He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else”
– Benjamin Franklin
None of us is perfect. We all make mistakes, be it doing something we should not have done, or not doing something we should have done. That in itself is just an inescapable fact of life.
But what is important is how we react when we make those mistakes or when we are caught out making those mistakes (caught out by others or by ourselves, it makes no difference).
Alas, all too often for many people the seemingly automatic reaction is to make excuses, to blame others, to justify the mistake and to absolve themselves of all responsibility for it. Which may make them feel momentarily better – hey, if there is an excuse then it’s not my fault which means I’m not the bad guy, go me – but which serves nobody, least of all themselves. For to make an excuse is to imply that one has no control over one’s life, and is to place oneself firmly into the reals of effect, giving everyone else more power over the person’s life than they themselves have.
It’s a slippery slope, making excuses; the more one makes them, the easier they become to make, and the less one will take accountability for one’s own actions or inactions.
I was at a seminar a few months back. I got there in plenty of time, registered, and then waited for the doors to open – it was the usual sort of thing, registration closes 15 minutes before doors open to enable the organisers to make sure the room is set up for the right number of people. I happened to be near the registration table, and registration close time came and went, but there were still a few people turning up to register. I couldn’t help but overhear several of them all making excuses, sometimes going into long stories about why they were late and how it was not their fault because the alarm didn’t go off or they got stuck behind a slow moving vehicle or the bus was late or the tube was full or… Every one of them had an excuse and a story to go with it, none of them accepted any responsibility for being late. (Incidentally, I know from speaking with the lady behind the registration desk later that she found the most annoying part was each person insisting on telling their great long story about why they were late, thereby delaying things even further!).
What was even more interesting, however, was what I observed about these people when we were in the seminar. These were the ones who were generally the ones ready with an excuse for why they had not succeeded in life, why they had not done what they wanted to do, why their business didn’t work, why they couldn’t get a better job, why the things the seminar was presenting couldn’t work for them – they had so many excuses they could have filled a library with them! Plenty of excuses as to why they didn’t have what they wanted or weren’t doing what they wanted to be doing, but no acceptance of responsibility for the situation.
And the thing with excuses is that when you get into the habit of making them in one area, you end up making them in many, if not all, other areas of your life.
Let’s pause for a moment and think about the implications of that – if we are in the habit of making excuses for why we have not succeeded in one area of our life (thereby giving others total power over that aspect), we soon end up making excuses for all areas of our lives, handing power over our own destiny to others, people who won’t have our best interests at heart.
That’s a very disempowering state in which to find oneself!
And it’s an easy trap into which to fall, I’ve been there myself. I used to be painfully shy, and I would use that as an excuse for not doing things or not going places, and it became my stock excuse for why I was not getting further in life. And pretty soon, not only was I making excuses based around my shyness, I was also making excuses for everything else where I was not living up to the standards I wanted to reach – it was always someone else’s fault, something else causing me to fail, never my own fault.
Until I realised that I and I alone am responsible for what I do, for my failures, and for my successes. And every time I made excuses, I was absolving myself of that responsibility, passing it over to someone else who was not going to do what I needed to be done because it was not in their interests or they didn’t even know about it.
No, the only way I was going to change was to be my change and to take responsibility for my actions.
No more excuses.
Which took me to a far more empowering place in my own life, where things started to happen rather than me hiding behind excuses.
I’m sure you can think of someone who is like that, often making excuses for things. Perhaps it only seems to be small things, such as being perennially late for meetings or get-togethers “the traffic was bad” “the bus was late” and so on (excuses blaming others, rather than taking the responsibility to leave a little earlier!). But when you stop to examine it, it is all too easy to find other areas in which that person is not taking responsibility, areas which affect their finance, their work, their relationships. When you look at them, closely, perhaps in the mirror of a morning, think about all those excuses they make and then think about how much more they could be doing in life if, instead of making excuses and allowing others to be responsible for their life, they took responsibility themselves?
And it can be a scary prospect at first, knowing that you and you alone are responsible for what happens; but after a while, it becomes exciting, as you realise that you and you alone are responsible for the good things which happen – they come about precisely because you stopped giving other people the power over your life, you quit making excuses, and you actually did something! And then you realise, you have no excuses, it’s all your own work, and by gum it’s work and results to be proud of!
So what’s your excuse?