Every New Year’s Eve, or perhaps even just December in general, lots of people come up with these things called resolutions. Things they want to change in the upcoming year. While I don’t really feel the need to call them resolutions, I love the idea of reflecting back on things that went really wrong and not settling for keeping those around another year. I also love reflecting back on things that went really right and figuring out how to make sure that doesn’t get lost in the flurry of January and fresh starts. I love these concepts so much that I do them way more often than around the new year. For me it’s almost monthly. Sometimes weekly. Your life can change just as drastically on an April Tuesday as it can on December 31st you know.
If you see a problem, fix it. Don’t wait until New Year’s.
(If you’ve been waiting for permission, there it is.)
Lately, for me, problem solving has looked a lot like identifying the excuses I make that keep me from living life in all its abundance. I make lots of them. They sneak into my head and I spin them into these masterpieces of deception and cotton candy, so they’re easy for me to swallow and make me feel better inside.
In reality, they are sickly. And I’m tired of them because they are my easy-outs for the hard work of showing up to the important things in life that I already decided I want to do like:
- Keep spending quality time with each member of my family
- Keep spending quality time with Jesus (Word, Worship, Prayer, Learning, etc.)
- Start investing in friendships regularly
- Start eating healthier consistently
- Start doing what you should do without needing to be asked/noticed
- Keep exercising regularly
- Stop complaining
- Stop putting off that project I started
- Stop spending so many hours each day on social media
- Stop withholding compliments when you think of them
The list goes on and on. There are things that I have told myself and others that I would start doing, keep doing, and STOP doing, and every single time I think of them, one of the following excuses pops up without fail:
Excuse #1: I’m too busy.
For good healthy things like soul maintenance and His word and worship and spending time with people who challenge me to be better? I need to sit down and reevaluate some things then. Measuring what takes up your time can be really eye-opening because I don’t think we realize what types of little things really eat up our days in huge amounts over time.
Rearrange. Start subtracting until things finally add up properly. Healthy habits don’t grow on their own. But a tiny bit of progress each day, even if it’s just a few minutes of your focus, can work wonders in the long run.
“The battle for our hearts is fought on the pages of our calendars.”
You will be busy 99% of the time, but you will rarely regret making time for something beautiful, good, or healthy (even if it doesn’t seem that way at the time). Busyness reveals our priorities, and sometimes it seems like we turn into walking whirlwinds for weeks or months at a time. But if we forget to include proper rest into our busy schedules, the whole show is going to collapse in a really ugly way at some point.
Excuse #2: I’m too tired.
This is the big one for me. This was my favorite of all excuses to run to and justify anything and everything (especially in college), and as a result I have started being absolutely ruthless when it dares to present itself. Too tired? Unlikely. Really, really unlikely. I’m tired, yes. But what’s more likely is, I’ve convinced myself that the mere thought of effort is already draining my energy and I haven’t even done it yet. I’m essentially saying, “Nope, I’m too lazy.” Let’s at least call it what it is so that the words might jar us awake again at some point.
So dear little lazy self: I’m not saying you’re not tired, and I’m not saying you haven’t worked hard. I am saying it’s not a good enough excuse to consistently miss out on the life going on around you. People say, “Do it scared” all the time. I’ve got a new one for you: “Do it tired.” Be tired and show up anyway. You will sleepwalk through way too much of your life if you don’t. It’s not cute. Get your favorite jeans on and show up anyway, Princess. Find yourself some people who aren’t afraid to break into your cave of isolation and wake you up. Get around people who are really, really awake and be inspired. Learn some practical tips.
I’ve been around people who have literally flown across the globe on a Saturday and been awake for 36 hours straight and they still showed up for church that Sunday, and it was easier to do that together than alone. I’ve been around people who showed up to their college classes on 3 hours of sleep with a mean headache and an empty stomach after a night of sorting through some deep stuff, and it became easier to do the same when we said, “Alright, I will if you will.” Teamwork and positive peer pressure have some astoundingly good results. Don’t underestimate them.
It’s an act of will, and a refusal to bow to excuses that surely I am tired of making by now. If I really am too tired, then I really am too busy and should return to the previous point.
Excuse #3: I’m too young.
Now to be fair, I rarely hear this wording come out of the mouths of my peers. What I do hear is: “I can’t because of this stage in life I’m in.” Or “I can’t do that during my college years.” Essentially, it boils down to the same thing, translating, “I can’t yet.” No. I’m not too young. I’m not excused from pursuing God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength because, “I don’t have everything figured out and organized and I’m in a complicated stage in life and He’ll understand.” No. See points above for more on that.
You can do way more than you give yourself credit for, right now. Your life happens one day at a time, in present tense. Don’t wait for a specific “season” to arrive to be your best. You will wait forever and waste the best years of your life: the ones you’re currently living. If it truly matters, you can start moving towards it now. You can start learning it now. You can start acting like it now. And if you need inspiration, go looking for the ones who have managed it. I guarantee you there are plenty.
Excuse #4: I can do it later.
