1000 Excuses: Why We Don’t Do What We Want to Do and How to Change It

When was the last time you said you’d do something and never actually got to doing it. Maybe you even started at it but couldn’t gather the motivation and momentum to keep it going. A set of resolutions you made back on 1st January? Or, perhaps an emotional or impulsive decision to change something in your life once and for all? A decision to change your job? A resolution to learn a new skill or develop a new habit? When push comes to shove we all wake up and try to change everything all at once. Only to find it increasingly overwhelming and stressful, and eventually retreat back to status quo.

This happens to everyone. It has happened to me at least a zillion times in the past. The excitement was all up for the first few days or even first few minutes, at times. Then, I started inventing excuses. Soon my excuses got the better of me and before I knew it, I was back to square one. All this time I used to simply pass it off thinking that it is not for me, or I can’t do it, or maybe this is not the right time for it, or I can do it later.

Remember, sometimes Later becomes Never!

Now that I have dedicated myself to being a student of understanding the human potential and what makes us tick, and coaching individuals to create an exponential life growth by saying yes to themselves, I have started to see this from a different perspective. Learning to swim is one such recent example.

Before I tell you what it really takes for us to actually get up and do something, let me share why we often end up not doing it. We live in our comfort zones! Our brains are loyal to a central theme – the realm of familiarity. Any departure, even momentarily, causes a lot of uncertainty and trepidation. Test this out. Try using your other hand to hold the toothbrush instead of your regular one the next time you brush your teeth. Get it? The choices we make tend to come from our comfort zone. And that might not always be the most viable way to proceed. Yet, we settle for it because this feels familiar and predictable. Only to wake up when the next boulder hits us. This endless loop continues.

If you don’t want this to happen to you the next time, there is only one way you can triumph. And, that is by being absolutely clear in what you want. If your choices and decisions don’t come from a deeper place inside you, you will make excuses to wiggle your way out. Tony Robbins says “Clarity is power.”

Having this clarity is a 5-step process. The first step is

Know Your Outcomes

When you know your outcomes, you automatically empower yourself to change and achieve whatever you desire. To give you an example, if you want to lose weight, just don’t say I want to lose weight. Losing 0.1 lb is losing weight and so is losing 10 lb. What is your outcome? What is it that you really really want? If you are at 100 lb and you want to get to 80 lb, state your outcome clearly and write it down. Don’t rely on your mind to remember the outcome. You got to know your outcomes. That’s the first step.

Know Your Whys

The next step is knowing your reasons for getting the specific outcomes. Why do you want that outcome? What’s in it for you? Remember reasons comes first; answers come later. Usually for me it takes anywhere between 3 and 5 whys before I know my real reasons for doing something. The idea is to go deep in this step by contradicting the first why that shows up. The first whys most likely come from our need to fit in or adhere to some external validation. Why? because, we have all grown up into believing that we have to fit into the subjective realities and social constructs of our upbringing, our peers, our beliefs, our culture and our society. Jason Zook’s The Theory of The 3 Whys talks more about this simple yet powerful way to get better answers.

Be Aware of ‘Availability Heuristic’

This step piggybacks on the earlier step. Availability Heuristic is the phenomenon in which when you see something often enough, you begin to believe that it happens all the time. In simple terms, our brains prefer to take shortcuts whenever possible and relies on immediate examples that come to mind when evaluating something or making a decision. This also couples with the herd mentality from our ancient forefathers. Robin Sharma says “If you follow the crowd, the only place you will reach is the exit!” So be aware that we tend to assume and move forward based on what is available widely around – the latest bandwagon or the fad diet. And, that may not always be the right way to proceed.

Take Action

This is one step that most people seem to avoid – taking action. Knowing what you want and why you want it isn’t magically going to bring things to you on a platter. You need to start moving forward in the direction of your outcomes. The main reason that stops us from doing anything or giving up too easily is fear. Know that fear is natural and can be reframed. In this article I talk about 2 proven ways that fear can be reframed into taking action. We are not hardwired for life. With new experiences and new actions, new neuronal pathways and new neural networks are formed inside our brains. Remember beliefs drive behaviors. And new beliefs can be formed through new experiences and taking actions. One of the ways is to develop grit and be committed to taking action, however small or big it may be for that moment. Just take action. Force yourself to make your bed when you wake up the first thing in the morning. Say no to the snooze button every morning. Refrain from using your phone for the first hour after your wake up. Step away from unscheduled meetings. Avoid cola or caffeine drinks in the evening. All these actions help you develop your grit muscles.

Stay Clear of Tunnel Vision

Consider this example, there are 2 entrepreneurs trying to develop the same product or idea. Entrepreneur A keeps doing the same thing and repeating the same step over a thousand times. Entrepreneur B, on the other hand, takes a step, evaluates what happens, tweaks and incorporates the feedback into her next step. Who would be making progress? B, of course! Who has the higher chances of giving up? A, correct? Now, you can take a lot of action, day in and day out, and get caught up in a pattern, not seeing any results. Often we get caught up in a pattern and not see results, and eventually we completely give up on what we are doing, saying that it’s not for us. When you are consistently taking action, you also need to be acutely sensitive to knowing if what you are doing is working or not and not get caught up in your patterns. Not doing that will give you another excuse to quit. If you notice something isn’t working, change your approach.

These are the 5 steps you need to follow to become absolutely clear in what you want. Do you have an ‘inspired’ goal that you keep pushing out for the right moment? What is that one or two excuses that you keep telling yourself? Do you think you need to get your house  in order before you can devote time for something you really want to do? If you are ready to start saying yes to yourself, perhaps you and I could talk.

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