13 Steps to Stop Making Excuses and Get Results in Your Life
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Did you give in to that leftover piece of cake that was left at the office?
Or do you frequently procrastinate on tasks or projects that you know are important?
As humans, we are fantastic at picking from a wide range of excuses to limit our capabilities. From avoiding the gym to studying for an exam, it's easy to come up with excuses about why we can't follow through on the things that are “important, but not urgent.”
The truth is:
We all make excuses from time to time. This is a simple habit that we use to rationalize “why” we didn't follow through on a specific commitment.
That said, if you've developed a bad habit where you make excuses all the time, then it might be time to curb this behavior (and of course, not make excuses about why can't start today.)
In this article, we’ll talk about the specific reasons why people often make excuses and then you'll discover a 13-step process you can use to stop making excuses throughout all aspects of your life.
Let’s get to it.
What You Will Learn
- Why do we make excuses?
- Reason #1: You're experiencing fear
- Reason #2: You don't want to fail
- Reason #3: You're uncertain about an outcome
- Reason #4: You don't have a specific goal
- Reason #5: You're scared of making a mistake
- Reason #6: You compare yourself to others
- Reason #7: You're protecting your identity
- Reason #8: You're not motivated
- Types of Excuses
- Why It’s Important to Stop Making Excuses
- 13 Steps to Stop Making Excuses
- 1. Stop comparing yourself to others.
- 2. Stop fearing the unknown.
- 3. Stop blaming others for your misfortune.
- 4. Take responsibility.
- 5. Take action.
- 6. Set small, attainable goals.
- 7. Learn from your mistakes.
- 8. Don’t focus on your weaknesses.
- 9. You have the power to change.
- 10. Self-efficacy
- 11. Visualize your success.
- 12. It’s ok, you’re not perfect.
- 13. It’s a habit that can be changed.
Why do we make excuses?
To start, let's ask a simple question that you might have:
“Why do often make excuses whenever we encounter a difficult challenge or obstacle?”
Unfortunately, the answer depends on both your personal situation and the challenge that you're currently facing. But here are eight common reasons why people make excuses throughout their lives.
Reason #1: You're experiencing fear
The feeling of fear keeps us inside of our comfort zone and prevents us from venturing out into the unknown. However, fear is largely misunderstood. People are often afraid of things because they don't understand them or they are lacking all of the information they need.
The good news is the more you educate yourself about a challenge or process, the easier it will be to overcome a fear. It doesn't matter what obstacle you're dealing with — somebody, somewhere has probably gone through it. All you have to do is find out how they overcame it and your fears/anxieties will be eliminated.
Reason #2: You don't want to fail
Failure is unavoidable. It is inevitable that at some point during your life…You. Will. Fail.
So whenever you're trying something new or taking some risks, there is always a chance that you'll fail
However, it is also important to remember that you don't lose everything when you fail. Failure just means that things are not going the way you expected them to go and you need to remain flexible to get back on track. So, if you make excuses to reduce your risk of failing, it means you are never trying anything new.
One way to help you overcome your fear of failure is to embrace the idea that making mistakes and failing is actually a good thing. For more this, read this article that provides a 7-step process on how to learn from your mistakes.
Reason #3: You're uncertain about an outcome
The fear of uncertainty means that you are worrying about unknown future events or circumstances that could come your way. People fear uncertainty because they don't have enough experience to give them confidence.
Without experience and perspective, people often make assumptions or jump to conclusions about possible outcomes that could negatively impact them.
You can overcome the fear of uncertainty by using the “if-then” planning concept. The idea here is to think of every possible obstacle or challenge that you'll probably encounter, then create a strategy for how you'll handle them. And if you do this throughout all aspects of your life, it'll be hard to make excuses about why you can follow up with a project and/or task.
Reason #4: You don't have a specific goal
If you don't have specific and measurable goals, it is easy to make excuses to avoid doing something that you don't want to do.
For example, can you see the difference between: I want to lose weight this year and I am going to lose 10 pounds in the next 6 weeks?
With that specific goal in mind, you are less likely to come up with an excuse every day to skip the gym or to eat junk food. Vague goals will often get you very far.
Reason #5: You're scared of making a mistake
You may make excuses because you are scared to make a mistake. Mistakes might seem like the end of the world to you. However, mistakes are actually valuable.
Think about the mistakes you have made in your life and consider the ways that they have actually added strength to your character. Think about all of the skills your mistakes have taught you and how they have shaped your body of knowledge and personal development.
It is important to see mistakes as being a beneficial and critical part of your life and embrace them. If you make excuses to avoid mistakes, you may miss out on some of your biggest mistakes that may end up being your best learning experiences.
Reason #6: You compare yourself to others
People often fear being compared to others who they perceive to be more talented or better than others. People often measure themselves up to see if they perform better or worse than others.
It is important to not make excuses so you won't be compared to other people because then you aren't even giving yourself a chance to succeed. Who knows, compared with someone else, you may be the best.
Reason #7: You're protecting your identity
It is common to want to protect yourself from harm in any way. Whether it is physical, emotional, or mental, you are likely always on the lookout just a little bit to keep yourself safe.
