Excuses. We all know what they are, we all use them (some of us more than others!) So what actually IS an excuse? The Oxford English Dictionary says an excuse is “a reason or explanation given to justify a fault or offence”. In the Shrinking Thinking world, I think a good definition of an excuse is “a reason we invent for not doing something” – and that something is usually something that we really don’t want to do right now….but know we probably should!
Let’s look at going to the gym. What are all the excuses you might use for not going today?
It’s raining, and it’s cold outside.
I just got home from work and I don’t want to go outside again.
My friend can’t join me today, and I don’t like going alone.
I’m too busy – there’s so much to do – I’ll go tomorrow.
I forgot to bring my gym kit with me.
I hate exercising.
You know you really do NEED to go to the gym, you SHOULD go cos you want to lose weight, you maybe even committed to others that you would lose the weight, BUT … oh, there’s always a but, isn’t there? As soon as you hear yourself saying “but”, this is the start of an excuse – so listen out for the “buts”, and in fact, get off your “but”!!!
So, why SHOULD you do the thing you’re trying to avoid doing? Who said you should do it? You? Your partner? Society? Did anyone actually say it, or is it just an expectation, a societal norm, a feeling you have? The thing is “should” seems to carry a sense of obligation with it, a sense that you have to do it. It feels heavy, it drags you down, it almost has a negative energy with it – it’s not a great feeling is it? And the crazy thing is, many of us often try everything we can to actually AVOID doing the things we feel we “should” do! So let’s ditch that horrible sense of obligation, and bring in choice.
So, just how do we bring in choice? Try changing the word “should” to “could”. Try saying “I could go to the gym today”, instead of “I should go to the gym today”. How different does that feel? It has a sense of possibility about it doesn’t it? Try this…. “if I really wanted to go to the gym today, I could.” Or, “If I really want to lose weight, I could.” So now it’s really all about IF you actually WANT to do the thing, or not. It’s far more honest, isn’t it? If you don’t want to go, you don’t go. Or, perhaps you don’t want to go, but you really DO want the end result of going to the gym, which is losing weight & getting fitter, so you go. So it’s now all about what we WANT, and whether we want it more than the excuse!
Let’s explore another common excuse – “I can’t”, eg “I can’t go to the gym tonight, I have to look after the kids.” From a language perspective, “can’t” is an abbreviation of “cannot” – it actually means “I can not do it” – so we’re actually CHOOSING to not do it! This is a process which happens in our brains when we say we can’t do something – the brain actually has to process “doing” the thing first, before it thinks about not doing it… because our brains can’t process a negative. And if you don’t believe me, whatever you do, don’t think about a purple elephant right now!!
So, what do you want? REALLY want? Think about it, and be completely honest with yourself. Do you want to be fitter? To be able to run after the kids? Be healthier? Lighter? Happier? Or to stay as you are? (I want to be absolutely clear about this – it’s completely OK if you want to stay as you are … Often times the Shrinking Thinking Programme is about helping people to be happy with who and how they are, rather than changing into someone they feel is not really them. Personally, I think becoming happy with yourself is a GREAT result, no matter your size or shape!!)
But if you’re unhappy being unhappy, you CAN absolutely choose to do something about it, right now. Stop hiding behind the excuses, choose to focus on what you want in your life & take ownership of your life and your future!