When the top health concerns for adults in the U.S. are evaluated, weaknesses within our human nature are exposed. We are a species that will refuse to do the things that we know will improve our life, while refusing to give up the bad habits that we know can hinder our life. Somewhere in the middle of these battles are excuses.
Excuses are how we justify NOT doing the right thing and DOING the wrong thing. Unpacking the reasons behind why you make excuses in an area of life will help you move past those excuses and start obtaining your personal goals!
Likely, you don’t need much time to reflect on your own life to know the areas of life where you intentionally make excuses to avoid doing or not doing something. Maybe these are in the area of health, finances, bad habits (addictions), or relationships. You’re not alone.
A poll of 2,000 Americans found that the average American makes six excuses daily, and among those excuses are reasons people are not practicing self-care, from exercise and healthy eating to skincare and sun protection.
We make excuses for everything. In a single day you could easily lose track of the number of excuses you make to either do or not do something. Sometimes, these are truly justified. One example of this is priority. You may want to do one thing, but another thing takes priority. Therefore, you don’t do the desired action. However, even priorities can be skewed, if we allow excuses to creep in. This is why excuses are so easy to make and why it’s so important to evaluate why excuses are being made.
The Nature of Excuses
I’ve heard it summed up that excuses are bad habits in disguise. We continuously allow ourselves to make excuses to avoid discomfort or inconvenience. For example, one of the top health concerns for U.S. adults is fitness and nutrition. This is eating healthy and exercising. Why, as a collective group of adults, would we not want to take care of our health? Excuses! We don’t have time, no gym membership, meal prep is hard, etc. We allow excuses to become justifications for bad habits.
How Excuses Can Hurt You
It may seem that making an excuse is an isolated event. It’s not. Excuses can negatively impact many areas of life and really hinder your progress. For this reason, it’s important to understand the consequences of making excuses. Here are some significant ways excuses can hurt you:
- Prevent you from getting ahead in life
- Stop you from facing your fears
- Refuse to take on opportunities
- Hinder self-confidence
- Reduces future success
- Make breaking bad habits more difficult
- Waste time
Why Do We Make Excuses?
Whether it’s health, finances, relationship, or any other area of life, we continue to make the wrong decision. Instead of doing what we know needs to be done, we do the opposite. We make excuses for this out of self-preservation. To avoid the feeling of accountability or disappointment, we make excuses for our actions.
“Excuses are a common psychological method of shifting blame and keeping the self-image intact when faced with negative feedback. There are strong emotional pressures that motivate our excuse making. Responsibility and positive self-esteem are key in reducing the need for excuses in our psychology.”
When we make excuses, we are telling ourself a lie. We are knowingly choosing to prioritize comfort or convenience above what is right and needed. When we repeatedly tell ourselves the lies of excuses, we start to accommodate these excuses. This leads to a pattern of damage. To move away from this destruction, we have to face what is needed to be done and then follow through. It sounds simple, but is often dreaded.
Understanding the Reason Behind Your Excuses
It takes intentional mind work to understand the real reasons for your excuses. When the excuse is stripped down it comes down to avoidance. What are you really trying to avoid by making excuses? Is it fear of failure, a lack of confidence, the fatigue of facing another battle or obstacle in life?
A great exercise to thinking this through is mind mapping. If you’re not experienced with mind mapping, check out THIS RESOURCE. This is centered around stress, but the exercise of mind mapping can be used for any “brainstorm” need.
The idea is to think through the reasons that you make excuses. For example, maybe your excuse is not exercising. When you think through the reasons of why you make excuses to prevent exercising, maybe you uncover that you fear it won’t matter and the weight won’t come off, or that your current physical state will make it difficult, maybe you fear judgement from others, etc.
How to Stop Making Excuses
Everyone has time constraints. Be intentional about your self-development and self-care by dedicating some time to work through this. Start by writing down the area of life you want to focus on (health, finances, relationship, career, an addiction, etc.). For ease, just choose one to start with. You can always come back to the others later.
Next, think through and write down the reasons behind your excuses. Be honest with yourself.
Once you feel like you have your full list of honest reasons of why you’re avoiding whatever the desired action is, it’s time to face each challenge with objective reasoning. As you evaluate each item on your list, think through how you can work through that challenge in order to accomplish your goal.
Is time a challenge? Can you wake up earlier, change around your schedule, committee to only a day or two right now? Again, be honest with yourself. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
Remember, when we make excuses today due to convenience over conviction, it will lead to eventual destruction.
Prepare for Discomfort When You Face Your Excuses
Evaluating your excuses is an uncomfortable exercise. When we start cutting away at the reasonings behind our excuses, we unravel our “protection” of why we justify these things – think back to learning how excuses act as a form of “self-preservation”.
However, when we put together a plan to confront our excuses, this also puts us in a position to be vulnerable to other uncomfortable feelings like accountability, disappointment and shame. When we fail and make an excuse that goes against our goal, we will feel disappointed in ourselves. This is accountability.
However, give yourself grace. Each encounter with an excuse is an opportunity. Maybe you failed the first time (or the 50th time), try again on the next encounter. Keep going!
