No More Excuses

Whether you think you can or you think you can’t – you’re right.

-Henry Ford

I’ve found this statement to be true in my own life. Anytime I did something scary or challenging, the hardest part wasn’t doing the thing. It was believing that I could.

For me, the three scary things that come to mind are: my homebirth, running a 6-hr ultramarathon, and learning to row competitively. These are all things I admired other people for doing. But I was afraid to do them. As a result, I never saw myself as someone who could do them.

Until I changed my mind. Then I did them. 

This post isn’t actually about doing any of those things. This post is about the point where I changed my mind. And how you can work to overcome fear and change your own mind about the things that you’d like to do.

In all those examples, the monumental moment wasn’t crossing the finish line. It was deciding that I could do it.

Choose to Do Big Things

I believe we’re all capable of so much more than we think we are. The problem is that we don’t choose to do the big things.

Is it fear of failure? Fear of pain? Fear of what others will think? Fear of admitting that we were wrong about something previously?

Of course the path of least resistance is easiest. But it is the path of least resistance leading us to the life we truly desire? 

I get it. I’m notorious for choosing whatever seems easiest at the time. Doing big things isn’t easy…or else everyone would do them! But I can tell you, the times that I chose the harder thing – the thing that would push and stretch me – I was surprisingly successful! It could be the playing field was less crowded because of all the others who never even tried in the first place. By simply choosing to do big things, you’re putting yourself in the running. 

You Have to Believe It First

No one is going to believe you can do it until you yourself believe it first. I’ve realized that that’s what it comes down to.

You have to be able to see yourself doing the thing, before you have courage to jump in. In the same way, if you don’t actually believe you can do it, you’ve already set yourself up for failure. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Start to think of yourself as a runner, a rower, a yogi, a writer, whatever it is. For instance, there is no special certificate you need in order to be a runner. You don’t have to be a certain speed. You don’t even need to run everyday. You don’t need to win races. A runner is someone who runs. The moment you start running, you are a runner.

I believe words are powerful. Use the correct words, and don’t sell yourself short. Even if you just started, you deserve to be called what you are. Take yourself seriously and maybe other people will take you seriously too.

Choose Which Voices to Listen To

The outside voices that we listen to matter. Especially when we’re in the fragile first stages of following a dream that scares us, we have to be careful who we listen to. Look for voices that will cheer you on. Voices that will tell you you’re doing well and to stick with it.

If there are naysayers all around you, take a step back. You don’t owe them your attention.

First, believe in yourself. Then, find a community that also believes in you. It may not be your family. It may not be your coworkers. Sometimes that people who have known us the longest pigeonhole us – defining us by who we’ve been in the past.  This isn’t always the case, but it may be time to make some new friends. It might be a club. It might be your small group at church. It might be your gym buddies.

Sometimes all it takes is one other person believing in us. When I’m in the middle of a tough workout, if all I hear is my inner voice saying I won’t finish strong, I’m more likely to give up. However, if I have a teammate cheering me on, telling me I’m doing well and I’m almost there, I feel that much stronger and more determined.

When someone tells me they believe in me, it’s amazing how I’m capable of rising to the occasion. In the same way, when someone tells me I’m a lazy underachiever, it drains the determination and the fight right out of me.

Go out of your way to find like-minded people who believe in you. People who don’t see who you’ve been in the past, but who you’re trying to become in the future. 

So what if you’re a doctor who now wants to pursue art?

So what if you’re 40  pounds overweight but just signed up for a marathon?

So what if you’re a stay-at-home mom who wants to go to law school?

Embrace who you are becoming. You have to believe in yourself first, but once you’ve done that you can build your team of cheerleaders who also believe in you.

Excuses vs. Roadblocks

“I wish I could run a 5K, but….”

“I would ride my bike to work, but….”

“It would be nice to get down to one car but….”

“I should eat healthier, but….”

We’ve all made excuses for ourselves at one point or another. But here’s the thing: excuses are often a defense mechanism to make us feel better for not doing the things we want to do. 

We don’t want to feel like a failure, so we invent excuses for why we aren’t living the life we want. However, excuses are often not what’s actually holding us back. Excuses just make us feel justified.

There is a difference between excuses and actual roadblocks. I’m defining excuses as just that…excuses. And I’m defining actual roadblocks as barriers that truly are holding us back.

“I don’t have childcare.”

“I don’t have transportation.”

“I can’t afford the costs.”

“I have a disability.”

These aren’t just excuses. But take heart – even these actual roadblocks can often be overcome! Roadblocks take research, creativity, and perhaps some reaching out, but they are not impossible to get past.

In the case of roadblocks, a support team is more vital than ever. Recruit friends or family who believe in you and see if they can help with logistical issues. Reach out to the leadership of the thing you want to do. See if they offer scholarships, carpools, free classes in exchange for work, etc. Maybe they are willing to think outside the box to help accommodate you.

And maybe there is nothing they can do, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Take that first step. Just keep telling yourself: the worst they can do is say no, and then I won’t have to wonder “what if?” anymore.

What is Actually Holding Me Back?

If we’re completely honest with ourselves, the thing that’s holding us back usually aren’t the excuses that we tell ourselves.

What’s usually holding us back is often one of  two things: fear and laziness. 

Ouch. I’m sorry if this is painful…there’s a reason our brains are wired to protect ourselves from these harsh realities!

I’m not saying it’s terrible to be afraid and / or lazy. I’m just saying that if we’re too lazy to make a change, let’s at least be honest about it. Stop making excuses and just say “I’m too lazy to do this or that.”

At this point in my life, I’m too lazy to learn how to play an instrument or a second language. I know, I know…those are wonderful things! And if I actually set my mind to either one, I’m sure I could do it.

But I don’t make excuses. I admit that I don’t want it bad enough to put forth the effort, and I’d rather spend my time doing other things. So at least I’m being honest with myself.

Excuse: “I’d love to learn an instrument but I’m too busy with work.”

Truth: “I sometimes wish I knew how to play an instrument, but there are too many other things I’d rather do and I’m not willing to put in the time and effort.”

Can you see the difference?

If it’s fear holding us back, let’s admit that we’re afraid and take steps to become braver. I strive to never make a decision out of fear. 

Fear can often be overcome in baby steps. Maybe the final step is scary, but you’re capable of taking the first very small step. Small step by small step, you might be able to chip away at that fear as you gain confidence. Just focus on what comes next and don’t over-think the rest. Each small victory makes you less afraid. Before you know it, you could be doing the big, scary thing!

What About You?

Is there a dream that you have tucked away simply because you’re afraid of it?

Is there something you see other people doing that you admire but you think “I could never do that.” It could be switching careers, acting in an improv show, learning a new skill, starting a nonprofit, giving up drinking, joining a kickball league, etc….

Why, exactly, do you think you could never do that?

Ask yourself: is fear the only thing holding me back?

Maybe there are other roadblocks in the way, but maybe there aren’t. If there are true roadblocks, take that first step to reach out for help.

If fear or laziness is the only reason, admit it to yourself and find a way to take that first baby step! 

2 Comments

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  1. I tell myself & other folks, when having a hard time with a project to just get started. I think that if you just get started you are not as overwhelmed.
    Also, I periodically try to do something that is uncomfortable for me. (nothing harmful) And I always feel more confident.

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