21 Jan, 2020

How to overcome Excusitis

How to overcome Excusitis

There is a disease in the world that infects us all. It’s an epidemic which is so widespread that we barely notice it.

It is the disease of Excusitis – of finding and making excuses for not taking action or for giving in to temptation.

The term excusitis was first coined by David Schwartz in his book, The Magic of Thinking Big which has inspired my latest series of podcasts and blogs.

The anatomy of an excuse

In the book, Schwartz listed the common excuses he would come across – Most of which are just as prevalent today:

  • Age – I’m too old (or too young) to do this….
  • Health – I’d do it if but I’m not fit enough…
  • Ability – I’m not smart enough/ I don’t have the skills….
  • Luck – I’m just not lucky….
  • Time – I’m too busy….

Not one of these is true!

There are a couple of other excuses which I come across quite often too:

  • Confidence – What will others think?
  • Lazy – I don’t feel like it. I can’t be bothered’ Doing what everyone else is doing
  • Conformity – Go on (or don’t bother) it’s… (Christmas, Your Birthday, the weekend, Friday, Monday…)

Why do we make excuses?

An excuse is an interesting thing. We use them to hold ourselves back and to prevent us from taking action. Why would we do that?

Part of it is coming from that primal part of us which wants us to stay safe and in one place. By not taking action, we are not inviting a risk. This is a habit we learn very early on.

We also learn from those around us. Right from when we are young, we see other people making excuses and we copy them. We ‘deserve’ a chocolate biscuit because we see other people telling themselves they’ve deserved it (and as children we are often rewarded with food). We see someone else in pain after exercise so tell ourselves we would be injured if we did the same thing.

The most powerful driver of excuses, however, is fear. An excuse is a way of distancing yourself from blame. It is a reason not to take action. I couldn’t take action because…. And suddenly it isn’t your fault.

The Vaccination for Excusitis

If you want to make change in your life and move forward, tackling the excuses you make has to be part of the process. And it comes in three parts:

  1. Become aware of the excuses you make.

Keep a note of every excuse you make during the day. Right from the start of the day when you hit snooze on the alarm clock ‘just five more minutes’) though the actions you avoid or the impulses you give in to, right the way to the end of the day when you don’t go to bed in good time or skip brushing you teeth.

Start to see what you are saying to yourself and challenge this. Is the excuse true? What is the worst that would happen if you didn’t listen to the excuse? And, more importantly, what is the best that can happen if you ignore the excuse.

  1. Take action!

When you don’t feel like doing something, do it anyway. And then focus on how you feel for having achieved it. The primal part of the brain wants to keep us in one place – but the part of the brain that separates us from other animals wants us to grow. So step through the fear and hesitation and ask yourself: How will I feel after I’ve done this?

There is a helpful tool you can use here: The Two Minute Rule. If something will take you less than two minutes to complete (there or thereabouts, it doesn’t need to be an exact time) then do it right now. Don’t add it to a list or put it off until tomorrow. Answer that email right now; put the plates in the dishwasher; File those documents

A great variation on this is to ‘just do two minutes’ – if you don’t feel like doing something which has an open-ended timeframe (like exercise) say to yourself “I’ll just do two minutes.” You’d be amazed how much better you feel the moment you’ve started and the two minutes you planned will last far longer.

  1. Get excited about the outcome

When you catch yourself in an excuse image how you will feel if you take action anyway. In my last blog, I explained how thoughts create feelings and how those feelings drive actions.

So think about how you will feel after you have taken action and use that to drive you forward. Cultivate a desire for the end-state of any action. See the future you are working towards, whether that is a thriving business, a toned and healthy body, a relationship with someone special or something else.

By focussing on what you want will take you to the point when the excuses don’t matter because nothing is going to stop you.

If you want to learn more about how to think and act big, take a look at my free online coaching video at petecohen.com/coaching and book a call with me to see how you can surround yourself with a community of people who don’t let excuses get in their way.

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