By SPENCE FINLAYSON
"He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else." - Benjamin Franklin
Someone once said, "Excuses are the tools of the losers in life and people who use them build monuments of nothingness and they never succeed." What a powerful statement. Many persons are great at coming up with ways to wiggle out of commitments, or why they are stuck in an undesirable situation in life.
We learn to make excuses from our early childhood. A case in point; a young man finishes last in the 100 metres dash in a primary school track meet. He is then questioned by his coach, his teammates and family members about his disappointing last place finish. He responds typically, "I was wearing the wrong track shoes". It is certainly easier to place the blame on his track shoes rather than accepting responsibility for his poor performance.
In the 2008 Belmont Stakes in the United States, Big Brown, the undefeated colt who had crushed all comers, was supposed to run off with the Belmont Stakes and be anointed as the 12th Triple Crown champion and the first since Affirmed in 1978. However, very shockingly, Big Brown placed last in the race and immediately the excuses began to flow freely. Firstly, the jockey Kent Desormeaux, said: "I had no horse, he's just out of gas." Secondly, he blamed the horse foot for the disappointing and embarrassing loss.
It would definitely be wonderful if we all could rid ourselves of excuses. We know that an excuse is any reason for inactivity. I am sure that you have heard and used excuses before. Here are some of the more popular excuses: If only I had more money; If only the circumstances were different; If only I had listened; If only I had followed my dreams; If only I had not listened to others; If only I were the right colour; If only I had gone to college; If only I had married someone else; If only I had more schooling; If only I had the right contacts; If only I had gotten the breaks; If only things had gone according to plan…et cetera.
I am here to tell you that you are in control of your life and each day you should try to eliminate those excuses that stand between you and your success. In his classic best seller "The Prophet", Kahlil Gibran admonishes, "When you work, you fulfil a part of the earth's furthest dream, assigned to you when that dream was born and in keeping yourself with labour, you are in truth loving life and to love life through labour is to be intimate with life's innermost secret."
Here is a prescription for work and excuses from an unknown author:
"If your health is threatened, work. If disappointments come, work. If you inherit riches, continue to work. If your faith falters and you become a bundle of nerves, work. If your dreams are shattered and the star of hope begins to fade on your horizon, work. If sorrow overwhelms you or your friends prove untrue and desert you, work. If you are joyous, keep right on working. Idleness brings doubt and fear. No matter what ails you, work. Work as if your life were in peril, for it is!"
The answer to stop making excuses can be found in two steps:
• Getting your priorities in order
• Reducing large, uncomfortable steps into smaller, manageable pieces.
So as we look at organising your priorities, what's more important right now? Expanding your finances? Succeeding academically? Improving the quality of your relationships?
Excuse-making is the result of conflicting priorities. When you don't have a system for making decisions, the tendency is to just go with whatever feels best in the moment. You can clear this up by defining what your priorities are.
Priorities clear up the need for excuse-making, since they simplify decisions with conflicting values.
Mixed-up priorities are only a part of excuse-making. Unwillingness to step into uncomfortable situations is another. Success in almost any effort requires taking risks and facing failure. Author Susan Jeffers wrote a powerful book some years ago called "Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway". In her book she says "that she has been often asked to explain why we have so little trust in ourselves and she responded by saying that some fear is instinctual and healthy and keeps us alert to trouble. The rest, the part that holds us back from personal growth, is inappropriate and destructive and perhaps can be blamed on our conditioning."
The next time you catch yourself making an excuse, ask yourself, "Does this fit with my priorities?" If it doesn't and you still find yourself making excuses, ask yourself if there is any way you could push yourself through the next step.
• Spence M Finlayson is the founder and CEO of The Phoenix Institute For Positive Development, a human resources development firm based in Nassau. He can be reached at 601-6162 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is spencefinlayson.com.