For this reason, you may come up with excuses to not do things. You want to protect yourself and not put yourself in harm's way. While sometimes this is a very smart thing to do, other times it may hold you back.
Reason #8: You're not motivated
Sure, you don't want to write that paper, you don't want to make a healthy dinner at home, and you don't want to go to the gym. Without motivation, you can come up with any excuse in the book to stay complacent.
Types of Excuses
We mentioned that there are a wide range of excuses that people choose from when they are making an excuse.
These may be excuses that they make in their heads to just not do something or an excuse they tell to someone else who is asking them to do something. Either way, here are some common types of excuses people make.
Excuse #1: “I don’t have time.”
This is a weak argument. Do you not have any time or are you just not willing to make the task a priority?
The way you choose to spend you time is how you define your priorities. So, if you are making the excuse that you don't have time it really just means that you are not willing to make the time.
Excuse #2: “I don’t make enough money.”
This can also have to do with priorities. You choose what you spend your money on. So, if you would rather buy the newest smart phone than go on a trip with your friends or family, you are making that choice for yourself.
Excuse #3: “I can’t because I have kids.”
This excuse can sometimes be valid, but you can't play the “kid card” all the time. A lot of people have children and they are still able to get out and do things.
You have options. Get a babysitter, find a time when your kids are in school or tied up with activities, or even take your kids with you if it is appropriate. Your children do not have to be with you all day every day.
Excuse #4: “I don’t have an education.”
Get one. Or, get some experience in the field you are interested in. There are a lot of free seminars available both online and in person in many different subjects. If you want to get a formal education, you can always get a student loan (not advisable!) and pay it off once you have a career. It is never too late to further your education.
Excuse #5: “I don’t know how.”
If there is anything that you want to learn how do to, you can. From taking classes to learning from an expert to even becoming self-taught through books and online resources. You can learn how to do anything that you really want to do.
Excuse #6: “This is who I am, I can’t change.”
You can't change or you don't want to change? Yes, making changes takes effort and commitment and it can be very difficult.
If you just become defeated about an aspect of your personality without even attempting to change it, then you are just making excuses to stay complacent.
Excuse #7: “I'm destined for failure.”
This doesn't have to be a bad thing. Try what you think will end in failure and see what happens.
Maybe you will succeed. Or, maybe you will fail, but see what went wrong and learn from this experience. If this is the case, you may be able to try again and be successful.
Why It’s Important to Stop Making Excuses
So, why are all of these things bad? Aside from the fact that they are probably not true statements when you say them or when you think them out loud, they are causing you to limit yourself.
They keep you going on your same path without ever growing or branching out. Here are some specific reasons why it is important to stop making excuses.
They prevent you from reaching your full potential.
When you make an excuse, you aren't even giving yourself a shot to succeed. You may never even know what you are capable of if you have an excuse for everything that comes your way.
Hold you back.
Excuses can hold you back from a lot of things, including getting further in your career, getting healthier, and creating new relationships. They can limit you in every area of your life.
If you make an excuse to not do something, there is a big chance that you will end up regretting doing so. You don't want to look back on your life with a lot of feelings of “I wish…”
If you try something instead of making up an excuse to avoid it, there is a big chance that you will be glad you tried. If you sit back and do nothing, there is an equally big chance that you will regret not knowing how it would have turned out.
You’ll settle for less in life.
This is complacency. If you make excuses to not move up in life, you will stay in a mediocre position that keeps you content at best. This laziness can lead to a very unfulfilling life.
You won’t challenge yourself.
You may make an excuse because you don't want to have to put forth the effort to challenge yourself. But again, this will prevent you from growing in any way and will definitely prevent you from reaching any goals.
Keep us from growing.
This ties in to challenging yourself because you have to go through some challenges in order to grow. Your excuses help you live with the failed expectations that you already had for yourself.
So if you never expected yourself to grow in the first place, you certainly won't grow if you keep adding excuses to the mix.
You’ll teach your children your excuse making habit.
You want your children to be successful and confident in their endeavors. You don't want them to live a life of excuses and settle for mediocrity.
You want to teach your children to pursue everything they want to do, even if they have some reservations or fear of failing.
13 Steps to Stop Making Excuses
1. Stop comparing yourself to others.
The truth is, other people are probably comparing themselves to you. Also, when you are comparing yourself to someone else, you are probably only seeing part of the whole picture and filling in the rest with a lot of assumptions.
You can honestly never know what a person's life is really like by seeing them from the outside so you can never truly compare yourself to anyone else.
If you are making an excuse to not try something new because you are comparing yourself to others who are experts in the field, remember that they once stood in your shoes and were able to get where they are today.
2. Stop fearing the unknown.
Sure, things may go wrong. But, things may also go very right. The unknown can be scary, but that does not mean that it is necessarily bad.
So many good things can come in your life from taking chances into areas that are unknown to you. You can't just assume that anything that is unknown to you is going to turn out to be a negative thing.
