Challenge Your Excuses

An excuse is something you use to justify making an exception to your commitment, skipping your habit, or doing something that will take you away from your goals. It is rationalizing your impulses so you don’t feel bad about acting on them. 

Excuses are thoughts, so they can be tackled by changing the way you think about things, using the PAW Method (pause, awareness, willpower).

Let’s say that you have committed to daily meditation, and the excuse is, “I’m busy today”, and you “I don’t feel like doing it”. First, you pause and interrupt the pattern of excusing yourself—you don’t act on your excuse, but instead take a deep breath. 

Second, you become aware that you are telling yourself a story; you see clearly the thoughts that came up, and where they will take you (-1). Labeling your thoughts can help, simply saying in your mind, “Excuses are coming up”, or “Rationalizing”. Or you can also objectify the excuse in your mind—give it a name, and separate it from yourself: “Mr. I-can’t-do-it is here”, or “The Complainer is speaking”.

Third, you use willpower to shift your state—in this case by challenging your excuses and shifting your self-talk. Here are some examples:

ExcuseChallengingShifting
I’ll do it tomorrow…Yesterday you said tomorrow!If I don’t do it now, nothing will be different tomorrow.
Today was a tiring day, and I don’t feel like exercising.Which day isn’t? If you only exercise when you feel good, how far will you go?I’ll just do the bare minimum, I but won’t skip!
Indulging today will help me relax and feel good…Yes, but at what cost? If you always think like this, who will you become?What healthier alternatives do I have for relaxing and feeling better right now?
Everybody spends time on social media…“Everybody” is also more anxious and depressed than ever before!What can I achieve if I dedicate half of my social media time to my goals?
I don’t have the time and money to pursue this dream.Plenty of people with fewer resources have succeeded.How can I take a step forward, right now?

The next time you find yourself making excuses, apply the PAW Method. Pause. Become aware of your self-talk. Use your willpower to shift it to something that empowers action. Do this repeatedly, as many times as needed, until the old excuses no longer show up.

Refuse to feel sorry for yourself. Don’t make a victim out of yourself—even if, objectively speaking, you actually were a victim of injustice (see Chapter 12). Know that you always have a choice, and simply focus on making the best possible choice you can in every moment. Accumulate as many +1’s as you can, until there is a critical mass that pushes you forward toward your goal, or the change you want to make.

Exercise:

  1. Think of three goals or areas of life where you want more discipline.
  2. Think of the last three times you broke a resolution/intention for each.
  3. Identify the excuses you used to rationalize those choices.
  4. Write how you can challenge each story. 
  5. Write what self-talk will reframe the situation and shift you toward action.
  6. Commit to making that shift the next time that excuse comes up.
  7. Review this list daily for 21 days, or until the new ways of thinking become second nature for you.

No excuse can ever hold you back in life. Unless you let it.

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