It is ultimately only our own thoughts that hurt us.
The mind is a wonderful thing. It’s also a total liar and an excuse machine that frequently tries to convince us not to take actions we know are good for us. In the end, this prevents many positive changes from taking place in our lives.
I’ve had to learn to watch these lies and excuses very carefully in order to make the positive changes I’ve made in my life: a healthier diet, regular exercise, meditation, more sleep, daily writing, better planning, less procrastination, more focus, etc.
If I hadn’t learned about these lies and excuses, and how to suppress them, I would never have succeeded in making these positive changes. In fact, until I knew better, I had failed countless times when I was young because my mind’s deceptive tendencies used to get the best of me.
So why does the mind lie to us and make irrational excuses?
Because the mind wants comfort – that’s why. It’s afraid of discomfort, pressure and change. The mind is absorbed in its comfort zone, and anytime we try to stretch that zone too far, for too long, the mind tries desperately to get back to ground zero at any cost… including sacrificing our long-term health, happiness and success.
So let’s expose 10 of the cowardly mind’s most damaging lies and excuses once and for all:
- I can’t do it. – It seems too difficult at first, so you think you can’t stick to the positive change you’re making. You don’t believe in yourself enough to take another step. This is a common lie/excuse that can be countered by looking at the fact that other people no more capable than you have done it. For example, my 60-year-old next-door neighbor ran a marathon a little before I started training for my first marathon, and so I told myself, “If she can do it, so can I!” And I was right. Truth be told, the only person who can tell you “I can’t” is you. If you hear those words echoing in the back of your mind, tune them out. Realize that your doubts and your faith have something in common – they both ask you to believe in something you can’t see. You simply have to decide which one you want to believe.
- They can do it, but that doesn’t apply to me because they have it better than me. – Just because someone else can, doesn’t mean you can, right? You look for reasons they can do it but you can’t – maybe he’s an internet entrepreneur or freelance writer because he has no kids. Maybe she’s way fitter than I am, so she can run a marathon. Maybe she doesn’t have all the work and family obligations I have, or has a supportive spouse, or doesn’t have bad knees. OK, fine, it’s easy to find excuses: but look at all the other people who also have considerable obstacles and have done it anyway. Angel and I have a family, and have dealt with significant loss in our lives, and still managed to succeed on many fronts. And just as we’ve turned things around for ourselves, we know hundreds of other people who’ve done the same. Through a decade of life coaching, we’ve witnessed people reinventing themselves at all ages – 48-year olds starting families, 57-year-olds graduating from college for the first time, 71-year-olds starting successful businesses, and so forth. And stories abound of people with disabilities or illnesses who overcame their obstacles to achieve great things. Your obstacles can be overcome.
- I’m stuck because I don’t have enough time to make changes. – Have you ever met a happy, successful person who regularly avoids responsibility, blames and points fingers and makes excuses for their unsatisfying life? Me either. The truth is, you write your own destiny through the choices you make every day. You become what you repeatedly do. It is more important to know where you are going and why, than to get there quickly. In fact, the most important thing in life is knowing what the most important things in life are, and prioritizing them accordingly. Most of us spend too much time on urgent things and not enough time on important things. So do yourself a favor and implement these three action steps every time you’re building or sorting your to-do list: 1) Think about the difference between what is urgent and what is important. 2) Review all the obligations on your list. 3) Do what’s important first. (Read The ONE Thing.)
- It’ll be too hard because I can’t get by without _______. – Fill in the blank: I need my wine, my cheese, my sweets, my TV shows, my ten hours of sleep, my big house, my fancy wardrobe, etc. These are luxuries we convince ourselves we can’t live without, so we can justify not making positive changes like eating healthier or exercising daily or saving money or simplifying our lives or building a profitable side hustle. And like I said, I’m not immune either – in the past I’ve made these excuses myself, but they all turned out to be lies. I didn’t need any of these things in my life, and believing that I did was only getting in the way of the positive changes I was capable of creating for myself.
