I wrote a note on Twitter this past week that I wanted to elaborate on. It has to do with taking personal responsibility, something that isn’t extraordinarily popular in the Western world right now. If you want to skip this post because it may be uncomfortable, I understand. If you want to push past your comfort zone and do better, let’s get to it.
The tweet read:
There are reasons and there are excuses for why we don’t accomplish our goals, and they are different things.
Reasons are never excuses, they are simply delays or challenges. Excuses are never good enough.
Gotta keep going, unless there’s a legitimate reason. Ban excuses.
I wrote this tweet after talking to a friend of mine. He keeps telling me about big goals he has planned. A few weeks later, when I ask about them, what I hear back is inevitably a long list that details why those big goals are no closer than when we first spoke.
Some items on the list are legitimate reasons at times, like serious health issues or a bona fide emergency situation that comes up. The majority of the time, though, it is a list of excuses.
Excuses tickle our ears by telling us it’s not our fault that we’ve gotten off track. “If things were different,” an excuse will say, “everything would be perfect and you’d be living your dream.”
Reasons are roadblocks that demand our attention. Excuses can be overcome if we so choose (and usually “if we’re willing to do the work.”)
How do we tell the difference? That’s a bit trickier. Our brains are great at justifying excuses and, at least in our own heads, turning them into legitimate reasons.
This can be one of those times when having a deep, honest friend is extremely helpful. They will see you hurting and soothe your wounds, but they will never let you make excuses if they believe that is what you’re doing. Especially if you ask them to hold you accountable. They’ll be gentle explaining that from their view you’re dragging your feet, but they’ll never want to harm you with the truth.
It takes work to make and develop friendships like that. It isn’t easy, but it is worthwhile. In the meantime, if you’re unsure if something standing in your way is a reason or an excuse, put it through a test or two.
Imagine if someone who consistently annoyed you (not a friend, perhaps more like a frenemy) complained to you about the same reason/excuse you have that was holding them back. What would you think? Would you roll your eyes and tell them to get over themselves, or pat them on the shoulder and tell them it isn’t their fault? Be honest. Then apply that to your own situation. You’ll see pretty quickly if what you’re facing is a legitimate reason, or just a flimsy excuse.
You just might find there are a lot more excuses in your way than reasons. And if not, you’ll have peace knowing you’ve been trying your best and the timing just isn’t right. Either way it’s worth thinking about!