Motivational Angel v/s Excuse Monster

It’s a tough contest.

“Much of the stress that people feel doesn’t come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they’ve started.” 
― David Allen

‘Finish what you’ve started.’ How many times have we given or received this advice? I would say a lot of times.If you are a parent you must have occasionally imparted these words of wisdom upon your children. There is nothing wrong in that. As parents it’s our responsibility to encourage our child to finish what they’ve started. Motivate them to complete their task. Inspire them to keep on going and teach them never to quit.

But where does all this determination, motivation, encouragement go, when it’s our turn to follow what we preach?

Do we always finish what we start?

I don’t know about you, but I admit I don’t. I would have loved to claim otherwise but the truth is there are so many things that I had started in life hoping to bring a positive and phenomenal change, but quite a few of them I could never finish.

Why?

Well, I had a bundle of reasons for not finishing what I started. Reasons like..

I failed miserably so I quit.

Someone told me I wasn’t good enough and I believed them.

I figured out it was never meant for me.

I lost interest.

I didn’t have time.

I had more important things to take care of.

I didn’t have enough money.

I didn’t receive proper support and encouragement.

My priorities changed.

The list can go on and on. But what’s the point?

When I look back on some of the things that I have left unfinished, I feel that I was just using the so called genuine excuses as an armor. These excuses helped comfort me. They helped convince my mind that I’ve tried hard enough, but the external circumstances are not in my favor.

However as time went by, the comforting effect of these excuses diminished and I was left with the memories of all the wonderful things I had started but could never bring to completion.

As Steve Maraboli,The author of , Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience says ,“There is no greater symphony of self-destruction than the beautifully poisonous melody found in our excuses.”

I call it ‘The Excuse Monster.’

When we realize that the excuses we have been giving so far are actually nonsensical, the stress of those unfinished tasks begins to build up.It might not be possible to finish everything we start but letting the excuse monster take over our mind and making it a habit of quitting halfway can be devastating.

But why do we stop halfway?

When a child gets a brand new toy, especially the one that he himself has chosen, he gets excited and is extremely happy to have it. He falls in love with this toy, carries it everywhere he goes and plays with it all the time. The toy becomes a part of that child’s life until something more interesting comes along. May be in few days or weeks the toy loses it’s novelty and charm. Finally the poor toy ends up in the toy box, never to be played with again.

The same thing happens with us whenever we take up a new project, activity, course or venture. In the beginning we are obsessed with doing what we do cause it’s all so new and exciting. But soon this excitement fades and we quit.

Only difference here is we don’t quit because we find something more interesting. Most of the time we quit because we discover that the task we have taken upon is much harder and challenging than we had expected.It’s not that exciting as we had imagined it to be.

When we begin a new project, we make up a movie in our mind. An inspirational biopic, where we are the protagonist, fighting against all odds, facing all the challenges, improving day by day and finally achieving the unattainable dream. A montage of scenarios runs through our mind where we visualize ourselves giving a tough fight to reach our target.

But not soon enough do we realize that our life is not a 90 minutes movie neither are we going to get success in a 5 minutes song montage.

Reaching our desired target or completing a project takes a lot of effort and dedication. We understand that we have to face a lot of rejections, failure, disturbances, difficulties and even then the success is not guaranteed.

When there are no immediate results or incentives, it becomes tempting to go back in our comfort zone and quit.

We kick out the motivational angel from our mind and instead let the excuse monster move in. The excuse monster brings along with it a bundle of new and soothing excuses and soon we end up snuggling with these seemingly cozy alibis.

My battle against my excuse monster -

In the process reevaluating my life, there was a moment when I came across this harsh truth. For years I had unknowingly let the excuse monster take over from time to time. As a result I was left with nothing but a burden of unfinished tasks, unfulfilled dreams and a huge amount of guilt.

It was time to make a change. I had come to a realization that I must stop making excuses and start taking complete responsibility for my decisions.

This realization brought a very positive transition in my life.

However, at times I still find myself struggling hard to stay motivated. If something I am working on for quite sometime doesn’t seem to get anywhere, I start wondering things like, ‘I hope I am not wasting my time’, ‘Is it really worth it?’ or ‘May be I was never meant to do this thing.’ And so enters the infamous excuse monster.