In sum, “It’s a bad time.” This is an excuse similar to the one above. I hear the excuse from students who are putting off tithing until they are out of college, or graduates putting off reading the bible for the next day instead of today because they had to be at work early and now they’re tired (see point #2). Regardless of the short-term or long-term intentions behind it, pushing back what needs to be done is simply not healthy. Because essentially, it’s saying, “It’s more inconvenient than important compared to other things right now. It can wait.” But we must not be so scared of inconvenience. Interruptions and inconveniences are not the villains in our story. We will miss out on a lot of opportunities if we shut the mere mention of them down immediately with, “It’s a bad time.”
“Loving people the way Jesus did, means living a life of constant interruptions. Bring it.”
– Bob Goff
Excuse #5: That’s just not realistic anyway.
“She might be able to do all that, but for me that’s just not realistic.” OR “With everything going on and how life gets in the way, that’s not realistic.” Um. I’m the one who decides what goes from intention to reality in my life. Yes, everyone is different, but that doesn’t give me an excuse to lower my standards. I have to stop looking left and right at what everyone else is doing and set my own standard for my health, habits, and lifestyle. And then do it. It’s as realistic as I make it.
Excuse #6: It won’t actually make a difference anyway.
Sometimes such tiny little adjustments seem barely productive at all, and that can be discouraging after days, weeks, and months of dedication and effort. It’s easy then to wake up on a cold, rainy Thursday and think about skipping because, “It won’t really make a difference” or because “these little things I’m doing won’t actually matter.”
This excuse is lying. It does matter. It matters a lot. And one day you’re going to look back and be so, so glad that you didn’t skip that Thursday because it brought your goal, your lesson, your triumph one day closer than it could have been. Future you will thank today’s you.
Excuse #7: They’ll make an exception for me.
Uhuh. Sure. If I keep telling myself that my life isn’t going to be so great in a few years. Talk about lazy and entitled, this excuse barely veils any of that. It’s used for lowering standards and cutting corners. It’s for when I don’t want to work as hard as everyone else. It’s for when I’ve set my first draft and my first efforts onto a pedestal and insisted that it be just as valued and appreciated as the tenth and perfected draft of the person next to me. It’s arrogant and yucky. It’s a claim to be the prodigy, the genius, the golden child that the world will stand in awe of rather than push and challenge to become greater by working hard. It won’t get anyone anywhere. Always, always, do your absolute best. Sometimes best looks like trying once and nailing it, and sometimes it looks like trying 57 times.
“Honey, I am no one’s exception. This I have previously learned.” – Taylor Swift
Excuse #8: I don’t want to right now.
The “right now” is just tagged on there to make me sound less whiny. I’m just saying I don’t want to. Period. Since when should that factor in though? When it comes to healthy habits and disciplines, “what I want or feel like doing” really doesn’t matter. I never want to go to the gym. Ever. It’s been over a year since I’ve had a membership and I still never want to go. It’s not character building to show up to things you want to do. That’s expected. What really makes you better is showing up when you really, really don’t want to.
Do. It. Anyway.
Excuse #9: I deserve this.
Wowww. How many diets or exercise plans have fallen due to this phrase right here? A lot. If I thought about running 10 miles, but only really ran 2 in the end, I have a tendency to average it out to about 6 and say, “Since I worked really hard, I deserve a donut.” There are other, better, healthier ways to have my importance validated and my effort appreciated than patting myself on the back with little rewards excused by this statement. If I’m throwing my name around (me, me, me, I, I, I) in order to justify why I’m entitled to eat a donut, I’m no better than a queen who throws a little tantrum the second something gets a tiny bit difficult while she waves her crown around to get what she wants right then.
Obviously, yes, you are important, valued, and you worked hard, but once you make your self-bestowed crown the deciding factor for a decision, you’re making a pretty excuse not a good judgement call. Besides, of course I’m going to think I deserve it. I see all of my intentions in addition to my actions and will lump those into the decision as if they are one and the same. I’m a bit biased.
“Let someone else praise you, not your own mouth.” – Proverbs 27:2
That will taste better than a donut anyway.
(Don’t get me wrong, I think donuts are awesome and highly encourage eating them whenever possible. Just not when you’ve previously decided NOT to for a certain amount of time. No excuses.)
The thing is, the reason these excuses are so effective is because I’m always surprised by them. It doesn’t occur to me that of course excuses will pop up for the things I know will be hard work. But if you know they will come, if you list them out in advance, you can take away their power. Kind of like if you know where all the jump scares are in a movie, you stop flinching. You can stamp NO EXCUSES in big, red letters all over it the second it pops into your head. You can. It’s just the same script over and over.
Excuses are the lazy way out that pat our egos on the back and make us feel better about our poor decisions. Once you use one, it’s difficult to get out of the habit. They are loud in our heads, but that doesn’t mean that they’re right. They keep us from being the best version of ourselves and we agree with them way too often. But why shake hands with an excuse when you can expose the lie hiding behind it? Why let them boss you around when you can say, “I saw that line coming a mile away and I won’t fall for it this time.”
Are there things that you want to start, keep, and stop doing as we reflect back on 2018 and prepare for the new year?
Are there other excuses that you face on a daily basis that I didn’t include here?