How To Stop Making Excuses

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Whether you’ve made a mistake or are putting off taking that next big step in your career, you’ve probably experienced the paradox of making excuses. On one hand, you are in desperate need to move on and improve your life. On the other, you feel unable and unmotivated to make it actually happen. Here’s how to stop justifying your weaknesses and just go for it.
 
Photo: Peter Rukavina/Creative Commons
 

Understand what excuses are
Excuses are an avoidance tactic. They’re also lies we tell ourselves to avoid taking responsibility for our shortcomings. We use them to rather conveniently deflect blame from ourselves for the way things are. Most importantly, however, they’re temporary and deny us the opportunity to move past blunders and learn from our mistakes. No excuse has ever benefited a successful person in the long run, and they can only put off the inevitable so long.

Recognize the excuses you make
One way of putting a stop to excuses is by identifying the common ones we make so we can avoid falling victim to them in the future. Ultimately, excuses are a narrative we create in our minds to make our weaknesses more palatable. Perhaps you preemptively tell yourself it would ever work out anyway as a way to avoid talking to women, or you talk yourself out of hitting the gym because you’re too tired from work. You know these stories by heart. Now, write as many as you can identify down on a piece of paper or on your smartphone. Keep it safe. These excuses are no longer valid.

Identify self-sabotage
If some excuses are just stories we tell ourselves, others are obstacles we place in our own paths. If your gym membership only applies to a facility that’s in an inconvenient location, drop your contract and find one closer to home. Identify not just your excuses but your weaknesses, be they a reluctance to commute long distances or a love of chocolate that’s undermining your diet. Cut them out, thus removing the temptation to give into your faults. These small changes will also create momentum that can help set your larger goals in motion.

Don’t play the waiting game
If you’ve ever been in a slump, you’ve likely found yourself waiting for change to happen to you rather than getting out there creating change for yourself. The reason we wait for something to happen is because we refuse to take responsibility for the fact that only we control our own outcomes—even when real external influences are actually present. It’s human nature to adapt and overcome, so stop resisting. Set a goal and start working on it before you logic your way out of improving your life.

Set clear goals
Goals are necessary to achieve positive change. Without spending too much time planning it out (remember that waiting game?), encapsulate the change you want to see in a single sentence. This helps avoid setting too lofty a goal. Be as specific as possible, too. If a friend says that he wants to become fit, what does that really mean? A vague goal means you fail by default. Saving $5,000 by the end of the year, while challenging, is a well-articulated goal whose action plan is readily intuited. With clear goals, you can also easily tell when you achieve them and if you’re on track along the way. Write your goals down and keep them with you for when you need a gentle reminder.

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