Excuses—we’ve all made them at one time or another.
“Work has been very hectic and I just haven’t had time to exercise lately.”
“My child is ill and I’ve not been able to get to the gym or pay much attention to my eating habits.”
“I can’t really afford an exercise program; everything is so expensive here.”
“I’ve been really stressed out about some family drama. I’ll start following my nutrition plan again when things calm down.”
“I’m dealing with a health issue. I’ll focus on getting stronger when the health issue is resolved.”
“My husband doesn’t really like it when I spend so much time working out.”
“I have to travel a lot for work now. I just can’t commit to a regular regimen.”
Here’s the harsh truth: when you allow external forces to sabotage your goals, you forfeit ownership over your present and future self while sending out a message that you don’t truly matter, that your wishes and goals are not important. Unfortunately, people around you receive this message and respond accordingly, be it your spouse, your best friend, a colleague or even a stranger. Cues of defeat, frustration, and low self-worth are emitted from your body language, your voice, your facial expressions, and the words you choose to express yourself. Once you establish this negative pattern, it can be very challenging to take back the reins of your life again, especially if people have become accustomed to your role as constant caretaker, victim, or martyr. The longer you make excuses, the more you rob both yourself and the world of your unique beauty and strength.
When you’ve been mired in the muck of excuses for a while, a total reset is sometimes the best option to getting you back on track. You’re probably not feeling so hot at this point- perhaps a bit defeated, depressed, and discouraged. Instead of sinking even deeper into the bottomless pity pit by half-heartedly telling yourself that, “things will be different tomorrow,” get reacquainted with what you’re really aiming for and why. Real change requires vision, and vision demands your attention. Here are my five recommended steps to improve your chance of long-term success after a bout of excuse-itis.
1. GET CLEAR: Brew yourself a cup of tea and take some time to fill out a Decisional Balance Sheet. A Decisional Balance Sheet is a tool to record the pros and cons of a potential life shift or habit change, and recognizes both the gains and losses of that change. Having a counseling or coaching professional to guide you through the process can be helpful, but you can also do it yourself as long as you commit to being honest and thorough. Give yourself at least thirty minutes- don’t rush this!
SAMPLE DECISIONAL BALANCE SHEET
2. DIVINE THE FUTURE: If you make the potential life shift or habit change and stick with it, what will your life look like six months from now? How about a year? What about five years? What long term benefits will you reap from your consistency and efforts? What will you look like and feel like? What people, situations and things might you attract into your life from this change? Sit down in a quiet room a visualize exactly where this change will take you. Envision how you’re going to make this change occur. What will it require of you? See yourself taking action each step of the way, and imagine how you will respond to each challenge you may face.
3. PUT YOURSELF FIRST: One of the major reasons women fail at maintaining a program or reaching a goal is GUILT... Guilt about putting themselves first and spending some time away from loved ones. They may think setting aside five hours a week for exercise is selfish, or that training for their first race is self-indulgent, or that sticking with a nutrition plan could inconvenience their family or friends. What happens down the road if you don’t put yourself first in order to make the change you desperately want and need? For example, what if you have a major health issue, like obesity or high blood pressure, but you decide to do nothing about it in order to spend more time with your children? What might skipping out on exercise and meal preparation mean for your kids down the road? What are you teaching them? Think about the consequences of NOT putting yourself first. How might setting your priorities aside harm you and the people you care about? Write it all down. You help NO ONE by denying yourself.
4. WRITE A POST-IT FOR YOUR INNER SELF: Self-help gurus have long touted mirror work as a pathway for building a desired future, but up until recently, evidence of its effectiveness was primarily anecdotal. A recent study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University shows that self-affirmations can actually protect against the negative effects of stress and improve problem-solving performance. To create your own mirror work mantra, write down aspects of your future self in the present tense on a sheet of paper. For instance, if you are running to lose weight and improve cardiovascular health, you may write, “I am a strong, fast long-distance runner and a beacon of good health. I value my health and fitness because I value myself and my family.” Tape your affirmation onto your bathroom mirror and aim to read it aloud several times a day while looking directly at yourself. There’s no need to feel shy or embarrassed- no one else is watching!
5. RECOMMIT WITH SUPPORT: Through the Decisional Balance Sheet, you’ve become clear about the benefits and drawbacks of your potential life shift or habit change. Visualization has aided you in imagining how this change will impact your life in the near and distant future. You’ve made a commitment to put yourself first for a change and you’ve written down the consequences of what could happen if you continue to ignore your needs and goals. Through self-affirmations and mirror work, you’ve begun to build a barrier between you and stress while developing a more positive attitude about yourself and your life. Now, it’s time to fully recommit with some support, whether through an online group, a local club or fellowship, or even a group of bootcampers or runners. Build a support network that you can lean on when times get tough, and one that will keep you regularly accountable. Yes, you’ll be doing the heavy lifting, but you never have to go through a big shift alone.
Do you need to recommit to a goal? Are you working on a big life shift after a period of setbacks and excuses? What are your strategies for recommitting to yourself and your desires? Leave your thoughts in the comments section!