Most of us are guilty of having done something we shouldn't have or of not doing something we should have. When we are questioned about our misconduct, do we accept responsibility and admit we are at fault? Usually not. Instead we make excuses. Making excuses for mistakes is not new. In fact, we can trace this undesirable habit all the way back to the Garden of Eden. For when God asked Adam if he had eaten of the tree he was commanded not to, Adam created the world's first excuse, "The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat." (Genesis 3:12) And when God asked Eve what she had done, she gave the world's second excuse, "The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat." (Genesis 3:13)
Excuses negate responsibility, and it is responsibility that separates man from the rest of the animal kingdom. Unlike other animals, we are responsible not for what we have, but for what we could have; not for what we are, but for what we could become. If we are to take credit for our successes, we must assume responsibility for our failures. Trying to hide our failures with excuses is like concealing a small hole in our garment with a large patch; it only makes the matter worse. This analogy is taken from Shakespeare who wrote:
"And oftentimes, excusing of a fault,
Doth make a fault the worse by the excuse;
As patches set upon a little breach,
Discredit more in hiding of the fault,
Than did the fault before it was so patch'd."
Excuses are harmful because they prevent one from succeeding. When we make excuses and repeat them often enough, they become a belief. The belief then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, a sales rep discouraged by his poor sales starts to blame the price of his product. "No one wants to buy it because it's too expensive." he says. After repeatedly making this excuse, he begins to believe it is true. The result? Dismal sales. Compare this with a responsible sales rep. After hearing many prospects complain about the high price, he accepts responsibility. "It is my fault they are complaining," the rep says, "for I haven't justified the cost of my product by adequately pointing out its value." Once we accept responsibility, we can evaluate our actions and take corrective measures to find solutions to our problems. Excuses, on the other hand, are like stop signs; they halt our progress.
By refusing to make excuses and embracing responsibility, we reap many rewards. The successes brought by this attitude act as a foundation for self-respect, pride, and confidence. Responsibility breeds competence and power. By living up to our promises and obligations, we win the trust of others. Once we are seen as trustworthy, people will willingly work with us, for our mutual gain. So, you see, making excuses can put the brakes on our progress, while accepting responsibility can lead us to the top.
How to stop making excuses and start building a life
1. Realize that your success or failure depends on you. It depends on the choices you make. It depends on your attitude. Resolve to start accepting responsibility today. Don't find an excuse, find a way. Don't make excuses, make good. Remember what Winston Churchill said, "Responsibility is the price of greatness."
2. Beware of rationalization. We make excuses to hide behavior we are ashamed of. Rationalization is the process of trying to hide shameful conduct from ourselves. This is dangerous because we become unaware of what we are doing. However, you can fight rationalization by looking for cues. For instance, if someone challenges your conduct and you become angry, it probably suggests you are guilty as charged. Why would you get angry, if you're innocent?
3. From time to time, stop and examine your progress. Compare where you are now with where you would like to be. Ask yourself why is there a gap between these two points. Don't make excuses. Make plans and take corrective action.
4. When you make a mistake, accept responsibility; learn from it; and don't repeat it. Use your time for discovering solutions instead of inventing excuses.
5. Plant your garden of success today:
First, plant 3 rows of peas;
Next, plant 3 rows of squash;
Then, plant 3 rows of lettuce;
Let us be responsible
Let us be trustworthy
Let us be ambitious
Finish, with 3 rows of turnip;
Turn up when needed
Turn up with a smile
Turn up with confidence
© Chuck Gallozzi
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