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“Successful people find a way; failures find excuses.”

I don’t remember who told me that, and as much as I find the term “failures” to be a sloppy choice of words, it’s a valid concept. Day by day, hour by hour, we face options. Often, one path leads us forward while another locks us in place. Why then do we opt to stay where we are?

The human psyche is beyond complex and the reasons are beyond count. Sometimes, we didn’t realize alternatives existed until we look back. Possibly, the choices did not seem that diverse; in effect it was six of one, half a dozen of the other, any port in a storm. Maybe it was a snap decision without the necessary time to truly evaluate the results. Yet, more times than not, no sugarcoating the answer: We had an excuse.

At any moment, any one of us can dig deep into our sack of justification pulling forth numerous vindications why we make our choices. “Not enough time; people will think less of me; it’s never worked before, why will this be different?” As the stakes amplify, immovability expands, the opposite of what needs to happen.

For example, your marriage hits rough seas. Friends suggest counseling. Excuses spurt forth like rapids over rocks: “It’s no one else’s business,” you quickly reply. “We can do it our own; besides, we can’t afford it.” Having shut off communication, you return to small talk, and later to a sadness that further solidifies around your heart. Nothing has changed, your rationale stood strong. You “won.”

Every reason was valid, yet that’s falsely framing the subject. The core question is, “You might have been accurate, but are you happy?” It can be framed as a matter of principles; call it what you wish, it’s still an excuse to play the game of “ain’t it awful?”

Your spouse and you disagree about a decision? Instead of steaming over how wronged you’ve been, explain directly how important it is to you that he see it your way. It takes courage and no, there’s no guarantee he’ll listen, but if the current strategy isn’t working, it might be time to take a closer look at something new.

Unsure how to handle a difficult co-worker? We usually handle these delicate daily dramas by talking behind others’ backs, hoping somehow that the criticism will gently “leak.” She’ll see the error of her ways and adjust — no harm, no foul. It’s a bit more frightening to be direct, but, as they say, when all else fails, try honesty.

You’re embarrassed because you’re dealing with life’s stressors by eating or drinking so you try to hide it. Ironic, isn’t it that those closest to you probably already noticed? Yet instead of admitting your vulnerability and seeking support, you “tough it out,” choosing to let your health — and possibly your relationships — deteriorate under false pretenses.

We make excuses because we fear the alternative or being labeled “failure,” “weak” or “wrong.” To avoid judgment, we devise all manner of rationale that allows us to cling tight to the status quo. We yet again fought off the beast of change, but for how long — and at what cost?

Excuses are habits, well worn relationships with our thoughts, which served us well. And, as with some relationships, a time might come when the pain they cause is no longer worth the history they carry. With grace — and a bit of sadness — we can say farewell and look forward to what can be.

Scott “Q” Marcus is the CRP (Chief Recovering Perfectionist) of www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com. He is available for coaching, speaking, and reminders of what really matters at 707-442-6243 or scottq@scottqmarcus.com.

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