It would be nice to have our dreams come true more often. But we don’t seem to believe in them quite enough.
Actually we seem to believe in our excuses MORE than we believe in our dreams. And we pay more attention to them, too. But, when they pop up, they don’t sound like excuses; they sound like weather reports when they are playing through your mind. Weather reporters aren’t to blame for the weather we’re having; they are just telling it like it is. We don’t control the weather; we just deal with it, right? That too is how we are about our lives. Often we think we have very little power, and as with the weather, the best we can do is prepare well or respond well when it pours.
At Handel, we aim to be the “author” of our lives, not the weather reporters for them. An author has everything to do with the story line and the results. Good news. This means making change will be pretty easy once we are willing to get over the ego blow that we have been in charge all along. We’ve listened to our excuses more than we’ve heard and planned for our dreams. It’s when we let excuses rule the mental roost that we find ourselves unhappy.
So let’s talk about the anatomy of excuses so you can get good at catching them. Think about the last time you were running late for something important. You probably prepared your explanation in advance, as you were noticing that being on time was getting hopeless, and it probably made sense to you. Some combination of other people’s needs, the unexpected, traffic, weather and mishap was the cause of your lateness. (I, for one, am always sure to have several layers of reasons ready when I fail to live up to my or other people’s expectations of me.) So the anatomy of excuses, is, in summary:
Excuses Have Layers.
There is never just one excuse when you are busy not dealing with something. When I was upset about a lack of intimacy in my relationship with my husband, I had layers of explanations.
Layer 1- “He’s a jock, not a sharing/deep kinda guy.”
Layer 2- “I tried going deeper before, it didn’t work.”
Layer 3- “It’s not that important.”
Layer 4- “It’s not important to him.”
If I needed more layers, to avoid dealing with my intimacy issues, I am sure I would have found them.
Excuses Sound True and Well Substantiated. You’ve Probably Even Tested Them!
Yes, indeed, you are foggier in the morning, you shouldn’t exercise then! You’ve tried talking about finances with your spouse, but they didn’t want to. Sound familiar? The “brat” residing in your brain is masterful at coming up with excuses that sound true and brilliant, almost like God is talking to you, or at least you’ve done substantial research/data-collection. You will always believe your excuses, unless you trump them with something else, like real intelligence and a desire to start seeing your excuses as excuses.
Excuses Come with “Feeling Bad” or Stuck.
In order to throw anyone off the scent of the real issue or your volition in the matter, excuses always come with some sort of feeling bad. Here is how it works. You say you will do X, but then you do Y instead. Immediately, you come up with an excuse or two, then you feel terrible. You don’t feel powerful, but at least you feel like you’re still a “good person.” If you didn’t feel bad, you’d just be the jerk who blew off your word. “Feeling bad” is fishy. It’s too convenient. Feeling bad is a diversion. It obscures the fact that you chose Y, instead of doing X like you said. Give up the right to “feel bad” and your excuses will be harder to believe. Then you’ll be stuck with your real issues and your need for a plan to address them. Yay.
Your Friends “Buy” Your Excuses.
We tend to surround ourselves with friends who buy into or even get away with the same excuses we do. Look around. Do your friends think it’s okay to smoke, just a little? Be as overweight as you? Drink as you do? Flirt with inappropriate people as you do? Be dissatisfied in their jobs or relationships as you are? People like this are whom we pick as friends because they make us feel “not so bad” and very understood. They don’t make us feel proud and powerful however, and that’s why you are reading an article by a coach right now. (Maybe you’ll be brave and show it to a friend so you can both start Personal Integrity® bootcamp together?) Only a very special friend can offer what a coach is trained to do: hold you accountable. Either train your friends to do this for you, or get a coach!
Excuses Cover the Truth.
The truth is not something you really want to say. Our excuses and “feeling bad” always cover a truth we don’t want to admit. The truth is you were late because you didn’t leave when you should have. You picked something else being more “important” than honoring the next commitment or person with your on-time presence. You blew something or someone off (or both.) That’s the truth. How many times do you show up late and say: “I am so sorry, I blew you off.” It is almost unthinkable to offer no excuse, no pretense of remorse (that would obscure that you chose that last email, chore, outfit change or TV show instead of them.) If you told the truth, you’d be left with what you are not proud of, what you know you need to change, with your next level of Personal Integrity® development.
Being late is a mundane example. When we are disrespecting or not listening to someone we love, we’ll excuse it with THEIR shortcomings. When we are cheating or stealing, we’ll excuse it by how others are treating us. When we are being terrible to our bodies or our health, we’ll excuse it with stories of our upbringing or peer pressure. The sickest, saddest things in our lives stay in place because of excuses.
Excuses obscure the truth. The truth in my marriage was that I didn’t listen to my husband, that’s why we had no intimacy. It had very, very little to do with him. Thank goodness I didn’t believe my 4-layers of excuses or my friends who went along with my behavior. I had to hit near rock bottom in my marriage before I took on my excuses and the truth. I am trying to help you avoid this by teaching you the anatomy of excuses now.
Learn how to call an excuse an excuse, and look underneath for the truth of the issue you need to face. (tweetworthy!) If you learn the anatomy of something, you can start to cure the dysfunction in the system. Wherever you are unhappy, this set of phenomena is at large, and you can stop it. Let us know how we can help.
P.S.- For a humorous and lighter look at all your excuses and bad theories, and how to begin taking them down, come to our one-hour teleseminar, Debunking Your Dumb-ass Theories on Thursday, May 15th. For a deeper excavation and removal, come to our weekend workshop, the Design Your Life Weekend.