It is very easy to go off the track and get demotivated when you don’t get the desired results. It’s quite possible to feel that we are just wasting our time doing what we do.

However as Earl Nightingale has famously said, “Don’t let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use.”

Persistence is the key.

But how do we maintain the persistence? How do we find the motivation to keep on going when we don’t see any results and the efforts seem useless?

Here are the few things we can do to keep the motivational angel within us alive .

1) Remember Why.

Knowing our why is extremely crucial. Why did we start with a certain thing in the first place. The reason we leave things half way or give up on our goals is because our why is no longer clear in our mind. We might argue that circumstances change, priorities change. But if the undone project, the unfulfilled dream is bothering us, making us restless, that means it still has a place in our mind. Remember the time when the desire to achieve your goal first entered your mind. Write down about the day it happened and why you had made a decision to go for it. Every time you feel like quitting go back and read what you have written. Compare your why with your excuses and you yourself will get an answer whether to quit or persist.

2) Invite motivational angel regularly.

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing that’s why we recommend it daily.” — Zig Ziglar

Daily dose of motivation is really essential. An inspirational quote, a motivational talk, or even reading our mission statement first thing in the morning, whatever it is, must be done on a regular basis. Usually after coming across a motivational content for the very first time we feel charged. The inspiring words vivify our drive to reach for our dreams and achieve our goals. But the truth is our brain is just reacting to the high dose of motivation it has recently received. The intensity of motivation will drop down as soon as the dopamine levels in our brain begin to fall.

So instead of taking one large dose of motivation once in a while, if we find a way for us to feel inspired on a day to day basis the motivational angel within us will always have a special place to thrive.

3) Procrastination and excuse monster are best friends.

As much as I would have loved to assert that I never have procrastinated and I am always ahead of every single task, the truth is that I have been a classic procrastinator ever since I can remember. I was the one who dug a well after I felt thirsty. When I was young I had a bad habit of waiting till the very last minute to complete a task and doing it only when the situation became critical. Whether it was homework, completing an assignment, or preparing for a test, I felt a strong urge to procrastinate as much as possible. Though the benefit I had as a child was, my parents always made sure that I was well prepared and didn’t support my procrastination.

As I grew older I had more responsibilities on my shoulders and I started believing that the habit of procrastination was behind me. I found myself sincerely planning and working towards certain things in life. But this illusion of mine soon vanished when I understood the bitter reality that I was only driven to do things that gave me immediate results or if I was accountable for their completion.

As Tim Urban very accurately observed in his TED talk- Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator, that a procrastinator’s brain has a Rational Decision Maker and an Instant Gratification Monkey. The instant gratification monkey he says, lives entirely in the present moment. According to Tim Urban, the only things the Instant Gratification Monkey cares about is, easy and fun.
The one thing the instant gratification monkey is scared of is the Panic Monster. When the panic sets, the monkey hides back in his tree and the rational decision maker takes control of the brain.

The panic monster as mentioned by Tim Urban means the accountability towards something. We often lose the drive to do something because the panic never sets in. There is no deadline, no one to answer to, no commitment whatsoever. Even if we quit our life will still remain the same,at least that’s what we think. Hence we procrastinate and the excuse monster makes our job much easier for us. If we want to beat the excuse monster we must beat the urge to procrastinate. If accountability is what keeps us going we must find a way to keep that fire burning. Whether making a public commitment, or appointing a friend or family member to constantly push us, whatever it takes we must do it. The habit of procrastinating for too long will leave us with nothing but a feeling of unfulfilled life.

4) One thing at a time

Having too many goals at a time can be extremely confusing and demotivating. There is a high chance that doing too many things at once will burn us out pretty soon, we might get exhausted and finally quit. When we inject our mind with a substantially large dose of motivation, all the things that we haven’t yet accomplished start flashing in our mind. We are driven to fulfill every dream that we have ever had and start doing everything at once. We join the gym, take up the course we always wanted to do, begin writing that book which we had left incomplete, resume working on our software product and so on. Soon we realize it’s overwhelming to do everything at once and we are not giving proper justice to any of the tasks. This demotivates us. Before we know we gradually leave all the tasks undone. We explain ourselves by saying that we don’t have enough time.

