How to Stop Making Excuses

Do you ever find yourself making an excuse for not having done something or not wanting to do something? Or perhaps making an excuse for something you have said or a way in which you have behaved?

I think we’re all guilty of having made an excuse about something at some point in our lives. For some people it’s something only done once in a blue moon. For others it’s more of a habit and then for some it will be second nature.

Making excuses doesn’t do much harm if it’s a rare occurrence. However, if it’s frequent and involves making excuses to yourself as well as other people, it may be a problematic habit that needs to be addressed.

To overcome the habit of making excuses, it’s important to reflect and understand why you do it. There could be a number of reasons why you make excuses, such as:

•You are scared
•You don’t want to fail
•You don’t like not knowing what to expect
•You don’t have a fixed goal in mind
•You are worried about making a mistake
•You worry about being seen as stupid
•You worry what other people might think
•You compare yourself to other people
•You use excuses as a form of self-protection
•You lack motivation and are stuck in a rut

The chances are that if you make an excuse about something, the reason behind it will fall into on of those categories. Thinking about my own experiences, I know that I’ve made excuses for not doing something in the past because I have actually been scared of doing it, scared of the outcome, scared I would fail, and therefore worried I’d been seen as stupid or judged in some way.

To stop making excuses it’s important to challenge the reason why you are doing it. You could do that by asking yourself the following kind of questions:

•What’s the worst that could happen?
•What if I’m judged more for making the excuse?
•What if I actually succeed?
•Does what other people are doing really matter?

Challenging your thoughts will help you to truly rationalise things in your mind and in turn change your behaviour.

There is of course another reason why you might make excuses… Because you simply don’t want to do the thing you’re making the excuse about. The truth is that it is ok if you don’t want to do something and excuses should not be required. For example, if you don’t feel like going out with your friends but make an excuse about being busy or not having childcare, it’s better to be honest and simply state that you don’t feel like going out on that occasion but look forward to going out another time. Most people will be ok with that and appreciate your honesty. I can think of times when friends have made excuses not to go out with me and I’ve thought ‘just be honest because your excuse is so transparent’. Honesty is always the best policy.

Something else to consider is the result of making excuses. They can hold you back, prevent you from achieving something or reaching your potential, and they can also rub off on other people (your children, for example). Therefore, it’s worth giving the following tips a go so you can stop making excuses for good:

•Stop being scared
•Stop thinking you are going to fail
•Stop fearing the unknown
•Think about what your goals are
•Stop worrying about making a mistake
•Stop thinking you will be seen as stupid
•Stop comparing yourself to other people
•Let go of trying to protect yourself by using excuses
•Work on boosting your motivation in order to get out of the rut you are in

It’s true to say that many, if not all, of those points will require you to make an effort rather than them being things that simply happen overnight. It may take a lot of planning and consideration. It may mean you will benefit from seeing a therapist who can help you with all of those points. But the most important thing is to make a start and make a commitment to change and let go of excuses. Allow yourself to be in control, not the excuses.