People are constantly making excuses. Some of the funniest T-shirts and memes show just how much we try to avoid responsibility.
Whether it’s My dog ate my homework! or My bikini says I should go to the gym today, but my lounge pants say who cares?―it makes us laugh for a moment.
People make excuses about work, social obligations, or personal development. We’re masters at putting the blame on someone or something else, so we don’t have to own the responsibility ourselves. Finding reasons we aren’t doing something has practically become a hobby!
But why do we do this? As a nutritionist and wellness coach, with over 20 years of clinical practice and thousands of visits with clients, I have heard the gamete of excuses.
People have excuses for not proactively changing their maladaptive health, social, personal and/or professional habits.
The one commonality I have found with making excuses seems to be rooted in fear. What fears specifically help us make excuses?
Fear of the Unknown
People are very cautious in taking risks that might upset their current reality. They resist making the slightest change to their comfortable daily behaviors. It doesn’t matter if those behaviors are not in their best interest.
For example, on a small scale, people often hesitate to try new foods or new hobbies because it disrupts their comfortable routine.
On a larger scale, people hesitate to make a career change or a lifestyle change because they are afraid that the outcome will not be worth the risk.
So, they stay in their situation, wishing they could be brave enough to try something new, hiding behind an excuse like “it’s just not the right time”.
Fear of Consequence
Sometimes, people fear embracing what they already know to be true, and make up excuses for not facing the outcome.
If there is an impending deadline for work that someone has neglected to pay attention to, and they know that the consequence of missing the deadline might mean that they might be fired, they might choose to tell their boss that they “didn’t have access to all the data in time.”
Instead of owning the responsibility of the consequence, they choose to make an excuse.
One might dismiss exercise by rationalizing away the accountability of their fitness by saying, “I’m tired. I’ve worked all day and I just don’t have the energy to work out.”
Excuses are a slippery slope, and choices like that can lead to the consequence of weight gain and/or the return of old unhealthy habits. Before you know it, you will skip the gym and have a binge eating session while watching TV.
Embracing the fear of consequence means becoming exponentially and internally more honest, which is vital for cultivating self-respect in both personal and professional success.
Fear of Failure
Failure is one of the biggest reasons that prevents people from making healthy lifestyle changes. Fear of not being successful at something is intertwined with not being able to take risks.
According to Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, being proactive is “one of the most important characteristics of successful and personally effective people.” Covey states that quality alone is the #1 building block to the other 6 habits of successful people.
According to Business Insider, “successful people react differently to failure than unsuccessful people. Successful people don’t like to fail, but they are not devastated or paralyzed by failure.
They use failure as a tool to learn what they did wrong.” As a life coach, I have found that the fear of failure, especially in making healthy lifestyle changes, is the primary reason that people create excuses.
Words like, “Eating fried foods is just my family culture,” or “I have so many things to change, there is no way I can do it,” and “I’m just too old to change my habits” can have devastating effects.
Self-talk is the key to building up the confidence needed to transition from the “I can’t” to the “I can” mentality and take the leap into the unknown-to fail or succeed.
Fear of What Others Think of Us
Caring what other people think of us would seem to be a teenage problem, but it applies to adults as well. In my experience, often the biggest reason that adults resist change is because they want the support and approval of their family and friends.
It is easier to make career choices, lifestyle changes and personal habit improvements when we know we are doing it with someone else who wants us to succeed.
I see this when couples come to me before beginning an eating and fitness plan. One of the greatest concerns shared is that one party is ready to commit, but is waiting to do it until the other party has given their approval and support.
People may not want to be concerned about what others think of them, but the specific approval of those they love and respect means that can let go of some of the fear felt in taking risks alone.
Fear of Hard Work and Dedication
Sometimes people are just plain lazy. Everyone experiences times when they need to relax, but when one’s baseline of survival is to put in as little work as possible without committing to anything, then they might be dealing with a lifestyle disorder called laziness.
Laziness is also associated with procrastination, which, according to LollyDascal, President of Lead From Within, “…is the worst kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s demotivating and leads to apathy.”
Being afraid or apathetic toward setting goals, learning something new, using energy towards achievement, or even exploring something different, is one of the hardest fears to overcome. It is also one of the most detrimental qualities to progression in both business and personal success.
It is much harder to motivate someone to make healthy changes when they fear something that requires them to be proactive.
So, laziness, it would seem, is a sickness that attacks success before it has even had a chance to grow healthy roots for change. Lazy individuals seem to stay paralyzed by their indifference to overcoming their fear of change.
There are many more reasons other than just the 5 stated above that could be explored and discussed for why people create excuses.
In my experience, though, some level of fear is at the heart of what prevents people from changing things that are the most difficult for them to face. So how can we overcome these fears?
Exercise for Success:
We can simply start by addressing the way we talk to and about ourselves. If we focus on the fear of change, then our self-talk will feed our minds with negative energy.
If we focus on overcoming the fear, then our self-talk can become the positive fuel lighting our success on fire! It solves what seems like an overwhelming task, but often, the simple things we do make the most impact. Focusing on positivity and self-affirmations will help.
Here are a few quick tips to help you face your fears and make fewer excuses!
- Write the words “I AM… ” on a sticky note
- Choose a positive quality about yourself. A power word that describes how you feel. Then fill in the “I AM” (i.e. “I Am Strong”) on your sticky note
- Place the sticky note on your mirror, your dashboard, or your office computer. Anywhere, you can see it easily
- Repeat your “I Am” statement at least 10x’s/day for 1 week. Pay close attention to how it makes you feel when you say it
- At the end of the week, add another positive “I Am” statement and repeat the process again
This exercise helps strengthen your self-perception while proving you can achieve the changes you desire to make.
Don’t forget to also read our collection of excuses quotes and sayings on how they can prevent success.