Establish Your “Why”
Something helpful when working through this is to understand the reasons of why you want to accomplish your goal. It sounds simple, but when we really acknowledge the “why”, it gives us something to strive for. For a moment, visualize the goal you would like to achieve – health, financial, career, etc. What would that look like?
If you feel it would help, write some of those things down. To show your commitment, spend some time collecting visuals that are motivating: pictures, quotes, scripture, etc. I highly recommend creating a vision board! If you’re not familiar, check out THIS ARTICLE to get you started. The idea is to have a collection of visuals that you can put in a place you see frequently. This will serve as a consistent reminder to why you’re working towards your goal.
Replace Excuses with Action
Could you imagine a life where you had as many GOOD habits as you did bad? You are the “captain of your ship” so take hold and work towards this! Going back to the list of reasons behind your excuse, think of good habits that can replace some or all of those. Let’s say you’re working on cutting back on unnecessary spending. When you’re tempted to do some online shopping, set a dollar amount and transfer that into savings, then go for a walk, call a friend, something to get your mind unfocused on your desire to shop. Be creative with your list of potential good habits!
Remind Yourself of the Damage Caused by Excuses
When you become comfortable with the excuses that you make for not taking action, you inevitably end up repeating this excuse. So what happens when you repeatedly spend outside of your budget? You deplete savings and don’t reach your financial goals. When we repeatedly allow excuses to deviate our intention from doing positive things in our life, we end up stagnant or worse.
This is another area to be honest with yourself. If this is an area that you’ve battled frequently in life, how have excuses hindered your progress?
Know That You Are Capable!
“People spend too much time finding other people to blame, too much energy finding excuses for not being what they are capable of being, and not enough energy putting themselves on the line, growing out of the past, and getting on with their lives.”~ J. Michael Straczynski
You are stronger than you give yourself credit! If it would be motivating, write out some words of encouragement to yourself. Keep them insight: fridge, mirror, phone, cubical, car, etc. Find scripture that is encouraging to you. Read and pray on that, daily.
Be Prepared for the Difficult Moment of Confronting Your Excuse
In Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the first habit mentioned is to be proactive. In essence, it’s our ability to choose how we react to something. Originating from a quotation by Victor Frankl (a WWII prisoner of war), Stephen Covey writes:
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In those choices lie our growth and our happiness.”
Be prepared for this gap. This brief moment where you decide what action you’re going to take. By this point, you have done the work of better understanding your excuse, creating an action plan to reach your goals, now it’s time for execution. This is where you’re able to implement your new findings within this gap of decision making.
Have a Rebound Plan
When implementing a new habit or striving for a new goal, it’s important to create a net of encouragement for the difficult moments. Although we would love to implement these changes once and never look back, sometimes it’s not that successful. Please don’t take this as discouraging, I’m just sharing insight from my own reality. If I’m faced with a task that I normally would make an excuse to avoid, I might be able to “get it right” 4 of 5 times. If I let that 1 of 5 experience completely discourage me from continuing, I wouldn’t continue striving for my goal.
Instead, it’s important to have a mental and emotional net to keep yourself from giving up. This could be a way to celebrate the times you get it right or a list of positive affirmations for the times you don’t. The important thing is to think ahead and address both perspectives of your journey. You have to protect your encouragement and motivation.
We talked about encouragement immediately above. This is important. It keeps you engaged in striving towards your goals. However, I want to warn you against only striving towards your goals when you “feel” like it. Excuses are prime time for situations where discipline is lacking. Discipline is what keeps your actions pointed in the right direction when your intention is getting weary. When it’s easy to quit, discipline takes over!
YouTube has endless motivational talks from individuals of great note: athlete, entrepreneurs, pastors, authors, etc. Individuals who have pushed past their comfort levels in order to achieve greatness. These YouTube compilations are fantastic sources of motivation and emphasis on discipline. If you have a day or moment where you’re feeling your discipline start to slip, take some time to listen to these clips. Just search “motivational” or “discipline” into YouTube search to find some great gems. You will be encouraged!
The outcomes of our actions will always come forth, whether we want them to or not. If you spend a lifetime trashing your body with overprocessed and unhealthy food, you can expect weight gain and poor energy levels in the short term. In the long term, you should expect hypertension, congested artery disease, type 2 diabetes, etc. Even if you don’t want health related diseases, they are likely to be a result of these actions.
You know what the consequences are for your action or lack of action. They’re the same consequences you’ve faced before. However, understand that there are, likely, consequences even past what you’re currently experiencing. When excuses create consequences, expected or not, you are impacting more than just you. Think about your family, friends, those dependent on you, and more. You are important enough to care about. When you take care of yourself and take responsibility for your actions, your positive impact goes far beyond you!
For the Excuse Maker in Your Life
Now that you’ve studied the gamut of impacts that excuses can have on your life, you are able to help others work through their excuses as well. Do you know someone who’s making excuses that are hindering their life? Help them with identifying the true reasons behind their excuses, make them aware of how the excuses are hurting them in the short and long term.
Be aware, not everyone is willing to confront these obstacles in life. However, you can be the example of how to change this behavior. When others see you facing the realities of your actions and how you are able to confront your excuses head on, they will be encouraged and want to do the same.
“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.”– Jim Rohn