“Most times, we don’t even believe our own excuses. We know they’re simply not true. They’re just an easy way to justify our own mediocrity and save face.” ~ Camilo Cruz ~ author of Once Upon a Cow
When Camilo Cruz wrote his book, Once Upon a Cow, he was referring to the many sacred cows we harbor as excuses. The subtitle, Eliminating Excuses and Settling for Nothing but Success, gives a much better depiction of what the book is actually about. I’ve heard a lot of excuses lately from friends, family members and store managers, and yes, I’ve been guilty of making a few lame excuses myself, so I pulled Cruz’ book down off the shelf and found just the quote I was looking for.
Excuses are an easy way of justifying mediocrity by pointing to a scapegoat, thus avoiding responsibility for things that are in fact under our control. An excuse is another way of saying, “I’m guilty, but it’s really not my fault.”
“I haven’t gotten anywhere in my career because I keep working for bosses who don’t appreciate my talent.”
“I failed the test because the teacher didn’t give us enough time to study.”
“My marriage failed because my spouse never took the time to understand me.”
“It’s not my fault my collections are down. In this economy everyone is suffering.”
Placing the responsibility for a situation on others may be easier on our egos than facing it and taking responsibility for it ourselves. Excuses such as these allow us to shift that responsibility. The circumstance we are avoiding at the time may be a failing grade, rejection, conflict, being alone, or being criticized, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to avoid these unpleasant situations. In fact, it is somewhat of a natural reaction. However, evading them keeps us from identifying and resolving the real problem.
All of these excuses only serve to exonerate us from responsibility, placing ourselves in the role of victim and placing responsibility elsewhere. The real danger comes in when we begin to believe our own excuses, when we embrace the victim mentality we have created. When this happens, as long as we believe it is someone else fault, we will never do anything to remedy the situation. When we believe the lie that, “I was late because I was stuck in traffic”, we never make an effort to leave earlier.
The real truth about excuses is that they don’t change anything. As Jim Rohn often said, “For things to change, you have to change.” We don’t solve problems by creating a well-crafted excuse. Life remains the same and the situation will happen again and again until we decide to change from within. In a sense, an excuse is nothing more than preparation for more failure.
Excuses also become self-fulfilling prophesies. For example, if you often use the excuse of “I don’t have any time, (an excuse I often battle with) to justify not doing something that needs to be done, over time you will begin to notice that indeed you have lost control of your time and your life. You’ll start living a reactive rather than a proactive life, jumping from one emergency to the next. Every time you use the excuse, it gains greater validity until it becomes your reality.
Make a conscious effort to recognize your excuses for what they are and take personal responsibility. Forget your excuses! Your friends, family and co-workers don’t need them and your customers won’t believe them.