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The Battle Rages On: Excuses Versus Reasons

One ongoing disagreement I had with my father growing up was about what made for a good reason and what made for a bad excuse. Every October, the debate seemed to re-surface. We had three huge sugar maples on our property, each of which dropped what seemed to be a semi-trailer full of leaves each fall.

My father thought leaf raking should be done regularly, kind of like mowing the lawn. I, on the other hand, thought it best to wait until all the leaves dropped and rake the yard just once.

I found great reasons not to rake the lawn more than once. The weather might be too windy (any breeze would do), too wet, or just about any distraction that seemed appropriate to the way.

As you can guess, when my father wanted to know why the leaves weren’t raked, I presented my iron-clad reason for not doing so, to which he invariably relied, “That’s no excuse!” After all, I never agreed to do it then.

But Seriously, Folks

The distinction between reasons and excuses begins to matter when you commit to living out the hopes and dreams in your life. It’s easy to stay stuck and keep thinking that because you can, you will. Or, because I intend to do something, I’m going to do it.

The game you start to play is to get good at figuring out why you can not do something that’s important to you. It might be easier to not do something today. Avoidance can feel great for a little while.

And, the bigger the stretch for you to do it, the more your self-defense mechanisms kick in. If you don’t act, you won’t make a mistake. If you take action, people will see that you are not perfect. You might find that you don’t know everything you think you know. And, whether you fail or succeed, someone might not like you.

But, if you have no goals or don’t have anything that’s important in your life, then excuses become a way of life.

Getting Real

You can begin to sort out the excuses and reasons by first asking yourself whether you are going to say yes to the goal or yes to the excuse. Get focused on the things that are important and be real about what is important and what is just a pleasant distraction.

Start by inviting the excuses that get in the way of your goal. Then, get real. Do you need this excuse? What value does it have?

A word to the wise on evaluating your excuses. Stay out of the trap of thinking you are Superman or Superwoman and that everything is just an excuse. I’m working to rehab a knee injury, stabilize a long-term back problem, and build my endurance. The trap for me is to think that I must do a hard workout every day. I don’t. In fact, my body needs two days off a week to recover from hard workouts. So, I take two days off a week, or maybe just take a long walk. Not because I’m lazy, but because it allows me to keep on working out to achieve my goals.

However, when I tell myself I don’t have time on a scheduled workout day, or maybe it’s too windy or I just don’t feel like it, I have to get real with myself, recognize the excuse, and re-focus on my goal. I’m learning to say “no” to these excuses and getting some good results. It gets easier with time and practice.

Pick something important and try it yourself. Be firm, gentle, and honest with yourself. And, have a bias toward action. Let me know how it works for you.

Joe Brodnicki

Success Navigation Associates

We help leaders take on the tough problems in leading for a difference

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