Excuses, Excuses – Stop the cop-out cycle and take control of your life

By Donna Cardillo, RN, MA

Instead of making commitments, many of us make excuses — excuses for why we supposedly can’t do the things we want to do in our lives and careers. In all the years I have been speaking and coaching, I have heard just about every imaginable excuse. But excuses are nothing more than self-created obstacles crafted to keep us from moving forward for a variety of reasons. Benjamin Franklin said: “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.”

Excuses take on various forms. The “I can’t because …” type include: “I’m too old, I’m too young, I’ve been in nursing too long, I’ve been out of nursing too long, the economy is bad,” and so on. We have an amazing knack for fixating on something we perceive as negative and making it an insurmountable wall in our own psyches. Repeat anything often enough and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Another common type of excuse sounds something like this: “I’m waiting for my kids to finish college, my kids to leave home, my bank account to be bigger, my waistline to be smaller,” etc. The problem with this type of excuse is twofold. By creating a “contingency excuse,” i.e., “I’ll do this when that happens,” you are giving up power to the other event or person and avoiding your own sense of responsibility in the process.

The other issue with the “I’m waiting for …” excuse is that you are assuming that when that future circumstance occurs, other factors in your life will have remained stable such as your health, relationships, job status, financial situation, etc. That’s a huge risk to take. So much can happen in a few short years or months if you postpone doing something that is important to you. We also assume that we will live forever and have ample opportunity and resources indefinitely. In reality, often the best time to do something, or at least to start planning for it, is now. And if you’re waiting for the time to be perfect before you do something, you’ll be in for a long wait.

In some cases, an excuse might be based on a lack of information or presumption of lack of resources. For example, I often hear people say, “I can’t go back to school because I don’t have the money.” Truth is, tons of scholarship money is available, and there are loan repayment programs and many other types of creative financing. If you want something bad enough, you can always find a way to make it happen.

Unfortunately, making excuses can become a habit, a way of life. Some folks have honed it to an art form. Instead of planning and taking action, they make an excuse. We make excuses to protect ourselves from feelings of failure and fear. They help us to avoid unpleasant situations and mask our perceived shortcomings. The bottom line is that excuses keep us from succeeding.

I have a friend who for years stated that when her kids finished college she would return to college herself. She got a lot of mileage out of that since she had four kids, each several years apart in age. But her youngest has long since finished college and she has made no effort to go back to school. She likely used that excuse to delay taking action. But since she apparently has no intention of returning to school, she now has to craft a new excuse to further avoid taking action. There is a Yiddish proverb that goes, “If you don’t want to do something, one excuse is as good as another.”

Where there is a will there is always a way. Life is short and unpredictable. Create an action plan for your future, take responsibility for your decisions and your actions, and get on with your life. Stop making excuses and start taking action today.

Copyright Gannett Healthcare Group (www.nurse.com). All rights reserved. Used with permission.