We all have dreams, desires and goals for our lives and careers. The difference in those who achieve those goals and those who are stopped is often the degree to which we allow excuses to derail us when challenges or roadblocks arise. Our full pursuit of the things that we say we say we’re committed to requires not falling victim to excuses – ours or those of others.
Whether your goal is to become more fit, be known as a thought leader in a particular industry, recruit X interns this fall, or grow your business by X%, we all can fall prey to excuses. As a coach, my job is helping someone push past their excuses, which requires identifying and naming the excuse, making sure the “why” or reason for the dream or goal is big enough, and having a plan with specific milestones and actions to ensure progress.
What Excuse Typically Derails You?
When you identify the excuse that you typically use to get off track, you can create a no-tolerance policy for listening to your excuses. First, you have to identify and recognize that your roadblocks are really excuses and that you’re using them to get yourself off the hook.
Unfortunately, excuses (or as we like to say, reasons) do not equal results. When you’ve set a goal or made a commitment to someone, they are counting on you to fulfill on it. People who hear your reasons/excuses are often disappointed in them, bored by them, unimpressed with them, and sometimes even distrusting of them. Excuses usually do us no favors in the eyes of others – and yet we still use them like crazy. The other person is left only with the excuse and not the result they were expecting, so it’s important to minimize the excuses we use. Instead, when we need to reset expectations, focus on letting the other person know when they can expect the result – and then work like crazy to make that happen and don’t let excuses stop you!
Some of the most common excuses include:
- “I don’t have enough time.”
- “I don’t have enough money.”
- “Sufficient or the right resources are not available to me.”
- “My environment/culture doesn’t support this type of goal.”
- “It’s hard.” “Next year will be better.”
- “I don’t want to do THAT.”
- “It’s really okay the way it is.”
- “Everything is great now, why change or why work so hard for something different.”
- “I’m afraid I might fail or this is too big to take on so I should just stop now.”
Or, you may have another reason you use to stop moving towards your goal.
Pay attention to your most common excuse and then, when it shows up, you can recognize it and choose not to cave into it. While some excuses may be valid, instead of allowing them to derail you, use them to either get recommitted to why you are pursuing the goal in the first place or to make changes in the direction of your plan. Push the excuses aside and ensure you still move forward.
What is Your “Why” or Reason for Pursuing This Particular Dream or Goal?
There has been a lot of discussion, writing and TedTalks about starting with your “why” – whether it’s why your firm exists, why you’re implementing anytime, anywhere work programs or why you’re running your first marathon. As the late Stephen R. Covey said, “Start with the end of mind.”
Most people are familiar with SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely). Two critical elements are missing in this formula: 1) Defining your “’why” or your purpose and 2) Writing it down and sharing it with someone else who will cheer you on and hold you accountable.
When we teach leaders goal setting, we ask the question, “What will be better or different when you have accomplished this goal?” Answering this question will help you get to your “why.” Patience and persistence is required to achieve any goal. Ensure that the reason you are pursuing your goal or dream for is a strong enough motivator that the most frustrating setbacks won’t deter your from achieving that goal.
Writing your goal down and sharing it with someone else will also help you remember why you began your journey in the first place – especially when it gets tough or a curve ball is thrown at you. It’s always easier to stick to a plan when you have a partner with whom to check in and report progress, help remove roadblocks and strategize new courses of action. Sometimes that person can simply help you get your mojo back by reminding you about what you said was possible by achieving your goal – what will be better or different for you, your life, your business, and others. You can count on your accountability partner to bat down any excuses and not let you throw in the towel when you feel like giving up.
What is Your Plan to Achieve Your Goal?
~ Doug Firebaugh
Having a solid plan with measurable milestones and due dates is essential in accomplishing any big goal. This requires time lining and backing into the result you intend to achieve, outlining the actions you need to take along the way to get there. Some simple steps you can take to achieve your goal include:
- Establishing your SMART goal, including your “why” or the reason it’s important to you. You can use our Goal Setting Worksheet to help you do so.
- Putting your goal in writing and sharing it with someone else.
- Creating an action plan with the milestones (or results) that you need to accomplish to successfully reach your goal. Include the actions you’ll take for each milestone.
- Continually monitoring and assessing your progress making adjustments to your milestones and action plans as needed. This may even include resetting the timeframe or goal itself.
- Providing a status to the person with whom you shared your goal and soliciting feedback. You’ll be surprised with the ideas they generate that you didn’t contemplate or the access to resources they may be able to provide to you. And, because you have someone to report to, you’ll feel accountable to produce results to report.
Throughout this process, be adamant about not giving in to your excuses. Even if an injury prevents you from running a particular race, that doesn’t mean you give up on your overall goal of running a marathon. Heal, set a new goal and make a new plan. Remember, patience and persistence is required.
Where have you allowed excuses to derail you? What will be better or different when you achieve that goal? What excuse(s) do you need to set aside so you can create a new action plan and identify someone with whom to share it? Post the excuse you’re giving up and your renewed goal here – I’m interested in you achieving it!
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