Excuse me!

I’ll do it tomorrow. I don’t have the time right now. I’m too busy.

Whatever your go-to line, we have all given an explanation at some point to delay doing something we ought to be doing. I believe you, it was a legitimate reason… Or was it?

I have had some great ideas in my life, but for one of these reasons or another, I have not executed them. Have you ever started something but never finished it?

We often think of commitments as long-term; physically (exercising, dieting), mentally (practising mindfulness, revising for exams), or emotionally (developing patience, being more considerate). However, we often make short-term commitments too. These may be as immediate as making a home-cooked meal, doing the laundry, or even taking a relaxing bath.

That said, if you find yourself struggling to commit to the long-term goals, focus on the short-term goals. If you are managing to meet your short-term objectives, what is to stop you from meeting your long term aims.

Psychologists consider ‘making excuses’ to be a form of self-handicapping. This term was coined by Berglas and Jones (1978) as “any action or choice of performance setting that enhances the opportunity to externalise (or excuse) failure and to internalise (reasonably accept credit for) success”, i.e. getting in the way of your own achievements (for more on this topic click here).

If we let them, our excuses will prevent us from reaching our goals. If they had their way, we would not even get out of bed in the morning! The cleverer you are – the better you are at coming up with these fibs – the more likely you are to come up with rationalisations as to why you cannot reach that goal. That said, if we truly want to hit our goals, all we need do is stand up to those excuses and take back control. It may not be easy, but it will definitely be worthwhile.

Get on top of your excuses with the following tips:

  • Consider your ‘go-to’ excuse. Now come up with handy ways you can ‘beat it back’; you may have some motivational phrase, such as ‘you can do this!’, an activity, such as an aerobic routine that gets you going, or something else. Write it down somewhere important so you’ll remember it!
  • Take stock of the areas in which you feel you could be doing better, were it not for those pesky excuses. Is there something greater holding you back or are you really making excuses because you cannot be bothered? Develop some practical steps for managing yourself so you can overcome those pitfalls.
  • Practice forgiveness. We all have weaknesses, things holding us back, and like to excuse ourselves once in a while. Acknowledge and accept a distraction for what it is, and move on.

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