“It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.”
Ever feel like something is holding you back from happiness?
You aren’t sure why, but every so often you find yourself saying “no” when you really want to say “yes.” You turn down critical opportunities that you know you should be grabbing with both arms. You pretend not to notice how your most cherished dreams are languishing on the sidelines.
Over the years, perhaps without your conscious knowledge, you have adopted some serious self-limiting beliefs that have secretly sabotaged your best efforts of personal growth. If you pay close attention to your self-talk, these beliefs will reveal themselves in the form of excuses. What you need to do is catch yourself in the act and replace these excuses with positive alternatives.
Here are 25 ideas to get you started:
1. “It’s too late for me.”
As you grow up, you see people achieve things like getting a degree, building a career, making money, getting married, having kids and so on. This sets the expectation in your mind that you too need to achieve certain things by a certain age. And if you move at a slower pace than others, this limiting belief holds you back from going after what you really want right NOW.
Alternative: “Now is a perfect time to start.” – Get over the baseless, default beliefs that certain things have to be done by a certain age. The simple fact is that life is a series of events based on your own actions at any given moment. You can have those events happen in your life in any order or sequence you like. Age has nothing to do with it.
2. “I don’t have time.”
Everyone gets the same 24 hours a day as you. How is it that some people have found a way to make a difference during these same 24 hours?
Alternative: “I need to properly manage my time.” – Become conscious of the way you use your time. Get ruthless about cutting out time-wasting activities. Schedule, prioritize and delegate as necessary. Focus on the quality of the things you do, instead of the quantity.
3. “I’m too plain and boring.”
Boring vs. interesting is a matter of choice and opinion. Each of us is given a stage, a scene and a few props. What makes a difference in the story of your life is how you choose to interpret and play your role.
Alternative: “I’m in charge of writing my own story.” – Choose to stop being boring. Figure out what ‘interesting’ means to you, and every time you feel that you are too boring, do one thing that will move you towards your definition of interesting.
4. “I don’t deserve it.”
There are two versions of this. The first makes you think that you are not worthy of something beautiful like love, respect, success and so on. The second makes you feel that you are unfairly targeted by life’s difficulties. Either way, this excuse ties you up and holds you down.
Alternative: “I have plenty of good options in front of me.” – When you catch yourself wondering “why me?”, ask “why not me?” Remember, in the grand scheme of things, you are just the same as anyone else; neither nature, nor God, displays favoritism or unfairness. So learn to accept both the good and the bad that falls on your plate with grace. (Read The Power of Now.)
5. “I’m responsible for X,Y or Z, so taking care of myself in not a priority.”
This one is very common with parents, especially parents of little kids – I should know, I’m the queen of making this excuse! But unless you take good care of yourself, unless you approach life on a full tank, you are not doing anyone any favors.
Alternative: “I am a priority.” – Make time for yourself, to sleep, eat right, exercise, and replenish. It’s not selfishness, it’s just an elevated level of caring. When you are at your best, you can give the best to others. (Note: If you are a parent, be sure to stop by afineparent.com where we discuss this topic in detail.)
6. “Nobody understands me.”
Everyone has their own life to worry about; everybody is busy. At the end of the day, nobody has the time or energy to figure anyone else out. If it really matters to you that someone understands you better, simply communicate and make it easy for them to do so.
Alternative: “I need to communicate clearly and act accordingly.” – Quit playing games. Say what you need to say and do what you must. (And realize that it is not necessary that everyone understands and agrees with you all the time.)
7. “Nobody cares about what I care about.”
Can you imagine what would happen if everyone behind a good cause took on this attitude? We’d never have any charitable organizations, fuel-efficient cars, health breakthroughs, peace efforts, literacy drives…!
Alternative: “I care about this because it’s important.” – Take a stand. If you care about something, even something personal, then become a champion of the cause and help others understand why you care so much.
8. “I’m not smart enough.”
It starts off innocently, you try to do something and either get stuck or fail, and you think, “I’m so stupid.” Over years of repeated use though, sadly, this statement becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Alternative: “It’s time to practice.” – When you catch yourself talking down to your own intelligence, stop. Identify the one thing that makes you feel unintelligent and invest some time and energy into learning how to improve in this area. Build up that confidence! Start with something small, figure out how to perfect the next small step. The more you learn, and the more setbacks you overcome, the more confident you will become.
9. “My parents are responsible for the way I turned out.”
There ought to be an expiration date on this one. Yes, your parents are responsible for helping you start the story of your life. As you grow though, it is your responsibility to take things into your hands and write out the rest of your story with your own decisions and actions
Alternative: “I am now in full control of my own life.” – Make a conscious choice to let your past make you better, not bitter. You can’t go back and change how you were raised. You can, however, start now and change how the rest of your life transpires.
