“The dog ate my homework” is one of the most widely known excuses. We use excuses in a bid to protect our ego and direct blame externally. They help us justify our ineptness and avoid punishment.
But excuses only serve an inauthentic and miserable being. They pave the way for poor performances and a subpar life. They paint us as deceitful and untrustworthy. People who hide behind excuses are destined to be overlooked in their professional and personal lives. So how do you stop making excuses?
Let’s be honest; we’ve all made excuses in the past. We know they don’t serve us, so it’s time to stop. This article will outline the detrimental impact of excuses and suggest 5 ways you can stop making excuses.
What is an excuse?
An excuse is an explanation offered as grounds for failing to do something. It intends to bring us justification for our lacking performance.
But the reality is an excuse is a distraction, which serves as a bypass for personal accountability and ownership. Excuses cover up our inadequacies while it would be better to take responsibility for them.
According to this article: “excuses are lies we tell ourselves.”
Excuses often fall into several categories:
- Shift blame.
- Remove personal accountability.
- Buckle under interrogation.
- Infiltrated with lies.
Most excuses are weak and often fall apart upon close inspection.
Think of the person who is constantly late for work. They will give every excuse under the sun:
- Heavy traffic.
- Vehicle accident.
- The alarm didn’t go off.
- The dog was sick.
- Child playing up.
- Partner needed something.
But what the people who pedal these excuses don’t do, is suggest they could have managed their time better.
Many years ago, I owned a flat with a friend. Big mistake! Even during the purchasing process, excuses riddled her communication. The payment was late, but it was her bank’s fault! Working with my friend, who constantly body-swerved any accountability, was exhausting. Her behavior came across as deceitful and self-absorbed. I lost trust in her, and our relationship has forever changed.
Psychologists class excuses as self-handicapping behavior. This means that making excuses only serves to hurt our motivation and performance, even though it may lead to short-term ego boosts. Because ultimately, we use excuses to protect our own ego!
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The difference between reasons and excuses
A reason is valid. It is honest and open and describes an unavoidable circumstance.
I work as a running coach with ultra runners. Most of my athletes own their training and work hard to set themselves up for success. Sometimes there are reasons why an athlete misses a training session, and these reasons are valid.
- Broken bones.
- Family emergency.
- Unexpected and unavoidable life occurrence.
But sometimes, excuses arise. These excuses only serve to hurt the athlete.
- Ran out of time.
- I was going to run from work but forgot my trainers.
- Feigning illness.
There is a critical difference between a reason and an excuse.
It is easy to make excuses, to shift the blame and accountability to factors seemingly out of our control.
But it’s when we own the errors that we gain empowerment.
For instance, if we run out of time, instead of serving this as an excuse for a missed training session, a dedicated athlete will recognize their mishap with time management. They will ensure it doesn’t happen again and take personal responsibility for the error.
5 ways to stop making excuses
According to this article, the problem with making constant excuses is that it makes you more likely to be:
I don’t think anyone wants to be associated with those traits. So let’s set about eradicating excuses from our lives. Here are 5 ways you can stop making excuses.
1. Embrace honesty
If you say you want to lose weight but make excuses for overeating and under-exercising, it seems your desires don’t match your actions.
In this case, try to be more honest. You may want to lose weight, but you don't want it bad enough to make any changes to your lifestyle.
Someone close to me is aging rapidly. She tells me she can no longer spend hours gardening as she lacks fitness. I suggested she works on her fitness by taking daily walks. Perhaps even attend some yoga classes. Every suggestion I make, she has a rebuttal at hand.
She blames her lack of fitness but then chooses not to do anything about this.
This behavior is a prime example of an excuse. She could own this and embrace honesty. Instead of insinuating that she has no control over the demise of her fitness, she could be realistic.
This realism would involve her recognizing that there are things she could do to enable her to spend more time gardening, but she is not prepared to do these things.
Instead of the “I can’t get fitter because X, Y, Z,” let’s own this and say, “I’m not prepared to take the steps required to get fitter.”
When we are honest with ourselves, we are more accountable and authentic instead of coming out with excuses.
2. Be accountable
Sometimes we need the help of others to be accountable.
I enlisted the help of a running coach several years ago. Since then, my running has improved drastically. I have nowhere to hide, and I can’t blow my coach off with excuses. He holds a mirror up to me and shines a light on any excuses.
My coach helps me with my accountability.
You don’t have to enlist a coach to help you be accountable. There are other ways you can increase your accountability.
- Make a plan and stick to it.
- Team up with a friend and hold each other to account.
- Enlist a mentor.
- Sign up for a group class.
We can transfer this accountability to all areas of life. It may help you quit smoking or drinking. It can help you get fit and lose weight and aid your personal growth quest.
When we feel accountable, we are less likely to come out with excuses.
3. Challenge yourself
If you hear yourself coming out with excuses, challenge yourself.
We develop our excuses in the subconscious, so we need to tune into what we espouse. Learning to recognize our patterns, habits, and excuses takes time.
Then, it’s time to challenge ourselves.
If we hear ourselves coming out with an excuse, ask yourself if this is an adequate reason or if it is simply an excuse with a reasonable solution.
“It’s raining, so I didn’t train.”
Excuse? There are several ways around this.
Yes, training in the rain can be miserable, but there are several ways around this:
- Be organized, know the weather forecast in advance and arrange to train around this.
- Wear a waterproof jacket and get on with it.
- Set up a treadmill in the house to avoid missed training sessions.
All excuses have a way around them. We need to look a little deeper.
If you find it hard to challenge yourself, here are some actionable tips!
4. Do or do not, there is no try
Yoda said, “do or do not; there is no try.” This little wise guy is absolutely correct!
When we say we are “trying” to do something, we are permitting ourselves to come up with excuses.
Think about it, how do these sentences make you feel?
- I will try and get to dinner on time.
- I will try and get to your football match.
- I will try and lose weight.
- I will try and get fit.
- I will try and stop smoking.
To me, they seem insincere. It feels like the person who says these comments is already thinking about what excuses they will come up with for reneging on their words.
When we commit and own our future actions, we set ourselves up to be trusted by our peers and follow through with success.
- I will be on time for dinner.
- I will get to your football match on time.
- I will lose weight.
- I will get fit.
- I will stop smoking.
There is an assertion and confidence in the second list; do you see it?
5. Let your excuses lead you
If you are constantly using excuses to avoid spending time with someone, maybe it’s time you address your avoidance.
If you hide behind excuses for the reason you haven’t made steps to put your house on the market and follow your partner to their hometown, maybe it’s time you addressed your doubts.
Sometimes our excuses are trying to tell us something. We all know there are ways around our excuses, so they will not hold off the inevitable forever. So perhaps you need to recognize why you are pedaling some of your excuses in the first place.
This recognition will lead to a deeper understanding of yourself.
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How do you feel when you hear other people pedal excuses at you? It’s frustrating, isn’t it? We start to lose faith in that person. Don’t allow yourself to be the person others avoid.
How do excuses show up in your life? What do you do to address them? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!