What Would My Life Look Like If I Couldn’t Use Excuses?

The person who really wants to do something finds a way; the other person finds an excuse.
-Author Unknown

This month’s blog explores what holds us back from taking the actions we need to with regards to our behaviors as well as our thoughts. The question comes from Wayne Dyer’s book on “Excuses Be Gone” . Just asking the question of “what would my life look like if I couldn’t use this excuse?” is a powerful step to taking responsibility for moving our lives into the direction of positive change. Dyer lists a number of excuses in his book but I want to focus on the ones I hear most from my clients.

Let’s start with one of the most common excuses-I am too busy-which translates into I don’t have enough time or it will take a long time. How many times have you heard “time is all you have”? If we are passionate about want to change or need to change, time is all you have! A quick reminder that we all have the same twenty-four hours in a day leads us to two issues that many people struggle with-time management and saying no or a combination of both. To move beyond the time question, you might explore David Allen’s work on time management in “Getting Things Done” . Many of my clients have used his ideas when the major issue is being able prioritize. Saying no can be a little more dicey because we often find ourselves in an emotional bind. I could write an entire blog on saying no but suffice it to say that most people predict dire consequences to saying no when sometimes a conversation with the other person will produce the exact desired results. An exercise I often do with clients is to ask them if the “no’ is never or just not now. Asking the requester if the action is something that could happen in the future just not now will often open up the emotional space so that both parties feel that needs are being met.

Follow that excuse with-It’s too big. It is easy to become overwhelmed by what we are facing. Jack Canfield in “The Success Principles”  would adviseBusinessman looking through window that we need to chunk things down. He offers a number of suggestions from speaking with someone who has already “chunked something down” to starting at the end and looking backward. For example if you want to go back to school, it may take two years to complete a degree. Finding the requirements for courses and then dividing them by the number of weeks available will provide you with a weekly average of time needed for completion of tasks. To use a more mundane example, when you want to lose weight, losing it in five pound segments or one month intervals could help you to let go of any stress associated with a big number.

Add the excuse-it is too risky. It is true that at times in our lives what we thinking about doing may seem too risky. However, how could you work through the aspects that are fearful about what you are about to do while validating what you really cannot risk. Once you have made that determination, Susan Jeffers would advise you to feel the fear and do it any way. In her book, “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway” she relates that pushing ourselves into and through fear is actually less frightening than living with the bigger underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness. It is the relief from this helplessness that gives us the power to make decisions and take action more quickly and as it builds our confidence that we can tackle anything.

Next is, I am not strong enough. When we think about being strong enough we often do not visualize physical strength rather we are talking about emotional strength and resistance. Have you ever experienced someone who just seemed to have such inner strength that they could do anything? What they are exercising is willpower. Most authors agree that willpower is both exhaustible and creatable, that is you have a given supply at the beginning of the day and by the end of the day you most likely have exhausted your supply depending upon the challenges you faced. However, when you overcome a struggle or temptation you actually build the willpower needed to fact even grater challenges. What could do today to build willpower for the future.

And finally, one of my favorites, it has never happened before. We are definitely creatures of comfort yet think of what we can accomplish when we let go of the path we are on to follow a different path. Many of us are examples of individuals with college degrees, businesses that did not exist prior to our creativity, and roles in organization that did not exist previously, etc. The list is endless. How are you making excuses to limit yourself in ways that take you away from your highest dreams? Mathew Kelley in “The Dream Manager” tells us that dreams are invisible, but powerful- associating them with electricity that cannot be seen yet keeps everything going. Investing in your dreams is a powerful way to move beyond the limitations that you set for yourself when you allow yourself to use the excuse that it has never happened before.

The next time you are tempted to come up with an excuse for why you cannot take action, think about this list and ask yourself “who would I be with out this excuse”? Then ask yourself, “what would I have to do if I wasn’t using this excuse?” You might be surprised at the answer.

To Your Success,

Dr. Peggy