10. “I don’t have enough discipline and drive.”
Can you remember why you think this way? Chances are, you forced yourself to do something that you weren’t excited about and then you failed. Then, over a period of time you started to believe that you simply don’t have what it takes to stay disciplined.
Alternative: “I just need to figure out how to motivate myself through this.” – Instead of forcing yourself to do something you don’t like, try to trick yourself, and automate as much of the required discipline as you possibly can by implementing habits that support your desired end result. Research has consistently shown that willpower is a limited and exhaustible resource for everyone, not just you. Those that are successful at staying disciplined are the ones who find ways to replace the brute force method with more creative, subtle routines and habits.
11. “I’m not cut out for long-term relationships.”
This is an excuse a lot of people harbor. Maybe you are scared of making yourself vulnerable or losing control over your life. Maybe you’re worried about your ability to stay loyal and faithful. Or maybe you’re paranoid about betrayal. Here’s the thing, everybody has these fears to a certain extent. So ask yourself, “Instead of facing these fears head on and overcoming them, am I turning them into excuses I’m doing nothing about?”
Alternative: “I have relationship fears I need to face.” – Accept that you are scared and worried, realize that pretty much everyone else is as well, and then choose to stand strong and address your fears instead of running away from them. Just like anything in life, even with love and relationships, some of us need to put in more practice and effort than others. (Read 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
12. “Now is not the right time.”
You are busy, right? You just got that promotion and you don’t want to take your eyes off your career right now? Or maybe you just got out of a bad relationship? Love, and life in general, has a way of happening when it happens – it does not check with you first to see if it’s convenient or if you are ready for a new opportunity. Take it or lose it.
Alternative: “Now is as good as it gets.” – Imagine you are old… really old, and getting ready to pass on. Will you be OK with the fact that you passed on the opportunities you have right now. Remember, any new opportunity that makes you grow and stretch yourself will never feel completely comfortable at first, so it will never feel like the right time to act.
13. “It’s too much work.”
Love, fulfilled dreams and small victories – they are all such beautiful things that add so much joy, happiness and vibrancy to our lives. Why should these things be easy? Why should they just fall into your lap? Why should you expect easy returns without any hard work?
Alternative: “I’m ready to DO the work.” – Remember, anything worth having is worth working hard for. Put in the effort and you will reap the rewards over the long-term.
14. “What if this person turns out like <someone who has hurt me before>?”
No two people are exactly alike. Besides, you’ve changed and grown since your last relationship. Just because someone you once knew was toxic, doesn’t mean someone you just met is too.
Alternative: “I will not judge someone based on the behavior of someone else.” – Be aware and conscious, but keep an open mind. If you catch yourself punishing people in your present for the things people in your past did or didn’t do, stop yourself. If you catch your new partner or friend repeating the same mistakes, gently steer them in the right direction. Stay present, and let your best judgment of the current reality guide you.
15. “I’m doing <something I hate> so I don’t hurt <someone I care about>.”
Relationships are meant to empower you, not victimize you. Don’t use them as an excuse to keep doing something that continuously makes you suffer (or keeps you from doing something that you really should be doing).
Alternative: “It’s time to apologize, come clean and negotiate.” – Remember, with this excuse you are actually cheapening your relationship and dishonoring your loved one. If you really don’t like doing something, find a way to work it out. If you absolutely can’t, then figure out if this relationship is right for you. Long-term suffering and victimhood are never part of a healthy relationship.
16. “My <partner/friend/family member> always brings out the worst in me.”
Seriously? You are going to dump all the blame on someone else? Here’s a reality check: You and only you are the owner of your attitude and actions. Don’t use your relationships as an excuse to be weak or negative.
Alternative: “I am bringing out the worst in me.” – Own up to it; your behavior is your responsibility. No one can bring out the worst in you unless you let them. Choose differently.
17. “I’m so unlucky.”
Emerson said it aptly: “Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” Which one would you rather be, shallow or strong?
Alternative: “I am going to create my own luck.” – Choose to be the creator of your destiny. Yes, misfortunes happen, but don’t use it as an excuse to not try something new, or to wither in the face of a failure. Luck is something that’s created over time based on action and dedication. So get up and get going, regardless of how lady luck seems to be treating you in the short-term.
18. “I’m just waiting for my big break” or “I’m still not ready.”
These are two excuses that cover the same basic issues – fear of starting, lethargy of putting things in motion and the trepidation of striking out. Sure, big breaks help, but don’t count on them; if you do, you might wait forever. Planning and learning is certainly important, but if the plans and knowledge stay locked up in your head forever, it will do no one any good.
Alternative: “I’m as ready now as I’ll ever be.” – Just start; everything else will fall in place. Besides, getting started is a great way to be at the right place at the right time, so you can catch that big break. Waiting around doesn’t give you the input necessary to figure out what works and what doesn’t. You have to begin and then build upon each step you take. (Read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.)
