In psychology and logic, rationalization, (also known as making excuses) is a defense mechanism in which controversial behaviors or feelings are justified and explained in a seemingly rational or logical manner to avoid the true explanation, and are made consciously tolerable – or even admirable and superior – by plausible means.
Making excuses is a big problem in households.
You can remind someone over and over to “own their shit,” but if they don’t know they are doing it or even understand what they are doing, they can’t improve. So what is the best way to teach someone to stop making excuses when it’s their go-to response?
First, you have to help them understand what they are doing.
OK, so something didn’t turn out as expected. You forgot something. You neglected your responsibilities. In short, you effed up. Maybe it’s not that big of a deal, but it was on your plate, and you failed to accomplish the task. Then what? Well, for some reason, it’s been ingrained in people’s minds to make excuses for why the thing, whatever it was, didn’t happen. People will immediately go into the tale of what prevented them from their task. Sometimes it’s a short story, sometimes a long one, and sometimes, worst of all, it’s a lie.
Excuses are invented reasons we create to defend our behavior, to neglect taking a particular kind of action, or simply as a means of negating responsibility. Excuses are in essence a means of placing blame of an internal problem on an external condition. It’s pussyfooting around instead of taking responsibility.
Let me make something clear. Your excuses do not matter.
The fact remains- you didn’t accomplish your task. You were late. You forgot something. You didn’t do what you said you would. You did not handle things in the manner that was expected.
No one cares why it wasn’t done.
They do, however, care that you own up to the mistake and then do everything you can so that it doesn’t happen again. If it does, just try to do better then next time. Keep striving for improvement. But, no matter what, don’t make excuses. I get it, owning up to your shortfalls can be difficult, but it will get easier, and you will learn a new confidence in yourself.
There are many reasons why people make excuses. In fact everyone has different reasons for making them. However, when it boils down to it, we only make excuses for the following main reasons:
- Fear of Failure
- Fear of Embarrassment
- Fear of Success
- Fear of Change
- Fear of Uncertainty
- Fear of Responsibility
- Fear of Making Mistakes
- Perceived lack of confidence or resources
To eliminate excuses from our lives we must first look at eliminating all traces of fear.
Fear traps and locks us away within our comfort zone. Yet fear often develops as a result of a lack of understanding, information, resources, experience or perspective. If you lack all these things, you will naturally lack confidence, and as a result you will fail to take the action necessary to achieve your goals and objectives. Consequently you will tend to make excuses about your life and circumstances in order to help boost your self-esteem. However, all you’re doing is creating the illusion of security. You’re simply masking the pain by taking a pain killer. The pain is still there, and will continue to persist until you finally overcome your fears (Adam Sicinski).
You cannot grow; you cannot move forward, unless you take responsibility for your actions, or lack of. You will never realize your true potential if you can’t overcome your problems. Challenge yourself to reach new heights and discover, finally, what you are really capable of.
Making excuses can also lead to the following consequences:
- Lack of responsibility and growth
- Self-limiting beliefs
- Massive regrets
- Persistent pessimistic outlook on life
- Bad judgments
- Imaginary walls constricting comfort zone
- Mental blocks stifling proactive action and creativity
These consequences certainly don’t lead to a fulfilling lifestyle. In fact, they paralyze us and prevent forward movement in all areas of our lives (Adam Sicinski).
The following are ways I handle myself when I mess up:
Example: I am late for work. Do I call my boss and tell him everything that prevented me from making it on time?
No. For one, it doesn’t matter. For two, he doesn’t care. All he cares about is knowing that I am not dead in a ditch and that I will be there soon. That’s all he needs to know.
“Good morning. I’m sorry I’m running a bit behind schedule today. I will be there in 10 minutes.”
The end. Then, correct whatever prevented you from being timely, and don’t let it happen again.
Another example: Say I called the dentist to schedule a payment for a recent expensive procedure. I told her I would call on Thursday to make payment over the phone. It’s Friday.
As soon as I realize my error, I make time to call.
“Good afternoon. I forgot to call yesterday. I’m sorry about that. I would like to make my payment.”
She takes the payment. The end. She does not need to know that my daughter was sick or that I was stressed and just didn’t think about it. She doesn’t need to know anything about my personal life. I forgot. There are a lot of reasons that would cause me to forget, but she does not need that information, and I don’t need to relive it. It’s a new day.Own the failure, apologize, make it right, try hard as hell to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Another example: Say I told my husband that I would make sure to get his favorite tea refilled into the drink container before work so it is cold for him by the time he gets off work.
We get home from work after a long day. He goes to the fridge to get a refreshing drink of cold tea. It’s empty.
“You said you would fill this for me,” he would say.
