Examining Our Avoidance and Excuse File

Warning:  Reading this may cause uncertainty and discomfort because examining our excuses and making small changes can open the door to limitless possibilities in life.

We all have a deep file of strategies that we maintain to avoid doing anything that makes us uncomfortable. I’ve observed that this file of excuses is readily available to help me resist change, bolster any fear I might have about exploring something new, or support my choice to take no action. The file holds beliefs, old stories, and perceived limitations that I may not have examined or revised for years. As a result, I can sound very logical when I’m finding ways to resist growth and possibility.

Some of the common avoidance strategies we all use are

  • Sleeping
  • Engrossing ourselves in media (TV, Internet, books and magazines)
  • Taking care of others (instead of ourselves)
  • Finding ways to escape, like leaving the room, taking a trip, or dodging people who might ask unsettling questions
  • Being non-committal (“Maybe later. I’ll think about it.”)
  • Filling our schedules so there’s no time to think about behaving differently

It’s amazing what awareness of these habits has done for me. When I notice what I’ve been doing to avoid novelty or change, I can ask myself, “Is this really what I want? Do I want to sit in front of the TV this evening or do I want to take a walk outside?” If I truly intend to nurture myself at every opportunity, I’ll choose the walk. Instead of leaving the door closed, I can open myself to fresh inspiration.

A personal trainer once said to me, “Change creates change.” When I decide to make one small change and then take little action steps in that new direction, I’ve found that making other changes becomes easier. And when I choose to be with others who are making changes, I can greatly increase the chances that I’ll actually take steps toward change instead of only thinking about it.

It’s easy to come up with reasons for why we might not do something. Our immediate reaction will often be some excuse like

  • I’m too old for that
  • I’m too busy, don’t have time
  • I’m too tired
  • I’m not good at that or I don’t know how because I haven’t tried it
  • I tried that once, and it wasn’t for me
  • I’m not ready for that

If you’re ready to reexamine these behaviors in yourself, start writing down the limiting beliefs and excuses that readily pop up in your mind to stop you from taking action. Notice the strategies you use to avoid making changes or responding to a yearning that you feel.

If you’re brave, try brainstorming your list with your coach or a trusted friend. Together you can identify the excuses that you typically invoke. Then revisit your list every few days for a week or two and add to it as new ideas occur to you. Look at what beliefs you want to retire or revise. For example, one belief I held from childhood was “My age determines what I can do in life.” I have since reframed this as “My age does not define me.”

Choosing to identify the limiting beliefs that help me avoid taking action has been an empowering exercise. Sometimes, with the additional information and broader perspective gained over time, the story can be revised. Reframing old stories has given me more freedom to live in the present. My avoidance and excuse file continues to shrink, which supports me in stepping into possibility and living in discovery.

When you know what your standard excuses are and understand the underlying beliefs that cause you to avoid anything different, you have the opportunity to think about what you might change. Go ahead—open that door and give it a try!