For a person who prides herself on getting things done, I’ve made many an excuse and brainstormed many a scenario (hypothetical and actually executed) in my time in an attempt to avoid doing something I was scared to do, or something I just didn’t want to do.
I have said that I couldn’t exercise because I needed 8 hours of sleep – it was 8pm and I had to wake up at 9am the next day. I have wondered, for a fleeting moment, what would happen if I accidentally fell down the escalator and hit my head so I didn’t have to do a presentation at university? Luckily, the elevator did not cooperate. I have even told someone that I could not meet them because it was late (it was 7:30pm) and I needed to go to bed right away.
Some more ridiculous excuses I have made and concocted up in my mind include:
- “I’m working late so I can’t go to the gym.” I stayed at work until 5:45 instead of 5:30.
- “If my computer broke down conveniently then I wouldn’t have to do this presentation.” I even considered purposely forgetting to download the presentation onto a USB.
- “I have a lot of university work to do, but I’m doing research by watching this movie.” I didn’t even use the movie in my assignment.
- “My dad ate it.” Probably the most plausible out of all of these.
This slew of excuses and the lengths my brain will go to in order to avoid something just proves to me that often, the biggest enemy when it comes to achieving anything is ourselves.
Oliver Emberton wrote that the human mind consists of two parts: Albert (Einstein), our inner genius, and Rex, our inner baby lizard. In order to achieve anything, we must acknowledge and effectively deal with Rex so that Albert can work.
Essentially, we each have the potential for greatness. It’s just about knowing how to utilise it.
Mastering the art of controlling ourselves is, quite possibly, the most difficult roadblock we will face in our journey to reach our goals. It’s a challenge we will face every day without ever really getting conquering it; instead, it’s about learning to understand this part of ourselves; to live with it and deal with it.
So how do we stop making excuses?
Stop thinking about it and just do it
Nike got one thing right on the money – when it comes to achieving anything, sometimes you need to stop pondering the ‘what ifs’ and making excuses, and just do the damn thing. You may have noticed that in the past, the more you think about something, the more terrifying, daunting, or confusing it gets; on the other hand, if you have a fleeting worry and let it pass you, you won’t lose sleep.
I have discovered that often, it takes more time to think about delaying something, making excuses, and feeling bad than it does to simply do what you were supposed to do. If you had gone for a run when you thought about it half an hour ago, you would have been done by now. If you had started the project when you were first given it, you would have finished a big chunk of it already.
Step out of your head for a second, save yourself some time, and just do what you were going to do.
Nurture your ‘doing’ attitude, not your excuses
When you have a garden, the plants you water flourish the most. When you have a talented child, the more you nurture them, the more talented they become. Tell a child every day that they can achieve their goals, and what you will have is a person that believes in themselves and trusts in their own capabilities; tell a child every day that they are worthless, pathetic, and not good enough, and you will end up with a self-doubting, self-questioning, self-deprecating human being.
Long story short: What you focus on grows. Nurture the part of you that wants to try, and nurture the part of you that is not afraid to do something out of your comfort zone. You will find that this part of you will grow into something beautiful.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
Despite everything I have just said, I am going to let you in on something.
You are going to slip up. You are going to make excuses, miss things, and wish that you hadn’t. You are going to think that you have no self-control and that you are lazy.
That’s okay. You are only human, and that means sometimes you are going to make excuses. You are going to leave things to the last minute, and you are going to ignore your better judgment every now and then.
First, understand this about yourself. Accept it. Don’t fight against it. When we swim against the tide, we struggle, and when we fight against our own humanity, that is when we are most vulnerable. Breathe, and figure out how to improve next time. Grant yourself a few minutes to reflect, understand why you did what you did, and how to change next time.
After this, forgive yourself and move on, knowing that you will be more knowledgeable and better equipped to handle this part of yourself today than you were yesterday.
In the end, that’s all we can really aim for, and all we can really expect.