We can make progress or we can make excuses. It’s our choice. 

Why do we make excuses? It keeps us in our comfort zone. And in our comfort zone, we know we can show up as our best self.

Our comfort zone becomes routine. We get used to it. It is easy. It is why people stay in relationships even after they have fallen out of love. It is why people remain in a job they know is stifling their growth. It is why people don’t speak up against injustice or take the necessarily action to create change.

But, staying in our comfort zone leads to complacency. Because at one point, it wasn’t our comfort zone. At one point it was hard and a struggle. And then it got normal and we finally felt like we were good at it. Times goes on, and we become complacent. We can do it without much thought, our bodies just go through the motions.

Outside our comfort zone is unknown. Outside our comfort zone stretches us beyond. It challenges us and pushes us. It sometimes is a strain – mentally, physically, emotionally. There is stress associated with being outside our comfort zone. And with stress comes the knowledge that it will take more energy to show up as our best self. Outside of our comfort zone requires responsibility and ownership. 

In our comfort zone we don’t have to try. When we don’t push ourselves, we become a victim who has lost our voice and power of choice. We place the blame elsewhere and eliminate the responsibility from our shoulders.

So what are the excuses we make and how do we shift our mindset to not allow them to limit our ability to make progress?

The excuse:
I don’t know how
Consider when you learned to walk. Did you know how? You didn’t read a book on it or ask the experts. You didn’t hire a consultant or delegate. You didn’t say, “This is hard, I am not going to keep trying.” And, most importantly, you didn’t give up. 

Yet we give ourselves permission to not make progress because we don’t know how. We give ourselves the out of it being hard or the old adage, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” What a limiting belief! It may be hard, but if it is worth it to you, you can learn.

The excuse:
I’m not a natural
Of course you are not a natural. Most people are not. The rule is that anything that is worth it is hard. The exception is that someone is born naturally good at it. You watch anyone who is good at anything and assume they were born that way (interested in reading more about that? Check out Angela Duckworth’s book, Grit.) Athletes, actors, chefs. You watch them and see them in their glory. You don’t, however, see the countless hours of practice. You don’t see what they have sacrificed. You don’t see their sweat, their tears, or their struggle. You see a flawless performance at their peak. They are not a natural… and neither are you.

The excuse:
I don’t have time
No one has time. Everyone is busy. What you have is the responsibility to prioritize the things that are most important to you. When something is important… you make the time. And if you say it is important, and you don’t make the time, then you are not being honest with what is most important to you.

The excuse:
So-and-so is holding me up
There will always be people who get in your way. Yes, sometimes it might be intentional and malicious. But more often then we realize, it has nothing to do with us and has everything to do with them being in the same place we are. They are held up by other people, they have limiting beliefs about what they can and cannot do. They are stressed, overwhelmed, and they are trying. You need to be the one who keeps them on task and hold them accountable.

The excuse:
Anything that sounds like, my computer isn’t working, the environment isn’t right, etc…
Maslow says, “a musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself.” The stars don’t always align but that doesn’t mean it is not the right time to start . Your computer doesn’t work? People made progress for years without the technology we have access to. Grab a pen and paper and get going. Your desk needs reorganizing? Push everything in a drawer and get going. You’re tired? Do 10 jumping jacks and get going.

The excuse:
I haven’t had my breakthrough idea
Motivation needs to be created. Edison’s famous quote of “I found a thousand ways how not to make a lightbulb” is a constant reminder that the attempts, the failures, and the questioning is what gets you to a breakthrough idea. Value and appreciate each time you put forth your effort and you learn. Most writers talk about writing for hours every single day, even though the majority of what they write is never read by anyone else. Practice and build those muscles. Federer didn’t just wait till he had the perfect serve prior to registering for his first Grand Slam.

The excuse:
I don’t have the money
Apple started in a garage. The Simplified Planner just shared an Instagram post about how they got started – planners, piled floor to ceiling, in her living room. The founder, her husband, and her son, hand packed each box themselves and personally drove them to the post office. At that point it was a dream. At that point she knew there was a need and wanted to fill it. Pinterest has all types of “Life Hacks.” Templates for everything exist online. We have access to the world at our fingertips and money helps, but is not necessary to make progress.

The excuse:
My boss said no
It’s true, most of us work within confines of the corporate world. We have bosses who we report to, and those bosses report to other bosses. Everyone is always looking up and feeling the pressure. Although that isn’t necessarily the best or most healthy way to run a company, it is often the reality and we must find a way to function (and hopefully thrive) within it. There are times when your boss says “no” or some iteration of “no.” There are times when it doesn’t align with the business plan, the team doesn’t have the budget, or the capacity on the team cannot support it. All of those are legitimate reasons and you have to decide how much you want to fight. Check in with your priorities. Check in with your intentions.

I wrote this blog because I have heard myself utter the above excuses and I know they are holding me back on things I have said are important to me. And I make an excuse, and want to believe it… and yet deep down, I know I utilize the excuses to validate my lack of progress. What I have realized is if I am struggling with something, other people out there are struggling with the exact same thing.

Let’s start acknowledging the excuses we make, get intentional about what we actually want to see progress on, and then make the choice to take action.



Danielle Aaronson

Danielle Aaronson

Danielle’s mission is to inspire leaders to make intentional choices that move them to positive action. She speaks at conferences, management summits, and leadership programs as well as facilitates efforts with executives and senior leaders at organizations seeking to influence their culture. Her mantra, “be the change you wish to see in the world” has allowed her to strive every day to be the best she can be and help others recognize the potential they have to make a positive difference. @deaaronson

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