
Complaints issued to people who can’t fix the thing you’re complaining about won’t improve the situation. In fact (and you know this), it often riles you up even more, or it drives a group of people to become negative along with you or it sends you into isolation because people are avoiding you. These kinds of excuses obviously have very bad effects. Namely, you’re not at the top of your game, and you fail.
I’m not as good as them. There are studies coming out this year (the Economist says so) that the more time you spend on Facebook, the less satisfied you will be with your life. Why? Well, because it’s a digital, in-the-palm-of-your-hand billboard of all the amazing things happening in your friends’ lives. Or righteous things. Or thankful things.
Social media is a major driver of this excuse. It happens when you see only the positive moments in other people’s lives and you forget that there are things happening behind the scenes. You deliver negative self-talk and tell yourself that you’re not as good as the person in question. Then you give up.
I’m telling you now, don’t you dare look at any form of social media and think that is someone’s complete, un-edited real life. Much like you don’t, no one else is giving you a full view into their world. It could be happier, sadder, more confusing, rewarding or difficult. You have no idea. So why would you base your life on this?
Never doubt yourself because of what you’re seeing from other people. But more importantly, never make an excuse for yourself because you see someone else getting something (size 6 jeans, an engagement ring, new job, etc.). If you turn your focus on your own goals, you will get things too.
I’m too busy. I know far too many people, including myself, who get really excited when they create a to-do list. You sit at the kitchen counter in the morning, putting together a bulleted masterpiece of all the things you want to get done that day. The longer the list, the more productive you’ll be that day. Heck, if you can get that thing to two pages, it might be worth a Facebook status update to all your friends.
The excitement of this kind of to-do list wears off fast. Often, we’ll spend the day looking at the list (or in my case, at least until I’ve lost it somewhere) and instead of getting bursts of motivation, we get bursts of guilt. This is where the “I’m so busy, I need to stop saying yes so much, blah blah blah” thing comes in. No, you’re not too busy, it’s just that your list is longer than your arm and it’s full of things you don’t have to do. In this case, busy is an excuse.
The next time you sit down to create a to-do list, avoid putting anything down that you couldn’t legitimately get done that day. Be real with yourself. Yes, it’d be great to read 10 more pages of that book, but does that make sense for this particular day? Or will your schedule put you close enough to the post office where you’re really going to go? Don’t put stuff on that paper just for the sake of putting something down on paper.
When you plan with intention, your lists will reduce dramatically in size. But it will be manageable. Your mentality will change when you spend the day feeling accomplished. Try it.
But I really want it. You use this excuse when you’re living in a rut. Sure, you want to make more money, but what are you doing to actually get it? Are you looking and applying for different jobs? You want to be promoted, but are you doing anything to make the boss think you’re ready? You want to start your own company, but have you even started on a business plan?
Sometimes you resort to this excuse when you’re tangling with outside influences that don’t care whether you want it or not. If you’ve ever been dumped, you know what I’m talking about here. No amount of want will win you that person back. Or maybe you really wanted a particular job so badly you stopped applying for others. (It’s the classic put-all-the-chickens-in-one-basket move.) Then you don’t make it through the third round of interviews and suddenly you have no leads. Wanting that job won’t change the fact they chose someone else.
If you’re in a rut, look for moments when you hear yourself whining about something you wanted that’s now bringing you down because you didn’t get it. Turn your thinking into the why…is it because there’s something else better out there? Or because you didn’t put in 100% to get it?
It’s uncomfortable. This excuse rears its ugly head when you’ve made a nice little comfy nest for yourself in a place you don’t really want to be. This is a fear-based excuse and it’s one of the worst.
This excuse can be found in your career, relationships and in your personal life. It’s everywhere. The fear, and this excuse, creeps in when you suddenly realize you have to proactively change something in order to move forward. You’re safe where you are, but you know you can get more if only you can convince yourself to jump.
Don’t get me wrong. No matter how unhappy you are in a job, it’s no easy feat to quit. It personally takes me several trips to my boss’ office (and turnarounds) to eventually get the guts to walk in and tell them I’m leaving. You will see surprise in their face (or maybe not) and you’ll sit in the chair wondering if you made the right decision.
The unknown is a very scary place, but you know what’s scarier? Wondering what if.
If you’re holding off on jumping into the uncomfortable simply because you’re scared, you’re wasting precious time. Everyone who’s ever done something big did it because they didn’t know what was waiting for them, they just stopped making excuses and went for it.