Can you think of 3 letters that could ruin your life? I can: B-U-T. This one tiny word is insidiously easy to use. With it, we can explain away all the things in our lives that aren’t the way we want them to be.
We can rationalize our situation to make ourselves think that achieving our dreams is impossible — not even worth trying. With almost no effort at all, we can “prove” that we’re stuck right where we are, with no possibility of changing our situation. It’s easy. The only problem is, it’s making us miserable.
Making excuses is easy
It’s much easier to make an excuse than to do the work that would propel us up and out of a rut and back on the path to success. It goes a little something like this: “I really want to write a novel, BUT I just don’t have the time, BUT I can’t get up early and write because I really need my sleep, BUT I can’t skip my favorite TV show and write instead because my TV show helps me unwind. Guess I’ll never write it after all.”
It’s much easier to make an excuse than to do the work that would propel us up and out of a rut and back on the path to success.
Or what about: “I really hate my job, BUT I can’t do what I really want to do because I’d need a different degree, BUT I can’t get the degree because I’d have to go to night school, BUT I can’t go to night school because I need my sleep. Guess I’ll stay at this job I hate.”
Our excuses sound rational to us. They sound reasonable. And it’s easy to create a whole web of excuses that trap us into thinking we really can’t do anything about the things we wish were different. But that’s not true at all. Sure, some situations in life really can't be changed — some raw deals that require courage, endurance, and strength to get through — but most of the time, something can be done to better our situations, if we’d only stop making excuses, and get things done.
How do we do that? Check out these tips.
Acknowledge your excuses
A lot of our excuses don’t really feel like excuses to us. They feel like cold hard facts. So we sometimes don’t even know we’re making excuses — we think we’re just explaining why we’re in the situation we’re in. For example, if you’re wishing you had more of a social life but (and there’s that pesky little word again) you work long hours, and you’re very shy, and you can’t find any groups to join on topics that interest you, you may feel like these are just facts. And they may be facts, but they’re also excuses.
There’s a difference between things that make it difficult to reach your goals and reasons why you’re not going to try. Most things that are worthwhile — most things we really want — take some work to achieve. And work is hard. It’s uncomfortable; it’s scary, it takes time, and patience, and endurance, and resolve. The things that make it difficult for you to reach your goals are the things that make it hard. But if you use them as reasons why you’re not even going to try, then you’re making excuses.
The first step towards achieving your goals is to acknowledge that you’re making excuses. If you work long hours, but you want to be social, ask some friends from work to hang out at lunchtime. If you need a different degree to get a better job, going to night school won’t kill you. You’ll be tired, but people can be tired and survive. You get the idea. Acknowledge that you’re making excuses, and you’ll be well on your way to moving past them.
The first step towards achieving your goals is to acknowledge that you’re making excuses.
Live with your discomfort
One of the main reasons we make excuses is because doing the things we need to do to achieve our goals is uncomfortable. If you’re hoping to find a boyfriend, but you’re very shy, it’ll be uncomfortable to go on some dates. If you want to get fit but the gym near you doesn’t have any classes that interest you, it’ll be uncomfortable to have to go to one you like less — not to mention uncomfortable to actually have to go to the gym in the first place. If you want to write a novel but making time to do it will mean getting up earlier in the morning, it’ll be uncomfortable to get out of bed when you’re so tired. All these things are uncomfortable, but not impossible.
Life isn’t meant to be comfortable. It’s meant to be joyful, beautiful, and fulfilling. There’s a difference. The things you have to do to achieve your goals might make you very uncomfortable — like if you’re painfully shy but want to meet new people, or you’re afraid of flying but you long to see the world. But feeling uncomfortable isn’t a reason not to do something, and using it that way turns it into an excuse. Here’s a radical notion: you can feel uncomfortable (even really really painfully uncomfortable) and do the thing anyway.
You can feel uncomfortable (even really really painfully uncomfortable) and do the thing anyway.
If you can live with your discomfort —- which is no small feat, I get that — then you can turn your excuses into obstacles to overcome rather than insurmountable barriers. I don’t say “live with your discomfort” lightly. I get that it’s really hard to walk into a room full of strangers and say hello when you’ve got social anxiety, for example, but it isn’t impossible. The trick is to separate the feeling from the action. You can feel terrified, and sweaty, and clammy, and panicky, and do the thing anyway. You really can. I’ve done it.
Make specific goals and commit to seeing them through
Make a list of the things you want to accomplish — no matter how impossible they seem. Literally, write them down. If they’re achievable — as in, you didn’t write down “turn into a unicorn” or something — then commit to following through, no matter what. Also, write down what you’d need to do to achieve your goals — even if the things you’d need to do seem really hard or even impossible. Then make a plan for how you’re going to do what you need to do.
Write down what you’d need to do to achieve your goals — even if the things you’d need to do seem really hard or even impossible.
For example, if your goal is “learn to play guitar,” write down what you’d need in order to get there. Maybe you need to save up enough money to buy a guitar. Maybe you need to sign up for lessons. Maybe you need to carve out fifteen minutes each day to practice. Whatever it is that you think you’re going to need to do to make this work, write it down. And then — and this part is really important — write down what you’d need to do or change in order to make those things happen. This is the place where the excuses will pop up. Ignore them. Every time you think, “But I can’t do that because . . .” tell that little voice to be quiet. There’s no place for “but” when you’re trying to achieve your goals.
Excuses are normal. We all make them. But they hold us back from the things we really want. So figure out what it is you want, what you need to do to get there, and then get there. It’s as simple as that. Well, not simple exactly, but possible. And possible is good. You’ve got this!