I would likely make a face, maybe curse, and then I would handle it the following way:
“I’m so sorry babe. You are important to me, and I want to do things for you that make you happy. I am sorry that I let you down. Can I make you an iced coffee instead?” Kiss kiss. hug hug. A longing gaze, perhaps. Genuine emotion.
Apologize. Let the person know they are important. Make it up to them. Simple. I do not have to say that the kids held me up because they refused to brush their teeth and then they couldn’t find their shoes. I did not have to mention that I spilled coffee all over my shirt and had to change. None of that matters. What matters is, I didn’t do what I said I would do. It’s a simple mistake. Everyone does this. It happens frequently. But, please, don’t make excuses. It doesn’t matter and it’s irritating!
How I feel when you make excuses to explain something to me:
- Annoyed- When is he/she going to get to the point?
- Irritated- It’s the same thing over and over with this person.
- Angry- Why won’t he/she just own up to the mistake and move on?
- Disheartened- Does he/she even care about me? Does he/she even care about his/herself?
Have you ever tried to explain away why you didn’t, couldn’t, shouldn’t or simply wouldn’t do something? These are all subtle signs that indicate you are living a life of excuses, which prevent you from living to your full potential.
Admit you are making excuses. It can be difficult, but it is absolutely necessary. Taking this step on your own will make a big difference.
- What excuses do I tend to make?
- What am I settling for?
- Why am I making these excuses?
- How do these excuses prevent me from moving forward?
- How do they cripple my ability to get what I want?
The following comes from Adam Sicinski’s article “A Life of Endless Excuses”:
Excuse #1: There’s not enough time…
Means that you’re lacking passion, focus, discipline and direction. Likewise, it suggests that your priorities are out of sorts and that you may be lacking the ability to manage your time effectively.
Alternatively, this excuse could indicate that you simply don’t value your time or just don’t want to take the time to do what you feel you must in order to achieve your desired outcomes. In fact, the causes for this excuse could very well be narrowed down to procrastination or laziness.
When you catch yourself making this excuse, ask yourself:
How badly do I really want this?
A lack of desire could be the cause for concern.
Excuse #2: There’s not enough money…
Means that you don’t consider money to be a priority or you are simply looking for an easy way to make money and therefore don’t have the desire, determination, persistence or patience to work hard to achieve financial security.
This excuse also suggests that you could simply be lacking strategy or ideas that could help you reach your financial objectives.
If it’s ideas and strategy you’re lacking, then go out there and read a few books, get a mentor or a financial coach who can help you gain the necessary knowledge and understanding you need to succeed financially.
Excuse #3: I don’t have an education…
Means that you lack creativity, inspiration and desire. In addition, it would seem that you also lack a willingness to work hard and go the extra mile to put in a little more effort into achieving your objectives — despite your lack of knowledge.
There are many multi-millionaires and billionaires who have nothing more than a high school education. Some don’t even have that. However, they were creative, had desire and were willing to work harder than anyone else to achieve their goals and objectives.
Excuse #4: I’m too old or young…
Means you lack understanding, confidence or perspective.
Men and women of all ages have achieved great things. Therefore you are never too old or too young to attain your goals and objectives. It might be a little more difficult, which means that you may need to be more persistent, creative and open yourself up to a greater array of experiences and opportunities. Alternatively, your age could actually work to your advantage. It just depends on your perspective and your ability to think flexibly about your circumstances.
Learn from your failures and mistakes, gain understanding and confidence from your experience, and this will soon shift your perspective about what’s possible to achieve.
Excuse #5: I don’t know how…
Means you lack belief and confidence in your own abilities. It also means that you haven’t taken the time to practice, learn, or to gain the experience or education necessary to “know what to do”.
This excuse is really very easy to combat. Simply LEARN how to do what you want to do by reading books, by gaining practical experience, by asking for help, etc. Only by making mistakes over and over again will you eventually discover what works or doesn’t work for you. From there, simply adjust your strategy and approach, and you will very quickly discover that you finally know what to do.
Excuse #6: I can’t change…
Means you lack motivation and reason to change. Moreover, this suggests that you lack emotional pain that would help you to accelerate change.
When it comes to our motives and desires we are always pulled forward by the desire for pleasure, or pushed forward by the desire to avoid pain. If you don’t believe you can change, the reason for this is that you simply haven’t associated enough pain to NOT changing. Once you begin to look at all the dire consequences that will result from NOT making a change, then you will soon realize that the motivation was always there.
If I don’t make this change, how will this affect my life in the weeks, months and years ahead?
What am I likely to miss out on?
How am I going to feel?
How is this going to affect my relationships with others?
How will this affect my health?
How will this affect my career prospects?
What other negative consequences could result from not making this change?
Having written down all the negative consequences, now make a list of all the great things that could potentially occur if you did decide to make a change today.
If I make this change, what could the potential benefits be?
How will I feel?