3. Stop blaming others for your misfortune.
One of the most destructive things you can do in life is to play the blame game. It is the basis for a considerable amount of frustration and unhappiness in people's lives.
The blame game entails blaming someone else for something that happened to you that was undesirable, and staying convinced that it was someone else's fault instead of being proactive and making the necessary changes to resolve a situation. This often stems from irrational thinking and is not healthy for you or for the person you are blaming.
4. Take responsibility.
There are two components of taking responsibility. One is accepting personal responsibility and the other is accepting indirect responsibility.
Taking personal responsibility refers to taking ownership of your own actions and their consequences. If you are unable to accept responsibility for your actions or mistakes, it is likely very hard to gain the respect of other people.
Indirect responsibility involves moving beyond yourself to take necessary action to help other people. Having this type of responsibility reveals a factor of your character.
However, some may think of an excuse to not help someone else, perhaps assuming that someone else will do it. This is not a good way to gain the respect of other people.
5. Take action.
Part of taking action is taking risks. You may have big plans that you can imagine are great in theory, but never plan on actually following through with.
Stop making excuses and take the action that is needed to achieve the goals you want in life and create success for yourself.
6. Set small, attainable goals.
Setting large goals may seem so overwhelming that you don't even know where to start. Further, you may start working towards your long-term goal and find that you are not getting anywhere fast and give up.
Instead, break down your ultimate goal into many smaller goals that are attainable so you can make progress that you can actually see. Every time you meet one of these smaller goals, you will be more motivated to continue on to your ultimate goal. (Don't underestimate the power of small wins!)
For example, let's say you aren't much of a runner, but you want to run a marathon. You may start out by running one mile and then think that running 26.2 miles is an unattainable goal and you should just quit. Rather than starting with the ultimate goal of running a marathon, start with aiming to complete a 5k.
This is an attainable goal for someone who does not have a lot of running experience. Once that goal is complete, move up to a 10k. Keep increasing this goal until you reach your ultimate goal of finishing a marathon.
7. Learn from your mistakes.
Not only can you learn what not to do when you make a mistake, but you can also analyze what went wrong and figure out how you can do it better in the future.
All mistakes are learning opportunities, no matter how big or small the mistake may be. Often, trial and error is the best way to work something out.
8. Don’t focus on your weaknesses.
If you have a few weaknesses, be aware of them, but do not focus on them. Rather, focus on your strengths and the things that you have to offer that other people do not.
You can even delegate certain tasks to other people to help you bridge the gap in places where you know you will not be able to do a perfect job.
9. You have the power to change.
You do. You just have to be motivated to do so. You can't feel defeated or complacent with your life just being “okay.” Without making excuses, you have the power to change anything in your life.
If you don't feel like you can do it on your own, seek help from other people in order to achieve your goals and get the results you are looking for. Never think that you simply cannot change an aspect of your life.
When you are faced with a challenge, do you feel like you can handle it or do you come up with some excuses to avoid it?
Perhaps you have a tendency to doubt your own abilities to rise to the challenge and overcome the hardships that life throws your way?
Having self-efficacy means you have a strong belief in your own abilities to handle various situations. This can play an important role in how you feel about yourself and whether or not you are able to achieve the results you want in life.
11. Visualize your success.
Literally visualize what it would look like and feel like to achieve your goal and have success. Doing this can add some motivation to your agenda, as you will want to actually be able to feel those feelings of accomplishment.
12. It’s ok, you’re not perfect.
The truth is, no one is perfect. Also, no one expects you to be perfect.
Accept your mistakes and know that other people are willing to accept your mistakes as well, especially if you own up to them and learn from them. This is something that happens to everyone, even the most successful people.
13. It’s a habit that can be changed.
If you are used to coming up with excuses to get out of doing things, this is a habit that can be changed. Think about what you are actually trying to avoid when you make an excuse. Are you avoiding doing extra work? Or maybe you don't want to give up your free time or move around your priorities?
Try to figure out what you are really trying to get away from and address it head on. You can stop making excuses and start getting the results you want if you are able to have a clear vision of what you want for the future.
When it comes to your own future, making excuses is a habit that is limiting your ability to meet your full potential. It can keep you spinning your wheels for years without making any progress and lead you to feelings of dissatisfaction with life or a lack of purpose.
If you choose to blame other people for your own actions, this can lead to bad outcomes including developing a bad reputation with colleagues and peers.
You may take this to the opposite extreme and give other people credit for work that you actually did. If this is the case, you will likely be wondering why you are not making progress toward achieving your goals.
So, how can you make a change to make sure you get the results you are looking for in your life?
Follow the 13 steps that I outlined in this article, which will allow you to take the important first step to forever breaking this bad habit. Start with one or two. Once those are mastered, add a few more. It won't take long to follow all of these habits an set yourself up for long term success in your life.
Honestly, sometimes people get so used to making excuses that doing so is their default answer to everything. They hardly consider actually saying “yes” or taking on responsibility.
They are just wired to come up with one of the excuses that they hold handy. It is important to make the best of every situation instead and never make an excuse that is not valid.