The Mirror of Excuse
There are four inches of fabric separating the two runners. These aren’t just any runners; they are sprinting in perfect unison, with four inches of separation and doing it under an 11 second pace – a pace that is near to the world record. What’s more, one of them is running blind…literally. The four inches of fabric is the tether between David Brown, who is blind and Jerome Avery who is his full sight sprinting guide.
David developed Kawasaki disease at the age of 15 months and within a few years it was evident that he would lose his sight. It wasn’t until years later that David and Jerome’s paths would cross. Through the encouragement of a physical education teacher, David took up running and quickly advanced past guides. It became increasingly difficult to find guides that were capable of keeping up with David; those who could keep up and push David were chasing their own sprinting dreams. Fortunately Jerome had a realization, he says, “I thought running for myself was my goal in life, I was good at it. Come to find out I’m REALLY good at guide running.”
So why didn’t David use his blindness as an excuse? How is it that different people can face nearly identical circumstances and perceive their options so differently? How come we see such drastically different lists of excuses?
The first thing to understand is that overwhelmingly excuse is a matter of perception. It’s not an inherent fact about the circumstance or the situation, that’s why similar people under similar circumstances come up with different lists of excuses.
“Anything that is a matter of perception is also a matter of projection”
How we perceive the world around us is a reflection of who we are and how we think – in other words we project ourselves out onto the world around us. So, anything that is a matter of perception is also a matter of projection. Our excuses are a mental construct of our own creation – meaning that our excuses are a very powerful mirror. This isn’t easy to accept, that the excuses we come up with say something about who we are, but it is true.
“The excuses we come up with, say a lot about who we are”
To learn from our excuses, we should identify the implications, every excuse implies something about us. The two most common implications are that we do not believe we can change it and that our goal not a priority. If we believed we could change something about our excuse, it would no longer “release us from obligation, duty or responsibility”. It’s important to keep in mind that not having the solution to a problem is different than not believing you can solve the problem. Solutions come over time, but not if we don’t believe we can acquire the knowledge, skill and resources to come up with a solution.
There is a valuable exercise we can put ourselves through that will force deep consideration of what our excuses say about how we think. This exercise will also help us think through how we shift our thinking and overpower our excuses. Here is an example from a recent client of mine. (You can download a PDF of this activity at the bottom of the post)
1. Choose something meaningful that you have wanted to accomplish, but simply have not made progress on.
Open a second location for my business
2. Ask yourself, “What is keeping me from making progress on this goal?” (ex. Time, money, energy, support, ability etc. etc.) Order these from the biggest barrier to the smallest barrier (excuses)
a)I don’t have the time needed to work on it
b)They wouldn’t sell or lease to me the building I wanted
c)The amount of money I can invest limits me
3. Write 1-2 implication for each of these barriers (excuses)
- I don’t have the time needed to work on it – The implication is that I believe I cannot free up time from some other activities, that I don’t have control of my time, but rather it controls me. It also implies that if I’m spending my time on other things, they are a bigger priority to me
- They wouldn’t sell or lease to me the building I wanted – The implication is I believe that was the only right location, that I do not have the negotiation skills needed to close deals. Really the implication is that I believe finding a building is out of my control, if I really thought it was in my control, I would be doing something about it.
- The amount of money I can invest limits me – The biggest implication is that I believe I cannot get more money and that I believe having money is the only way to make money. Again, the implication is that I believe I cannot do anything to change this.
4. For each implication, ask yourself, “Is this really who I am? Do I really believe this about myself?”
No, I hope I don’t believe these things about myself
5. Write each implication (belief) as a positive statement.
a)I control my time and can free up time from other activities. This is a priority to me.
b)I can learn and acquire the negotiation skills needed to close deals. I can control the location our business will be in.
c)I can acquire more money; I can change my financial situation.
6. How will you make progress on the statements you just wrote in step 5? Write 1-2 things you can do to make progress.
a)I will make it a priority by putting 15 minutes on my calendar to work on it every morning.
b)I will read a book about negotiating deals and find someone to help who has more of those skills than I do
c)I will talk to my bank and others to see what financing options are available to me
Many people will need to create a timeline and have someone hold them accountable for progress, so you may consider that as well. Also, if you have developed a habit of creating excuses, you will likely need to revisit this activity frequently. When you utilize this approach in a consistent way, you’ll find that it becomes harder and harder to come up with excuses for not working on meaningful things. While it is the shortest question to answer, the biggest breakthroughs often happen with Question 4 – so don’t breeze by this one. It can be uncomfortable to look in the mirror of excuses, but it can also be liberating, creating the power to achieve extraordinary results.
The mirror of excuse for David Brown offers a pretty powerful reflection, what does your mirror of excuse reflect?