How will others feel?
How will my life improve today, next week, next month and in the years to come?
What other positive benefits could result from making this change?
Excuse #7: I’m afraid to fail…
Means you lack understanding, confidence, knowledge and experience.
Anthony Robbins once said that fear is nothing more than “False Evidence Appearing Real”. It’s our perspective of fear that frightens us and prevents us from moving forward. However, once we gain knowledge and understanding about the thing we fear, then that is the moment we build enough confidence to move forward and gain some experience. Subsequently with enough ‘experience’ under our belt, we develop even greater self-confidence that will propel us through our fears and towards the attainment of our goals and objectives.
Also consider that the road to success is always paved with obstacles, challenges and problems. Along this path everyone makes mistakes. However, those who fail are those who simply give up and excuse their life away.
Persist, persevere and resist the temptation to give-in to your excuses, gain the necessary knowledge, understanding and experience, and slowly but surely your self-confidence will propel you past your fears and towards your goals and objectives.
Excuse #8: It’s not the right time…
Means you lack perspective, information and resources.
Sometimes it’s simply not the right time to take action. However, more often than not this is just a lame excuse that should indicate you lack perspective or you simply don’t have the necessary resources to deal with the circumstances at hand. Therefore your first objective is to acquire the necessary resources you need that will help you to attain your desired outcome.
Once your resources are in place, you may still need to gather more information about your predicament, which will help you to transform your perspective. The moment these items are checked off your list, you will soon find that the right time is always, right NOW!
Excuse #9: I have to plan thoroughly first…
Means you’re lacking perspective or you’re simply paralyzed by fear.
There’s nothing wrong with planning for the future, or taking the time to lay out a clear plan of action. However, if planning is all you do, then this indicates that there might be underlying fears that are preventing you from moving forward. Identify and overcome these fears and subsequently you will overcome your need for over-planning.
Excuse #10: It won’t work…
Means you lack self-belief, motivation, creativity, patience, perspective and persistence. All of these qualities are essential if you desire to eventually make things work. In fact, these qualities are absolutely essential for everything of value that you want to create in your life.
Excuse #11: I’m not inspired…
Means you’ve got poor habits which lead to a lack of discipline.
Have a think about what kinds of habits you indulge in on a daily basis and about your typical routine and the rituals you partake in throughout the day. More often than not you will find that inspiration isn’t a problem if you simply take the time to transform how you go about your day. For instance a lack of sleep could be causing you to feel tired which leads to a lack of inspiration. If we dig a little deeper we could find that it’s your diet that’s causing your sleepless nights, or that your lack of sleep is a result of not getting enough exercise throughout the week. Moreover, maybe you’re simply not getting enough exercise because you’re working longer hours then usual and therefore don’t have time to allocate for exercise.
There are many habits and scenarios that could be brought forth here. However, the important thing to remember is that a lack of inspiration is often due to many interrelated factors that at first may seem unrelated. However, the deeper we dig, the more patterns we will find, and the more patterns we find the more likely we are to identify where our lack of inspiration stems from.
He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.
It’s time to eliminate your excuses forever! Avoid making comparisons. Do not compare yourself to others. You will only feel disheartened if you cannot live up to other peoples’ standards. Surpass your own personal best and strive to continue forward from there. Avoid dwelling in the past. Dwelling on past mistakes leads to regret and then the finger is pointed. You seek to justify the mistake instead of taking responsibility. Focus on the present instead of the past. When you catch yourself making excuses, immediately ask yourself these questions: How badly do I really want this? Why don’t I have what I want? What excuses are getting in the way? What do I need specifically that will help me move beyond this excuse? What’s the next step I need to take right now?
Focus on solutions and opportunities. Every failure is a chance for new growth. When making excuses, you tend to focus on problems, regrets, and negative things. Seek alternate perspectives. Often the excuses we make are a lack of perspective. We simple don’t have or know about the bigger picture. Ask others for their opinion, comments, and feedback. Get an understanding of how they see the situation. Accept full responsibility for failures and mistakes. I cannot say this enough. Own your shit! Life is not built upon luck or good fortune, but rather on our ability to successfully adapt to the changing conditions that life throws our way. A lot of your character is determined how you handle the unexpected and how you handle your failures. Learn from past experience. Instead of making excuses, commit to learning from the experience so you can better yourself.
- What can I learn?
- What has this experience taught me about life, myself, and others?
- How can I use this experience to do better in the future?
- What action can I take right now that will help me take a step in that direction?
Focus on your strengths, and make them work for you. Be patient, optimistic, confident, and persistent. Don’t ever make someone feel as if they are to blame for your problems. Don’t ever blame your kids for your inability to remember to do something. Don’t blame circumstance for your inability to stick to your word. That is YOUR problem.
Own your shit. Make it better.