I’m sure a lot of us can remember a time when we procrastinated and wasted our day away before starting an important project, task or errand. But I’m also pretty sure most of us can remember a time when we started a project immediately and finished ahead of schedule! #bestfeelingever
Sometimes, we make excuses — you respond to your friend’s text asking you out for drinks, saying that you promised your mom you’d take her out for dinner (when secretly you’re having dinner with Netflix and frozen pizza). But what about the excuses we tell ourselves . . . Those times when you think to yourself, ‘It’s not like I’ll get the job anyway. Why bother!’ When really, you have an excellent chance of landing that job, you just fear change a little more than you crave success.
“Excuses comprise the root of much of our self-destructive behavior,” says Ashley Fern, writer for Elite Daily. They’re an avoidance tactic and something we conjure up to explain away our limitations. They prevent us from achieving greatness and keep us from reaching for our dreams.
But to me, procrastinating and making excuses are two slightly different things. When you procrastinate, you lack willpower. If willpower is outside of your direct control, then claiming willpower as a solution isn’t going to work.
Instead, I believe that the answer to stop making excuses has two steps:
- organizing your priorities
- breaking large, uncomfortable steps into manageable pieces
How To Stop Making Excuses
Organizing Your Priorities
What’s more important to you right now? Expanding your finances? Succeeding academically? Improving the quality of your relationship? Excuse making is the result of conflicting priorities. When you don’t have a system for making decisions, the tendency is to just go with whatever feels best in the moment.
You can clear this up by defining what your priorities are. The purpose is to aid when one event conflicts with another. If you have to decide between working on a school project or going on a date, you need to look at your priorities. Which ranks higher? Relationships or academic success.
Priorities clear up the need for excuse making, since it simplifies decisions with conflicting values. With priorities, it’s important to define your major focus and minor focuses. A major focus would get the benefit of any extra attention you have to devote to it. Minor focuses won’t be abandoned, but your goal is to put them on autopilot so most of your mental energies are devoted to your major focus.
To give you an example, my major focus right now is self-love. My minor focuses are my health, relationships, friends, and this blog. These minor focuses continue to be worked on while I improve loving and accepting myself. But most of my mental attention is going into ways I can love myself more fully.
Splitting your priorities into a single major focus and several minor focuses make it far less difficult to put out excuses. Whenever a conflict arises where I would normally offer an excuse, I can simply think back to my priorities. When priorities are clear, it’s hard to justify departing from them.
Breaking Down Discomfort
Mixed-up priorities are only a part of excuse making. Unwillingness to step into uncomfortable situations is another. Success in almost any effort requires taking risks and facing failure. Becoming a great public speaker requires you to get up in front of a big audience and possibly deliver a terrible speech.
The problem is, when your priorities dictate your need to take a big step, and you can’t do it. This could mean wanting to improve your business, but not being willing to make cold calls or marketing your product.
What results is excuse making. You find easier tasks to do and excuse your procrastination. Rationalize away the feeling that you don’t feel comfortable going forward.
The fix here is to break down uncomfortable steps. Laziness is just another manifestation of fear. So, if you can’t take the next step, break it into smaller parts you can handle. If you can’t get up on stage to speak, try delivering your speech in front of a few friends. If you can’t make a cold call, try calling someone you already know.
Sometimes, however, a step can’t be broken down. You either need to face it entirely or not at all. In these situations, you need to get leverage for yourself. Give a friend $100 of yours to hold onto until you follow through. Make a public commitment.
The next time you catch yourself making an excuse, ask yourself: ‘Does this fit in with my priorities?’ If it doesn’t and you still find yourself making excuses, ask yourself if there is any way you could push yourself through the next step.
* * *
When you don’t get what you want, it’s easy to make excuses for it. If you’re constantly telling yourself you don’t have time, money or energy to make things happen, you’re allowing yourself to stay stuck.
If you really want to make things happen in your life, you need to start playing offense instead of defense. After identifying your priorities, you need to also identify:
- What’s holding you back and why
- What you need in order to achieve your goal
- A plan to make it happen
Then, most importantly, you need to do the work to break down any discomfort around the goal. If you forget the importance of your goal, you’re more likely to make excuses on why you can’t make it happen.
Today, stop making excuses for what you don’t have in your life. Instead, figure out what you need to get there and make room for your goals.
+What goal are you going to make a priority today? How else do you train yourself to stop making excuses? Tell me in the comments below!
Much love and good luck