Why Excuses Will Stunt Your Growth and How You Can Stop Them
Photo by Arthur Savary on Unsplash
Tell me if this has happened to you. You decide to go on a fitness regime and prepare everything you need — new workout clothes, smaller plates, more greens, and perhaps some protein powder.
Things go fine for a few days until life happens. You wake up late one day and think “I don’t have time to exercise” or you eat multiple servings of dessert at a friend’s party thinking it’s no big deal.
Almost invariably, then, you feel guilty about making those decisions, no matter how “rational” they seem in the moment.
If you’ve experienced this before, welcome to the club! This club is called “I’m only human!”
The people in this club have a fantastic ability to rationalize bad decisions. In this club, we try to make sure that we can justify our actions and think what we did was right.
We think these are valid reasons. But those who are not in the club see these reasons in a different light — they call them excuses.
Why this disparity? Because your mind plays a trick to keep you in delusion. When you’re tempted to slack off or break a promise you made, the mind will make up logical arguments to make you feel better. These thoughts sound something like this:
- “No one gets fat by eating sweets once a week!”
- “You’ve worked so hard, you deserve to watch a movie!”
- “After all, things were just not in my control!”
…and so on.
The Problem with Excuses
Excuses are nothing but handicaps. They hinder your performance, often against the will of your higher self. In other words, even though we resolve to not make any excuses, the mind gets the better of us.
The problem, however, is not in the mind. It stems from the ego’s fear of shame and anxiety.
At work recently, some teams in our company, including mine, did not meet their targets. Of course, all of us had our reasons as to why that didn’t happen. These included both controllable and uncontrollable factors.
However, when asked to justify, however, it was apparent that each of us was amplifying the uncontrollable and discounting the controllable. Which is to say, when we didn’t achieve our goals, we pointed a finger at things that were not in our control.
It doesn’t matter what was the real issue. But the point is this — to not feel ashamed, we developed certain excuses for our failure. By giving excuses thus, we lied to ourselves and impaired our potential in the long run.
Avoiding this feeling of shame and anxiety is inherent in human nature. But the question worth asking is — Is it helping us?
In one sense, occasional excuses may help us protect our self-esteem and take the threat off our self-image. But that’s only good if we learn from our mistakes. These “good” excuses are credible and do not impair your performance in the future.
But when your excuses are ridiculous and childish, you stunt your personal growth. When you say “It’s too cold outside to go to the gym” or “I couldn’t meet this deadline because another person didn’t do their part,” you’re affirming your inability to control your life’s circumstances.
If repeated continuously, it can make the “victim mentality” your default state of existence, which feels disempowering and demotivating.
How To Break Your Excuse Habit
Excuses are often subconscious. We blurt out excuses before we get the time to process them. To stop this, we need to be in control and aware of our mental tendencies. This is where meditation comes into the picture to change your brain for the better.
A study found that meditation helps increase feelings of self-control even when we’re stressed or feel inadequate. The authors of the study write,
Participants who had been depleted of self-control resources by an emotion suppression task showed decrements in self-control performance as compared to participants who had not suppressed emotions.
However, participants who had meditated after emotion suppression performed equally well on the subsequent self-control task as participants who had not exerted self-control previously.
This finding suggests that a brief period of mindfulness meditation may serve as a quick and efficient strategy to foster self-control under conditions of low resources.
A few minutes of meditation will refuel your mind with self-control and regulatory powers. With regular practice of meditation, I’m able to be aware before I blurt out any excuse that my mind makes up.
I can catch that thought and realize that it’s only an excuse after all. This also gives me a hint to introspect what can I do to reach my goals better, personally and professionally.
When you find yourself making an excuse (which meditation will help you do), think about whether it’s really true or are you using outside factors to hide your mistakes? What can you do better to improve?
For instance, if you’ve eaten a scoop of ice cream, instead of thinking “I might as well have another,” you can stop and exercise a little longer the next day. Similarly, if you woke up late and don’t have time for your full morning routine, you can still do a few things rather than giving up altogether.
Avoid thinking about the past at all. Don’t dig into the past to find more excuses. Introspect and learn from your mistakes, but don’t justify to anyone else.
Once you start focusing on the present, you’ll become more solution and opportunity-oriented. This simple shift of perspective will put you on the path to success.
He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else. — Benjamin Franklin
It’s crucial to understand that excuses lead to stagnation and regret. When growth stops, we feel unhappy.
To succeed, you must continuously venture into new territories that make you slightly uncomfortable. And to do that, you have to take full responsibility for your actions, instead of shrugging it away with excuses.
Yes, taking responsibility is scary. But until you learn to shoulder that responsibility, you’ll never be stronger. You’ll be like the guy at the gym with chicken legs who never does barbell squats because he’s afraid of them.
Taking responsibility, just like squats, may hurt for some time, but will pay off in the long run. So be aware of your excuse-making habits, stop them and you’ll definitely see a shift in your life (and never skip leg day, of course!).