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broken clock
alarm clocks
own shortcomings
unforeseen changes
alarm clock
first response
time management
co workers
apology
honesty
Stop With The Excuses! How Excuses Sabotage Your Life
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Stop With the Excuses! How Excuses Sabotage Your Life

We've all been in this situation: you're double-booked, over-committed, or just plain running late. Sometimes you make promises you can't keep, and sometimes important tasks don't get finished on time. Once you realize that you're going to fall short of expectations or goals, most of us begin searching our minds for an explanation – why did you fail? Many of the possible explanations place the crux of the problem squarely somewhere else – a faulty alarm clock, unexpected changes to your workload, or, at worst, other people. When you offer your explanation, do you stand firm in honesty and take responsibility for your own shortcomings, or do you divert the blame elsewhere?

What's the Difference?

Faulty alarm clocks, unforeseen changes, and even covering for lazy co-workers may all be valid reasons for falling short, so are they really excuses if they're true? The answer is yes, but only insofar as when they are given the ultimate blame for failings on your part. Consider this difference:

“Sorry that project didn't get finished – some other projects came up, and I gave them more time than I should have given to them. It shouldn't have happened, and I apologize. I'll try to improve my time management moving forward.”

vs.

“I know this project didn't get finished, but there's no way I can keep up with everything when people keep dumping more work in my lap!”

The excuse is pretty easy to spot here. Now consider a more subtle comparison:

“Sorry I'm late. I forgot that the clock in the break room was broken, and I didn't have my cell phone on me. Won't happen again.”

vs.

“Sorry I'm late. The clock in the break room has been broken for a month!”

The latter response includes an apology, sure enough, but still diverts the blame squarely to a broken clock, even though you knew that it hadn't been working. The first response, on the other hand, shows that you recognize that the responsibility of ensuring that you get to meetings on time is yours, and not simply trusted to technology. You assert that you're taking steps to correct the problem, and that it won't happen again. This is a reason, not an excuse.

To remember the difference, remember this: Excuses are made, reasons are given.

When you think about it this way, it becomes clearer that excuses are, at their core, falsehoods. They have to be made – or fabricated, if you prefer – whereas reasons are readily available to be given.

Making the Choice

When you're in the moment, the choice to give a reason or make an excuse ultimately falls to you. Before you decide which to do, ask yourself the following questions:

What do you really want to do? Explain the situation honestly, or relieve yourself of the blame?

Will you accept the consequences of the situation and/or take steps to remedy or improve it?

Will you honestly admit your own responsibility, and is there any way you could have avoided the situation entirely?

You are bound to have moments in life when you are faced with having to own up to something on your end or make an excuse. What kind of person do you want to be? The next time you find yourself I the unfortunate situation where you've fallen short of expectations, examine the situation and ask yourself these questions. Constantly diverting the blame by making excuses not only masks the truth of the situation, but it actually sabotages your own success and, if you're blaming other people for your failings, it may endanger folks who ostensibly aren't responsible for your success of failure. Take a moment and consider each of these questions, recount the situation honestly, accept responsibility, and offer a solution for the future.

There will be times when the consequences may be harsh, but owning every situation honestly will be far better for your integrity in the long term.


Street Talk

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