19. “Everything has already been done… I’ll never be an original, so why even try.”
True, there’s almost nothing you can do that hasn’t already been done before, with a few rare exceptions. What you can do, however, is to take something unoriginal and breathe your uniqueness and individuality into it, thereby creating something brand new. Are you willing to do that?
Alternative: “Through my unique lens, I can add tremendous value.” – Just choose to be yourself and give things your best shot; the rest will take care of itself. This was actually one of the biggest excuses holding me back when I wanted to start afineparent.com to chronicle my struggles to become a better parent. There are so many parenting sites out there already; do we really need another one? But I am into personal development, and I noticed that there aren’t any sites specifically focusing on personal development for parents. It’s something I would have loved to read, so I decided to go for it. Well, guess what? The site is not even up yet and over 500 parents have already signed up! Just goes to show that you have to pick something that matters to you and put yourself into it, and it will eventually work out.
20. “I’m a failure.”
If someone claims to have never failed, then he or she is either the luckiest person on earth or has settled on a safe, risk-free life that allows them to do nothing exciting or productive at all. And since no one can be lucky all the time, the odds are high that it is the latter. Would you like to be that person who gave up on their life?
Alternative: “I’m prepared to fail forward and learn as I go.” – Failure is OK. Face it; it’s just another fear. You’ve already overcome this fear once by getting started. Will you let a few setbacks take that away from you? Yes, it’s scary to start over from time to time, but that’s what living is all about – trial and error, change and growth.
21. “I’m too scared.”
Well, congratulations! You are a perfectly normal human being. Being scared is a fact of life. Even the bravest people in the world are scared. What separates the brave ones from the wimps is that they don’t let their fears turn into excuses.
Alternative: “This fear I’m feeling means I’m human.” – Embrace the fact that as long as you choose to live a full life, fear will be a constant companion who keeps you safe from making dangerous mistakes. You just have to let it know that you will not obsess over the little warnings it sends. Instead, you will evaluate a situation and take calculated risks as you step forward.
22. “I’ll never be able to get it perfect, so why try?”
There’s something to be said for perfection – of exquisitely detailed, thorough work. That said, if perfection is keeping you from finishing, or even starting something, it’s time to give it some serious thought. Too much of a good thing can indeed be bad for you.
Alternative: “Perfect is the enemy of good.” – Shift the limelight of your perfectionist attitude from the end product to the process. Get started and set a constraint on when you will put your work out there for the world to see. Keep your perfectionist tendencies laser-focused on doing the right work, instead of doing all the work perfectly right.
23. “I’ll never be as good as <someone else>, so why bother?”
How do you know that? Seriously, no matter how good the <someone else> is, unless you try, how will you know for sure? And why are you comparing your results to someone else’s? Why not focus on beating your own best records?
Alternative: “I’m am only in competition with myself.” – Quit comparing yourself to others. The only comparison that makes any sense is whether you are better today than you were yesterday; everything else is a waste of thought. (Read Awaken the Giant Within.)
24. “My <parents/spouse/kids> will not support me.”
If you don’t have the support of those closest to you, you should thank your lucky stars because you have been given the unique opportunity to test your ideas out (and possibly fail) safely with a smaller audience that you can trust. Will you make the best of this opportunity, or will you use it as an excuse to justify your fears?
Alternative: “How can I win them over?” – Take it as a personal challenge. What can you do to convince your <parents/spouse/kids>? Listen to every word of opposition, learn, refine and evolve. Choose to make the most of this opportunity.
25. “I can’t.”
In the words of Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.” And this is a good thing too. It means you are in control.
Alternative: “I can and I am, starting now.” – Remember that it’s all in the mind. If Helen Keller, Mahatma Gandhi, Beethoven, Thomas Edison, Mother Teresa, Michael Phelps and countless others through the course of history could do it, why can’t you? The answer is: You can if you are willing to put forth the time and effort to grow beyond the barriers that stand in front of you.
So, you read the whole list, probably nodding all the way through and maybe even smacking your forehead a few times. What now?
You already know that the best way to make progress is to start – to take a small step right now. So, go ahead and pick one excuse that is holding you back and commit to dropping it, starting from… Right. Freaking. Now.
So which excuse above do you struggle with the most? Which excuse did you pick? No, seriously, which one? Leave a comment below and share your insights.
Author Bio: Sumitha is the creator of afineparent.com, a personal development blog for parents. If you are a parent and you’ve ever wondered how to build patience, self-discipline, leadership, positivity, and so much more into a happy, healthy family life, Sumitha and a small group of fine parents are waiting for you to join them. Click here to see how.
Photo by: Briana Raucci