The truth is in the verge of doing everything at once we have lost track of what exactly we want. Unless we have a tangible destination to reach, we will do nothing but wander off.

Isn’t it better to tackle just one thing at a time than to quit altogether?

5) Get inspired by yourself first.

When things get tough it’s natural to feel that we are not good enough, or talented enough or lucky enough. However what we cease to remember is that we all have demonstrated immense courage, determination, passion and dedication in many aspects of our lives. When the thought ‘I can’t do this’ sneaks in our mind we must close our eyes and remember all the areas we have succeeded in. All the times we have shown persistence and not given up. When we faced rejections and criticism but still kept on going.

We are the ones who pull ourselves back the most. If we change our attitude towards ourselves we can definitely alter our attitude towards life. Instead of making someone else our role model and trying to seek inspiration from just the external sources, we must be our own hero first. We must learn to give ourselves credit for even the slightest of progress. We often quit because we feel that we will never reach our goal. What we don’t see is that we have already reached halfway. It’s very easy to seek someone’s approval or validation and then make a decision whether to quit or to keep on going. But if we keep on validating and encouraging ourselves our own conscience won’t let us stop.

6) The famous alibis of the old man ‘IF’

In the masterpiece Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill has stated the list of the famous alibis that we give for ourselves. The list contains all the common excuses that we have for ourselves whenever we want to get out of something we have started. Going through this list is kind of a reality check of how flimsy our alibis might be.

So here are the famous alibis of the old man IF -

IF I didn’t have a wife and a family……..
IF I had enough “pull”……..
IF I had enough money……..
IF I had an education……..
IF I had a job……..
IF I had good health……..
IF I only had time……..
IF times were better……..
IF other people understood me……..
IF conditions around me were different……..
IF I could live my life over again……..
IF I did not fear what “THEY” would think of me…….
IF I had been given a chance……..
IF I now had a chance……..
IF other people didn’t “have it in for me”……..
IF nothing happens to stop me……..
IF I were only younger……..
IF I could only do what I want……..
IF I had been born rich……..
IF I could meet “the right people”……..
IF I had the talent some people have……..
IF I dared assert myself……..
IF I only had embraced past opportunities……..
IF people didn’t get on my nerves……..
IF I didn’t have to keep house and look after the children……..
IF I could save some money……..
IF I only had somebody to help me……..
IF the boss only appreciated me……..
IF my family understood me……..
IF I lived in a big city……..
IF I could just get started……..
IF I were only free……..
IF I had the personality of some people……..
IF I were not so fat……..
IF talents were known……..
IF I could just get a” break”……..
IF I could only get out of debt……..
IF I hadn’t failed……..
IF I only knew how……..
IF everyone didn’t oppose me……..
IF I didn’t have so many worries……..
IF I could marry the right person……..
IF people weren’t so dumb……..
IF my family weren’t so extravagant……..
IF I were sure of myself……..
IF luck were not against me……..
IF I had not been born under the wrong star……..
IF it was not true that “what is to be will be”……..
IF I did not have to work so hard……..
IF I had not lost my money…….
IF I lived in a different neighborhood…….
IF I didn’t have a “past”……..
IF I only had a business of my own……..
IF only other people would listen to me……..
IF *****and this is the greatest of them all*****I only had the courage to see myself as I really am, I would find out what is wrong with me and correct it, then I might have a chance to profit by my mistakes and learn something from the experience of others for I know that there is something wrong with me or I would now be WHERE I WOULD HAVE BEEN IF I had spent more time analyzing my weaknesses and less time building alibis to cover them.

Giving excuses is easy but it’s us who has to live with the burden of these seemingly comforting excuses.

The important thing however is to remember the fact that everyone out there has fallen prey to the excuse monster at some point or another. So never feel that it’s just you. Acknowledging the problem and learning from it is crucial. My battle with the excuse monster still continues but now that I am aware of it’s existence I won’t let it control my life and take over my mind.

So look the excuse monster in the eyes and say to it , ‘You are not welcome!!’

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