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May 29, 2023

The Roots Of Excuses And Exceptions

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James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, says that “Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.” While this is great news because it means that we can create our future for ourselves, it becomes problematic when things get in the way of you actually doing the things you want to do.

Two of the biggest culprits of this are excuses and exceptions.

Simply put, an excuse is an argument you make in your head that uses logic to change your mind on something, or make a new decision. An exception is just a type of excuse that uses the environment and present conditions to build that argument. The caveat though is that this argument is being motivated by unconscious needs and processes. I’ll get to that in a second...

But first, here’s an example. Let’s say that you want to workout on a Monday morning. The alarm goes off at 6am and you’re still feeling tired. While you want to stay firm on your commitment, you may convince yourself that the right thing to do is stay in bed “just this one time”.

Or another example - If there’s a phone call you need to make and you remember it in the evening, you might say “I don’t want to bother them at this late hour”.

In both cases, you’re using logic to change your mind and make a new decision on what you’re actually going to do versus what you said you were going to do. This is textbook self-sabotage.

The factors that motivate your decision-making exist at a subconscious level. While the argument you make is entirely rational and genuinely seems like the right decision at the moment, that’s because your unconscious mind is biasing your thinking. 

Your brain is always trying to keep you preserving energy, so it comes up with this story about why you shouldn’t get up and workout “just this one time”.

Your brain fears the result of the phone call you need to make, so it delays the moment by telling the logical story that it’d be disrespectful to make such a late phone call.

Self-sabotage is an unconscious force that prevents you from taking positive action, from doing the things that you ideally want to do. It reroutes your thinking to arrive at a new, more conservative conclusion.

Now here’s the really tricky part - What if your new conclusions are right? What if you genuinely do need rest? What if it is actually too late to make that phone call? It is incredibly difficult to figure out what is self-sabotage and what is genuine sound reasoning.

This gray area is one of the things that keeps us from defeating self-sabotage and ultimately keeps us stuck right where we’re at. If you find yourself making excuses too often and lacking consistency in key areas, it’s likely because you don’t have a process to keep self-sabotage in check.

I’ve found that the best thing you can do is create more awareness around your decisions. To reflect with curiosity about the choices you made so that you can better understand what’s really at play. And to do it in a moment where you have a rational mind, with all the emotion taken out of it, so that you can sit with just your intentions as the person you want to be.

This is something I can really help you with. In fact it’s a cornerstone to what I help you implement through the Best Self Breakthrough Challenge. If you have a hard time staying consistent, catch yourself being lazy, making excuses, or not balancing your life as well as you’d like to, then this challenge is designed to help you start showing up every day as the very best version of yourself in your health, work, and relationships. If you want to give it a try, you can register for the challenge right now.

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