“He that is good at making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” – Benjamin Franklin
Your brain is a conundrum: better processing capability than any supercomputer, yet at times frustratingly impulsive and temperamental. We engage in fleeting and meaningless thought patterns yet are able to concentrate for long durations of time. It is fair to say that the brain is sometimes on ‘autopilot’ – doing its own thing without any voluntary interaction.
Something that the brain does when on ‘autopilot’ is make excuses. While you certainly may not ‘feel’ up to the task, you know that you’re more than capable. Whatever this task may be – studying, cleaning, a project, etc. – you just can’t seem to stop making excuses for bucking down and doing it. In the end, you just feel more frustrated, nothing is accomplished, and the task is still staring you in the face.
Don’t fret. Excuses are just another auto-response generated by that complex circuitry of neural networks called your brain. Let’s examine a few of the more common excuses.
Here are 6 excuses that may be holding you back (and how to overcome them):
1. “I don’t have the time.”
To be fair, many of us are short on time because of work, family, kids, etc. Indeed, this is a legitimate limitation for many of us. This doesn’t mean that all hope is lost, however.
First, consider your priorities. You innately understand that family and work comes first; perhaps followed by housework, school, or something else. What about the remaining time in your day? Understandably, this time is perhaps limited…but it’s still there. Are you taking full advantage of this time, whether its 5 minutes or an hour?
Second, consider the possibilities. Consider the time that you spend on procrastinating, being anxious or absentminded. Instead of using up that hour catching up on your favorite show, can you record it and watch it on the weekend? If your kids demand your attention for something that can wait, will you ask them to occupy themselves for a period of time?
Be creative and don’t underestimate the power of small chunks of time.
2. “I don’t have the ability.”
“Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right” – Henry Ford
While there may be inherent differences in ability from one person to another, brain research is finding that our brains adapt much faster than previously thought. Neuroplasticity – the changing of neural pathways in the brain due to changes in behavior, environment, thinking, and learning – has shown that it’s possible to evolve intellectually.
You can become smarter, more resilient, and happier while pursuing your dreams. Don’t allow the illusion that you’re somehow incapable of achieving the goals that you’ve set for yourself.
3. “I’m just too busy.”
As with “not enough time”, this is an excuse that has some legitimacy. As a society, we’re overworked and overscheduled, distracted and off-balance. We’re not here to challenge this fact – doing so would be dishonest.
Not only is this excuse counterproductive, it induces unnecessary stress. The constant feeling of busyness directly increases our stress levels. We can only increase the stress hormone cortisol before it initiates a “fight or flight” response. Over a period of time, this leads to a state of chronic stress. Busyness often manifests itself in other ways as well – bad concentration and memory, impulsive behavior, lethargy, headaches, and feelings of malaise.
The solution is to simply be present. Concentrate on one thing at a time. When you have angry or impulsive thoughts, simply allow them to fade.
4. “I don’t have the money.”
The truth is that money is simply a tool; a method of exchange. However, economic statistics continue to show that wages continue to flatten while the cost of living increases – this can certainly become a problem.
There exists a movement called minimalism, where one lives with the basic necessities of life and nothing more. Minimalism is not well known in the Western world because of the materialistic consumerism mentality to economics that has permeated our society.
But the fact of the matter is that we don’t need to live this way. Study after study continues to show that material possessions and the accumulation of money do not correlate to happiness. Perhaps this is because we become susceptible to the lies that success equals money and money equals possessions.
The first step involves making the conscious decision to not live beyond your means. The second step is to determine what constitutes a want versus a need. You need food, water, shelter and electricity. You want the flat-screen TV, luxury car, cable package and cell phone. The third step involves minimizing or eliminating the wants in your life.
Of course, whether or not minimalism is a desired lifestyle is completely your choice. There is nothing wrong with having nice things in moderation. Rather, it is the constant desire to buy and have more that creates unnecessary and toxic excess.
5. “It’s too late…”
It’s too late to pursue my education.
It’s too late to change careers.
It’s too late to fall in love.
It’s too late to start my own business.
It’s too late to leave an impact on the world.
The great writer Richard Bach once said:
“Here is a test to find out whether your mission on earth is finished: if you’re alive, it isn’t”
As a prior college counselor, I had the distinct honor and privilege to interact with people interested in pursuing their education. From recommending and enrolling in courses to watching students walk across the stage to receive their diploma, the experience was touching.
One such student was Robert Titus, a former salesman from Houston, who received his Marketing degree at the age of 80. His reason for this was simple: he promised his mother a long time ago that he’d achieve a college degree.
Whether your goal is a college degree, writing a novel, traveling the world or something else, the only limitations are the ones that we place on ourselves. If there is still air in your lungs and desire in your heart, there is no reason to stop.
6. “I’m too tired.”
It’s impossible to examine this excuse without thinking about time and busyness – excuses two and three on this list. After all, if we didn’t feel busy or deprived of time, we’d have no reason to be tired. As with time and busyness, there is some merit to the fact that we get indeed feel lethargic from time to time.
You must simply inspect your daily activities and what is causing tiredness. Are you rushing throughout the day from one place to another? Are you getting adequate amounts of sleep (minimum 7-8 hours)? Are you staying out or going to bed late during the weekdays? All of these reasons – along with a multitude of others – will undoubtedly result in fatigue.
The solution is making some lifestyle changes to counteract this tendency. Stress or poor time management are likely the culprits, both of which are easily rectified. Make it a priority to feel energized throughout the day by discarding the bad habits that lead to tired feelings. Try to implement a short nap into your day for some added benefit.