You can make excuses or you can get results. You simply can’t have both. Excuses are the alibis we give ourselves to maintain the status quo. It is how we rationalize our fears and lack of initiative. The versions are endless. “The timing isn’t right.” “I’m planning my next step (years and years later).” “I’ll do it as soon as xxxx.” “I’m waiting for a better economy.” “I’m waiting on Bill to help me with ….(months and months after you asked).” Have you heard yourself saying these or something similar? If so, you are the one holding yourself back, and your excuses are how you make it easier to do nothing.

Don’t get angry with me for calling out your shenanigans, and I am sorry if i struck a nerve. Understand this is actually totally normal and something we all experience. Excuses are a natural part of our self-protection. We know, through experience, what we are doing now basically works. Changing that can be risky, and will upset our current “normal”. Making changes will affect us in many ways. It can affect us emotionally, financially, physically, and have impact on our relationships. The outcome can be positive and/or negative, but doing nothing can have similar result.

The excuses we tell ourselves lead us to an action paralysis. Frequently we hear “i want to x” or “i know I really should do y”, and it is immediately followed by a “but”. Does this sound like some of your conversations? Have you been saying it for a while now? We have a great way for you to work through this. It starts by exploring and understanding what your hesitation is. Here are some basic steps for you to work through yours.

Take out a blank sheet of paper and write out the goal you are looking to accomplish. Under that headline, make a list of all the reasons why you want to accomplish it. Next, explore all the positive outcomes you could experience if things go how you wish. Get excited and visualize your success. Feel the emotions and pride that come with your accomplishment. Now that you know how great it could be, let the “what ifs” creep in. Think about “what if” things go wrong and don’t work out. Don’t silence these thoughts. There are definitely times when you should, and we will provide strategies to do so, but right now embrace the panic. These thoughts are simply a way your mind protects you. Write them all down. Don’t expand the details. Just list what could go wrong if you took the steps. Great job! Now, take a break for a few hours or a day before the following step.

When you have given yourself some time to disconnect, it is time to return to your list. This time, go right to the “what if I fail section”. Start to re-evaluate each one for how realistic that outcome really is. If it isn’t likely it will happen, simply cross it out.

According to Earl Nightingale here is the breakdown of the “Things People Worry About”:

  • 40% things that never happen
  • 30% past things that can’t be changed by worry
  • 12% needless health worries
  • 10% petty, miscellaneous worries
  • 8% real, legitimate worries

Now, under each of those remaining concerns, I want you to problem solve a bit. Think about how bad the fallout could be? What you could do to turn each around “if” the worst occurred? At this point, if you find the fallout is likely to be catastrophic and turn around is near impossible, you should reexamine what you are looking to do. Seek out the professional advice of someone already doing it to guide you. More likely, you will find most of your “what ifs” aren’t actually as terrible as you thought they were. You will also see you have ways to turn around the difficulties in the unlikely event they were to happen.

You’re almost done. Go back over the “if all goes well” outcome list. Once again visualize and feel each of these scenarios. This time, think about how you could build on the momentum that will result from your success. Do you want to prevent these things from happening? No, of course you don’t. That would be ridiculous. You want to build on that progress. The problem is, our excuses prevent us from attaining our goals and building off them.

Listening to the excuses you make prevents you from making changes. That does nothing to prevent loss or failure. This in itself is risky. Consider how doing nothing will play out. You are looking to make a change for a reason. Your present circumstances are no longer working for you. Regardless of what the issue is, what happens if it stays that way? Is your life going to improve on it’s own? Will someone else come rescue you? Unfortunately, that isn’t likely. Personal action is the only thing that can change your circumstances, and your excuses are preventing you. “What ifs” could happen, and they could be the bad ones. Now that you have tried this exercise, you have some contingency plans in place if they do. It is more likely your outcomes will be positive ones. You will find a big part of success is found by shifting your mindset, and we’ll talk about that more in future posts. For today, review your homework so you can let go of the excuses holding you back.