My Theory on Excuses

I spent the summer after my high school graduation with my face in lots of geese poop in a very humid and steamy New England. Most of the time I was getting yelled at — not because I was doing anything wrong, but mainly because I wasn’t doing anything right. I was a cadet candidate at the US Coast Guard Academy and I was looking for an easy way out of paying for college. Big mistake!

Didn’t look forward to much during those eight weeks. I made a few friends and learned a lot about myself and the power of persuasion. On the days where I mentally fought back and made excuses for why I was slipping up, they were infinitely tougher. On days where I just accepted my shortcomings and strategized on how to improve, I felt more in control of my situation.

But, one thing I learned from the indoctrination experience was that there are “no excuses” — meaning, that for whatever you slipped up on, there was no real, viable reason why you should’ve done or reacted the way you did. Having to bite my tongue whenever I was called out on a really daft move to say “No excuse, sir” was really just a mental exercise in asking myself the deeper question of “Why on earth did I do that?”

People give themselves a lot of excuses as to why they can’t achieve their goals. Sometimes it’s because they don’t have enough time or willpower to see it through. Sometimes they are terrified of success. Other times their friends or family are sabotaging their efforts. When people begin to realize that “Done is better than perfect” and that “every excuse of a choice to fail,” it will help put their decisions into a real perspective. Even though I’m getting ready for a morning run, I probably won’t do as good as I’d like to do. I can make excuses — I had a hard day at work yesterday…my legs are still sore from the night before…I didn’t get enough rest — or I can realize that getting myself out the door and being consistent has its rewards. If I give myself the excuses to crutch my bad behavior, I’ll keep repeating said bad behavior. Thus, it’s more beneficial for me to take a “no excuses” approach and to answer to the person I’m most trying to compete with — me.

On the other hand, perhaps I should’ve gone to bed earlier.

What’s your theory on excuses? What do you do to combat your own excuses?

Dealing with Derailment

Often times things don’t go quite as planned. Actually, let me rephrase that — most times, things don’t go quite as planned.

 

Sometimes you’ve been incredibly meticulous at laying out your schedule and things get in the way. It happens…it’s life! Sometimes, though, you get in your own way, or worse, you allow other people to get in the way. You might make excuses for them or over-rationalize  motives or actions, but what’s the best way to deal with derailment?

1. Being forgiving: Sometimes acceptance and moving on is the best move. If you’ve missed two months of workouts or ten years of brotherhood, sometimes it’s best to forgive yourself, move on, and vow to do better tomorrow. You can’t control what has happened in the past but you can control how you deal with it from now on.

2. Making a plan: What happened that allowed this problem (the inability to deal) to fester? How will you ensure it won’t happen again? And, what will happen when you  inevitably slip up again? (See #1 for that answer.) How will you stay accountable to others, but ultimately, yourself?

3. Seeing it all the way through: Giving yourself a reasonable timeline proves commitment and the responsibility to yourself to stick to something long enough to make it work. Whether it’s a new workout routine, retraining for a new career, learning a new language, or managing your time better, taking incremental steps towards achieving your goals will result in a sustainable (read: maintainable) change in your life.

4. Being patient: You probably won’t see results overnight, or very quickly, for that matter. Know that everything and anything worth having is worth fighting for. Things that come easy are fleeting. Most importantly, remember that a lot of people make their accomplishments look easy. Know that it’s never as easy as it seems!

I think as a whole, I get more annoyed by myself and others because I have been trained to tell the difference between an excuse and a reason. When I find myself in a losing battle, I come to accept that I played some hand in doing something that caused the failure. I then accept my responsibility and move on. Usually what happens is that I find myself making excuses or rationalizing my unacceptable behavior. Most of the time I think before I speak so I don’t blurt it out, but instead recognize it in my thoughts and communicate my apologies and my suggested course of remedy. If I catch myself doing that in an email or over chat, I just delete it.

Excuses are crutches. They are the lazy man’s way of dealing with disappointment, derailment, or failure. How do you deal with derailment? What are you looking to improve on?