If there is one thing most of us cannot stand is people making excuses, and if there is one thing we all do…it is make excuses. Everyone does it, everyone has done it in the past and most everybody will continue to do so in the future. There are millions of quotes about excuses that bosses, trainers, parents and coaches have probably thrown at you in your life, and I could sit here and throw some gems at you like “make an effort, not an excuse” or “excuses are the nails used to build a house of failure” . The point is, no matter how many clever sayings or quotes I throw at you, it won’t change anything. It might make you feel bad, or maybe embarrassed, or even like a failure, but that is not in any way my intention. My goal is not to break you down or make you doubt yourself because you have an excuse. My goal is to make you stop using excuses.
So why do we make excuses then?
Psychologists will place excuse making in the self-handicapping zone, which is to say that excuses are a behavior that one will express that impedes on performance and on motivation. Excuses are used as a distraction to hold us back from a task, but it is really from a deeper level of one’s desire to shield ourselves from any type of anxiety or shame. But, what does that have to do with being in the gym? How many times have you not gone to the gym because you were going to be late, maybe the alarm didn’t go off, maybe you hit snooze one to many times, what this is trying to say is that all you are doing is using excuse-making as distraction from not wanting to upset maybe your coach or your training partners by being late. What you should be saying is that I better get there and work twice as hard to make up for the time I missed. For example, saying that you are not going to your workout because you have too much to do, or making dietary changes are just too hard and unfair, is really just a way of making you feel less burdened and less ashamed. Unfortunately from a psychological stand point, IT WORKS.
Now to be fair, studies at the University of Florida have shown that excuse-making can be beneficial. What?! Mind blown! Well, that is, until I read on, and you should, too. The study was showing that certain excuses can protect self-esteem, lower depression and even boost one’s immune system, which in turn could lead to a better performance at the same task the next go around, as long as the excuse is maintainable and produces sympathy for the excuse maker. Once an excuse fails to hit these factors, it becomes detrimental to one’s success. Everyone out there has had one of those days in the gym, not into it, not motivated, mind just is not right, and when you are being honest to yourself and admit it just isn’t in you today you are able to rebound the next day and often times want to perform at a higher level because you now have a cleared head. The opposite approach is saying things like; it is too hard, or I can’t do it, and I give up. These are the type of excuses that are self-handicapping and in the end will do nothing but undermine yourself mentally.
When it comes to making a lifestyle change, such as making exercise and eating right part of your daily life, it will be hard, it will challenge you and hell if it was easy everyone would do it!
Just like any other place in your life, when it comes to your workout, be honest with yourself and be honest with your coach, don’t use self-handicapping excuses, instead just be honest. Tell yourself, your workout partner or your coach that today just is not your day and you will be back tomorrow ready to work. Without any more motivation, you will want to work harder, being driven intrinsically to succeed.
At the end of the day you can either have excuses or you can have results, but you will never have both.
As the great Maya Angelou once said, “Every journey begins with a single step.” It’s time to start yours.