Have you ever had the moment of committing to a project or a plan and immediately given yourself an out? Your thoughts go something like, “Worst case, I can always say … if I’m not actually able to do this”. We rely on excuses for everything. Why do we do this?
It is human nature to do everything in our power to try and protect our own image. Even if it’s just internally, we feel significantly better about ourselves if we can convince everyone involved that the reason we didn’t do what was expected of us was NOT our fault. So, anytime we can defer to excuses out of our control, we do.
Another element to be aware of is your self-serving bias. Since we are so likely to push our failures onto other people or things, it makes sense that we attribute our successes more-so to ourselves than anything else. Always trying to preserve our ego any way we can, we ensure everyone knows when we achieve something noteworthy…and often fail to mention any other
Because so many of us do this, it has become easy to detect. Every time we “miss the bus” or “have a family emergency” or whatever we might come up with, we chip away at the respect and trust we have with those around us. Unfortunately, work can be the first place this habit starts to have a serious negative impact. If your boss or employees start to notice that you never take the blame, it will take significant effort to gain their trust back.
The good news is, it IS possible to break this habit and become an employee or employer that is known for owning up to their mistakes and figuring out an ongoing solution. In the long run, this is so valuable as it forces you to be accountable not only yourself but to those around you.
Remaining aware of when and why you make excuses is a major step in replacing this habit. Are you overwhelmed? Need help at work? Quick to commit? Underestimate time needed to complete a project? If you can analyze where you most often fall short and feel the need to defer, you’re ready for those situations before they occur. The more conscious effort you can funnel towards not uttering the phrase, “Well that was because…” the quicker you’ll come up with ways to combat it. It will take a few times of falling short and taking the blame before you start to figure out what steps to take ahead of time to avoid the situation at all. Since most of us have been making excuses since we could talk, it will take time to override your default responses. *This is not an excuse*…just inspiration for you to hit the ground running.
Don’t forget that often, the biggest contributor to excuses is an over-committed individual. Give yourself reasonable deadlines! Don’t set expectations for yourself or others that are impossible to meet. And again, when you do find yourself in that place, own it and move forward.