Excuses … excuses …

iCAP Services logoThe other day I was admonished by a friend (in a kind way) for not returning his call. It was a few days later when I finally spoke to him.

“So you finally deigned to call me back”, he jokingly chided.

The funny thing was that before I called him, I was trying to come up with excuses as to why it took me a while to call him back. I was on the train so I had plenty of time to go back over the last few days of events and justify the delay.

After ten minutes of mental note taking, I came up with an impressive list of chores that had occupied me but, as I thought more about the list, I realised that none of these were reasons for not calling my friend.

They were all excuses for not calling.

What’s the difference and why does it matter?

Well, in my mind, a reason legitimately excuses you from the expectations you have regarding your behaviour.

To take my example above to the extreme, a legitimate reason for not calling my friend might be that I was hit by a bus, my phone had been crushed on impact, I had been unconscious for three days, and my plethora of broken bones prevented me from dialling his number.

Over the top? Yes, but if it had happened, it would have given me a valid reason for not calling him.

An excuse, on the other hand, can be regarded as allowing for wriggle room when two things are not mutually exclusive. It can be seen as a justification we grant ourselves. Permission, maybe, to not meet the expectations we have for our behaviour.

The list I had come up with was exactly that. It was a list of justifications I came up with to make me feel OK about my actions. In hindsight, what would have made me feel terrific and given me a break from my busy schedule was to have taken time out and connected with my friend instead.

So, what are the excuses or justifications you keep repeating to yourself to let yourself off the hook?

  • If you really want to get fit, what’s your ‘reason’ for sitting on the couch?
  • If you really want to fix your relationship, what’s you ‘reason’ for not accepting your role in the breakdown and making amends?
  • If you really want to kick a habit that affects your health and well-being, what’s your ‘reason’ for not asking for help?
  • If you really want to change careers and follow your dreams, what’s your ‘reason’ for not taking the first step?

Next time, try the mutually exclusive test and see if your reasons are really excuses in disguise. Check to see if they are excuses that you use to let yourself off the hook.

What’s behind the excuses? Complacency? Anger? Fear?

How much would your life improve if you could jump over your excuses?

What could you achieve when there are no more excuses?

Tina is a Counsellor and Psychotherapist in private practice in Wollongong and Sydney.

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