Excuses or Choices?
If you interact with the public on a daily basis, you’ve probably heard a ton of different reasons for why people do or don’t do certain things. Sometimes the reasons are worthwhile, well thought out, and very smart. Sometimes the reasons are comical and don’t make any sense. Many times reasons turn into excuses, and excuses are often the things that hold us back and keep us from becoming the people we want to be. Here is a look at some common excuses and how to turn them into choices so they won’t cause problems when trying to reach your goals.
I Don’t Have Time
Now this is one I can certainly relate to. When you work, have a family, and are involved in other outside activities, time is certainly a scarce commodity. I have also been guilty of trying to do everything myself because I felt no one else could do it as well as me. Not having enough time can also cost you in terms of money and health if you are eating out every night because you feel you too rushed to cook or if you don’t exercise or take some time for relaxation. There are only 24 hours in every day. We have to make time for the things we need to do, so we’ll have time for the things we want to do.
Make a Schedule– I admit, I never used to schedule my time at home, and I generally got nothing done because I would start fourteen things and never finish any of them. At work, we would fall apart without a schedule, and home tasks really aren’t that much different. Write down what you need to accomplish during the week and start prioritizing. I’ve found that taking care of the least fun task first often helps.
Delegate– Maybe there are some things you can delegate to others. When I worked all the time, I still felt like I had to do all the cooking and housekeeping, even though Jim got home hours before I did on many days. Finally, I asked if he could make dinner on the nights when I worked late. Guess what? He could. Maybe he doesn’t always make things I would choose, (hot dogs do belong to a food group, right?) but that’s OK, and we don’t end up having to get takeout.
Get Up Early– If I wake up an hour or two before everyone else, I can be super productive or work out without feeling Mommy guilt. It does require turning off the TV or computer so I can actually go to sleep at a reasonable hour, but it’s well worth gaining the extra time.
I Can’t Afford It
I was in line at a convenience store last week when I overheard a customer taking to the clerk about how expensive health insurance was and that he couldn’t afford it. He was buying an energy drink and two packs of Marlboros. I’m generalizing, but if he took the $15 he likely spends every day on these items, that would be over $450 a month. He looked to be about my age, and especially if he stopped smoking, that would certainly buy a health insurance policy.
“I can’t afford it” is a huge excuse that gets used to account for lots of things we don’t do; everything from buying healthy food, making a budget, funding a retirement plan, the list goes on and on. While it may be true that you don’t have enough money to buy whatever you need or want at this exact moment, you likely can afford it.
Track all of your spending-If you have no idea where your money goes, you’ll never be able to save any of it.
Find ways to lower costs or make more money-Sometimes this requires tough decisions. If your rent is eating up all of your money, you might have to move. You might have to take a roommate. You might have to sell your new car and drive a beater. You might have to tell your friends that you can’t go out with them. You might have to take on extra work or mow yards. You might even have to cut up your credit cards, but I guarantee that if you spend less that you earn, you’ll find more and more ways to afford the things that are important.
Consider every purchase-My rule for purchases is a three step process. I have three questions. Is this purchase an absolute necessity or will it add value to my life? Do I need it right now? Is this the best possible price? If the answer is yes to all three, go ahead and buy it. Otherwise, you likely don’t need it or can find a better price.
Make Choices Not Excuses
I’m as guilty as the next person of using excuses like the ones listed above, especially lack of time. In reality, we make choices, not excuses, every day. I could have time to become fluent in Mandarin Chinese, but I would probably have to cut out all other activities and save enough to spend some time immersed in China. I choose not to do this because speaking Chinese is not important to me. I could go back to work full time and make more money, but I choose not to because we have paid off most of our debt and currently have more than enough money to live on. Choices are great!
Excuses, on the other hand, are not so great. If I use the excuse that I can’t afford to pay off my credit cards because I don’t want to cut spending and change my lifestyle, then I’ll never have choices besides divvying up how much to split between Visa and Mastercard. If you use the excuse of not having time to exercise when you’re really scared of failing or that someone might laugh at the overweight person trying to jog on the treadmill, get over it and make the choice not to use an excuse.
