Our priorities play a big role in how we live our lives. They influence our decisions, actions and reactions. They also shape our preferences, attitudes and behaviours. So when we offer an excuse to do [or not do] something, it’s only because there’s something else that’s more important to us. In other words, excuses reveal our priorities.
Let me explain with a hypothetical example.
It’s 7.30pm on a Saturday evening, and all day Mr Ranchoddas Chanchad has been postponing his visit to the gym. Finally, he gives up on his noble intention as he’s not feeling up to it. He is well aware that for staying fit and healthy, he must spare time for exercising but he’s too tired to get up from the comfortable sofa. Besides, he’s had a hectic past week, he tells himself in defence.
A few minutes later, at 7.40pm, as Mr Chanchad is settled snugly, watching a dumb programme on TV, he hears deafening sirens—the building’s fire alarm has gone off. At once he jumps out of his couch, dashes out of his apartment all the way to the streets, without even acknowledging his equally panic-stricken neighbours.
Now, just a short while ago Mr Chanchad was feeling listless. Suddenly, he found all the energy to run as fast as he could. What changed? Nothing, really. His reaction to the fire alarm only showed his priorities—fitness was much less important to him than his life. It also exposed his feeling of ‘low-energy’ before the fire alarm went off, for what it really was—an excuse.
The problem with excuses is that they lurk in our subconscious and pose as genuine reasons. Their truth is revealed only when our priorities change. So often, we meet people who don’t attend to important aspects of their lives—their health, their relationships or their finances—until the siren goes off. It takes a heart attack to change the mind [and heart] of an incorrigible chain smoker; it takes a bankruptcy to transform someone from being reckless to responsible; it takes heartbreak to stop someone taking his or her relationships for granted. In each case, once the priorities changed, the self-defeating excuses perished on their own.
The good news is that you don’t have to wait for a siren to change your priorities. You can, right now, decide to realign your misplaced priorities. All you have to do is proactively look for self-empowering excuses and be wary of the self-defeating ones. For example, if you look for them, you’ll find plenty of excuses for that morning walk [fresh air, the sound of singing birds, personal space]—you get the drift. Of course, whether you’ll make this change will depend on your priorities.
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