- Life is meant to be easier and enjoyed more. – Sure, I agree that life should be enjoyed (as most people would) but the problem is that the idea that life should ALWAYS be easy and enjoyable is used to justify all kinds of lazy behavior. Might as well sit on the couch and scarf down those Twinkies, because hey, life is meant to be enjoyed, right? Nope. You can do without junk food and still enjoy life. You can exercise and enjoy it. You can give up a lot of comfort in your life and not lose a thing. In fact, the path of least resistance is often the path of least reward. You need to do hard things. There are no shortcuts to any place worth going. As Einstein once said, “Genius is 1% talent and 99% percent hard work.” You must run to be a runner. You must write to be a writer. You must actively work on a business venture to learn how to run a successful business. There is no substitute for doing the work. So meditate on this every day: “I will do the work. It won’t be easy. It will be worth it!”
- I deserve a reward (or a break). – We all deserve a tasty treat, or a day off. I’m not saying you shouldn’t give yourself a reward or break when one is deserved. But if you make this rationalization a primary rule for living, you’ll always be on a break. You’ll always be giving yourself rewards, and never adhering to the original plan. Here’s what I do instead: I see sticking to my plan as the reward itself. I see reaching my goals as a gift I give myself. Going on a run isn’t the thing I have to get through to get a reward – the run is the reward.
- I can do it later. – Sure, you can always do it later… but your later self will feel the same exact way. Think about it: Why should your later self be more disciplined than your present self? There’s no reason. In fact, because you’re allowing yourself to slack off now, you’re building a habit of procrastination and actually making it less likely that your later self will be more disciplined. So today, stop making excuses for why you can’t get it done and start focusing on all the reasons why you must make it happen. Stop talking about what you have done or what you are going to do. Just do it and let your actions speak for themselves. Most great things in life don’t happen by chance, they happen by choice. You never know what’s possible until you risk finding out. In the long run, there is only one thing that makes your dreams and goals completely impossible to achieve: Your lack of action today. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Productivity” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
- One time won’t hurt. – This lie is so tempting, because it’s somewhat true – one time won’t hurt. Assuming, of course, that it really is only one time. One scoop of ice cream, one missed workout, one time procrastinating instead of working, etc. Unfortunately, it’s never just one time. One time means your brain now knows it can get away with this excuse next time too, and the next “one time” leads to another, until you’ve completely fallen off the wagon. Make a pact with yourself: never believe the “one time” lie. If you’re going to allow yourself a scoop of ice cream, decide this beforehand and build it into your plan – “I will allow myself a single serving of sweets once every weekend” and stick to your plan, rather than deciding on the fly when your conscience is weak.
- It’s better to quit now and cut my losses. – As Winston Churchill once said, “Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It is courage to continue that counts.” Nothing could be closer to the truth. Persistence is the mother of all productive effort. Failures, small and large, happen every day to the best of us. The strongest, most productive people aren’t the people who always succeed, but the ones who don’t give up when they lose. In the heat of the moment when you feel like quitting, think about how far you have come and why you started in the first place. Oftentimes you’re a lot closer to making a breakthrough than you think. Some people give up their efforts when they have almost reached their goal, while others conquer their goals by exerting, up until the very last possible second, more vigorous efforts than ever before. Bottom line: Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit – so KEEP GOING! (Read The Success Principles.)
- It’s already too late. – Nothing is too late until your tired heart stops beating. If you’re reading this right now, congratulations, you are alive, which means it’s not too late for you. Things can change if you want them to at any age. Right now you can choose differently and make something new happen. Your future is immediate. Grab on to it with both hands and keep on moving on. When you come up on a roadblock and are faced with the choice of sitting down and doing nothing or doing something to make further progress, choose the latter. Think, work, and climb if you have to. Move your life forward. Today!
What kinds of damaging lies and excuses sometimes echo in the back of your mind? What’s one such lie or excuse that has held you back? Share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment below.
Photo by: Tilly