What aspect of your life don’t you feel really great about? Is it your job and the direction of your career (or lack thereof), a relationship, your fitness level, your finances, where you live? Now ask yourself what you could do by the end of this year that would make a real difference to how you feel about this area of your life.
Aaaahh … but what’s that I hear you mumbling under your breath? "I’m just too busy right now … I've got so much going on I don't have time for dealing with this ... not now anyway ... perhaps next month ... besides, this is the way it has always been … this is the way I have always been … and on top of all that I just don’t know where to start … so really, what’s the point?"
Whatever your excuses consider this: the quality of your excuses determines the quality of your life! Now I’m not saying that you don’t have some great reasons for why things are as they are and why this particular area of your life isn't doing so well. However, whilst you are prepared to continue to put up with parts of your life being less than you’d love them to be - without any firm and consistent action toward improving them - you are selling yourself way short and missing the boat on all that you and your life could be.
Often what lies at the core of our excuses and resistance to taking action is fear. Fear of failing, of being rejected, of not be good enough, of not being lovable (or not lovable enough!), of looking foolish, of messing up. Your fears are driven by an intention to protect you from pain (a survival instinct that saved we Homo sapiens from being lion’s dinner long ago). The problem is – your fears want to protect you from pain at any cost! Even the cost of living a life where you settle for way less simply because to take action toward more and better involves risk – risk of rejection, of failure, risk of pain!
If you don’t own your fears and self doubts they will own you. Too often, instead of acknowledging your fears and how they may be trying to serve you, you look around your environment for excuses to justify your inaction. Psychological research has found that when people have an opinion about something (in this case an excuse), they actively seek out evidence to support the validity of their opinions (or excuses) whilst avoiding, ignoring or discrediting anything that might contradict them (triggering, what's called The Perceptual Defense Mechanism). Ultimately people end up feeling resigned, convincing themselves that it’s better to stay with the status quo, despite its many shortcomings, than to try to make things different.
To move beyond your excuses you have to be prepared to leave the predictable for the unknown. To overcome your fear of the unknown, it is important to first acknowledge the payoff you’ve been getting (and I can assure you there is always a payoff on some level) by choosing (whether consciously or not) to stay where you are. For instance, you may have become very attached to feeling like a victim of your parents’ incompetent or neglectful parenting and to blaming them for your lack of success in life. Or, another favorite, the payoff of feeling like a martyr (to your children, your husband or boss) because you have had to give up your life for them, a convenient excuse not to do something for you!
Sure, taking action to address those areas of your life you're dissatisfied with can be scary. No argument there. But one thing I will push back on you about is this: you have everything you need within you - courage, resourcefulness, strength - right now to transform your life into whatever it is you'd like it to be. You just have to tap into it. After all, courage is not absence of fear or self doubt but action in their presence.
Don’t give your excuses the power to stop you from doing whatever it takes to transform your life into one that inspires you. Take a deep breath then step up to the high board and dive deep, trusting in your ability to make the changes, take the chances and achieve whatever it is that you want for yourself in life.
Only when you leave the comfort of your excuses behind can you grow into all that you can be and create for yourself – a life rich in all you seek. In the words of Samuel Johnston, "nothing great would ever have been accomplished if all possible objections (i.e. excuses) had first been overcome." You see, there will always be plenty of reasons to avoid taking a risk, so make a change and address the issues that undermine your happiness and limit your success - personally and professionally. But where will that land you? Likely, right where it’s gotten you! So, don’t let your excuses keep you from looking back on this year – and one day your life – and feeling absolutely fabulous about what you made of it. Today begin creating a life that you really love. Why today? Well, why not? Your life shrinks or expands in proportion to your willingness to let go your excuses, dream bigger and live bolder.
1. Get very clear on your goal by writing down what it is you’d like to change/accomplish.
2. Write down all the excuses you’ve used for not taking action on this before.
3. Write down what those excuses have cost you in terms of how you feel about yourself and your life.
4. Write down the payoff you’ve gotten from allowing those excuses to keep you in inaction (e.g. you’ve avoided risking failure, you haven’t had to take responsibility for your life, its been easy, etc.) and ask yourself if you're ready to let go of that pay-off.
5. Challenge the logic and reasoning behind each of your excuses; seek evidence that does not support their validity.
6. If one of your excuses is that you’re too busy, decide what you are going to do differently to create the time you need to accomplish your goal. Sometimes we have to say no to the good to make room for the great!
7. Break down your goal into itty-bitty steps and set deadlines for the first few.
8. Commit to taking at least one action every day, beginning today, toward your goal.
9 Get support! Share your goal with at least one person and ask her to hold you accountable until you’ve reached it.