We need to think choices instead of excuses. If you can think positively by saying I choose instead of I don’t or I can’t, it goes a long way toward getting to where you want to be. Even if you are making bad choices, realize that they are, in fact, choices. I’m sure it sounds better to say that you can’t afford health insurance instead of saying that you choose not to afford health insurance because you buy two packs of cigarettes every day, but isn’t that your choice?
What excuses have held you back? What’s the best one you’ve heard? What choices do you make every to reach your goals?
Hilarious. “I can’t afford it” is always a good one. If I don’t want to do something I just tell people, “I’ll get to it just after the aliens arrive.” That generally drives them away. I don’t get asked for much anymore. On that note, how come nobody talks to me anymore? Hello? Is this thing on?
I might have some friends from Roswell you need to meet.
Priorities Priorities Priorities Priorities Priorities Priorities Priorities! Did I mention priorities? People who make excuses are actually making other priorities over what they SAY they want to do. When they “can’t” do something, it’s usually a “I don’t want to, or am too lazy” to do something. If you want to work out, then you sacrifice your TV time to make it happen. If you want to buy a house, you cut the cable, stop blowing money on fast food and bars, and save to make it happen. “Can’t” is the most debilitating word in the English language. And you know what the biggest barrier to “can” is? YOU!
Sorry for yelling. I feel very passionate about this subject as well. 🙂
You might want to get a bit more excited about this topic!
It’s not really an excuse but “my debt will be paid off one day” is a thought that has held me back for many many years. Now I’m matured enough to know that if you want something done, you start now. Not tomorrow, NOW!
Good one. I used to use that all the time. I’ll pay it off later got me into all kinds of trouble.
Awesome post! I especially like this line: “…excuses are often the things that hold us back and keep us from becoming the people we want to be.” So true! I think it’s very effective to frame responses to opportunities as “I choose not to” instead of “I can’t.” That small change makes you stop and think about the decision in more depth. I think I’ll be doing this more often going forward. Thanks for the inspiration!
Thanks for the insightful comment!
Getting up early is how we make time to do extra stuff. Sometimes it’s 5 a.m…..but you do what you have to do. That really is the only way to work extra time into your day!
I love this post. It’s very empowering to “own” one’s decisions and make choices rather than excuses. Choices can always be changed if needed or if one’s situation changes. For instance, my husband and I spend a lot of time and money commuting to our respective workplaces (in opposite directions). One or both of us could look for a different job or we could move. However, we both like where we work and like where we live. Once we accepted that we were making a choice to deal with a long commute, we felt a lot better about the long drive and the price of commuting. We remembered that we’ve made this choice because it’s important to live where we do, and because we think that we both have good job opportunities where we work.
Prioritization makes a huge difference when applied to finances and time management, as you point out!
Otherwise, you never get anything done!
Time is such a big one. In every stage of my life I’ve felt like I was busy, and yet I’ve pretty much continually added commitments along the way. Somehow those commitments are all able to be handled, despite previously feeling like I didn’t have enough time. Turns out I was just wasting it. Waking up early is one of my favorite productivity tips. I can get so much done early in the morning, and like you said it doesn’t have to be at the expense of spending time with family.
I feel the same way. I used to think I was busy before I had a kid, but I think I just wasted lots of time!
Last month I took my son to a presentation by his favorite author, Bruce Coville (Aliens Ate My Homework).
Bruce told a story about when he was a high school teacher and after years of effort, published his first book. He was in the teacher’s lounge talking about his book when another teached sashayd in, overheard Bruce’s conversation and said, “I would like to write a book, but I just don’t have time.”
Bruce said that in his imagination he grabbed the teacher by the neck and yelled, “You have the same 24 hours in a day that I do!”
My impression was Bruce didn’t think that was a valid reason.
We all have those 24 hours, and it’s OK to take it easy and sloth away one every now and again, but how would anything get done if we all didn’t have enough time?