There are always excuses.
Telling me there are no excuses just flips my brain into we’ll-see-about-that mode. Don’t try to tell me that there are no excuses because I will find hundreds.
So it goes without saying that the “no excuses” approach to self-improvement, goal-setting, or motivational whatever just doesn’t work for me. And if it doesn’t work for me, I’m guessing there are more than a few people reading this for whom those words are more like bait than magic.
For those of us who can’t keep our brains from interfering, here’s a better approach:
Make as many excuses as you can think of — a whole list of reasons why you can’t do the thing you’re “trying” to do.
Seriously think of everything you possibly can.
Think of three more. You should have a list of at least ten, maybe even 20. The point is to try to get ahead of any other excuses that might show up later. If you only have five, fine.
Once you’ve made a nice beautiful list of extensive and perhaps very excellent and reasonable excuses…
One by one, find all the reasons why each of your reasons is stupid. Turn your excellent excuse-making skill back on itself.
Keep that document for reference anytime you think you can’t do the thing because of whatever excuse.
But what if I don’t have time to make a list?
Then you acknowledge to yourself that there are likely tons of good excuses and reasons to not do the thing that you are trying to accomplish, and you tell yourself that even though there ARE excuses, you’re going to embrace your inner rebel, put on your big kid Nikes, and just do it anyway.
What if it doesn’t matter that much?
It’s possible that at the end of this exercise you may find that the thing you were wanting/needing/hoping to do actually just doesn’t matter to you for any subjective or objective reason. In which case, skip it. Skip that thing and go find another goal worth pursuing.
I hope you have an amazingly productive week!
Have you ever thought about the fact that you don’t actually need to do anything? Everything you tell yourself you “need” to do or that someone or something says you “have to” do, you actually don’t.
Think about it. You don’t need to wear makeup, respond to that email, take a shower, do the dishes, go to work, follow the speed limit, be kind to anyone, take care of your children, eat, or even breathe.
BUT, you may have decided that you want to do those things because you value either the the actions themselves or the results they create.
I don’t like doing dishes. It’s my least favorite household chore. The other night I walked into my kitchen after putting my kid to bed and thought “I have to clean the kitchen” (and there may have been an internal groan in there as well). Then I thought, wait…what do I WANT?
Well, I can tell you that I don’t want to wake up to a messy kitchen. I want a clean kitchen with a clean sink and a clear counter.
And I sat with that thought. I want a clean kitchen with a clean sink and a clear counter.
I want to put everything away.
I want to do the dishes.
I want to wipe everything down.
I want to scrub out the sink.
And if I can stay in that want, holding on to that desire, the dreaded thing I thought I HAD to do becomes something I actually want to do. Cleaning the kitchen is not something to drag myself through because I want to do it.
Next time you think “I need to ______,” try reframing the thought - not just to change the way you feel about it, but also to make it more honest: “I want to ______.” And if you really don’t want to ______, then maybe you should consider letting it go completely.
What’s something you “need” to do this week? Can you recognize it as something you want to do instead?
“I have a special dad! My dad works from home! He goes to meetings but I get to spend a lot of time with him!”
I felt a little awkward as my 4-year-old was bragging about his dad to a guy who was clearly enjoying an outing with his two young sons.
“Wow, that is special!” the dad said. “I would love to be home with my kids.”
He seemed so sincere, and almost sad. I wanted to tell him he could do it - that he could be home more if he wanted to - but I know how trite and privileged that can sound, especially without any context, without knowing his story or struggles.
The thing is, I don’t believe it matters what his life has been like up until this point. We always have the power to think and feel and act differently, no matter our circumstances. And thinking, feeling, and acting differently is what creates different results in our lives.
Had I said any of this to him, he might have said something like, “I’m a [nurse, electrician, teacher, mail carrier, store manager, etc.] - I can’t do that from home.”
And maybe he’d be right. But what if he wasn’t?
We set up so many false dichotomies in our lives. “Oh I can’t do x because y.”
Really? I question them all.
When someone says they can’t do something they “want” to do, one of my favorite questions (besides why) is, “How can you?”
How can you support your family financially or have your dream job AND spend more time with your kids? Or how can you do all three? There is always a way. It just depends on what you’re willing to sacrifice.
This all points to getting really clear on what you care about. What matters most to you? Is it more important to you to spend more time with your kids or to continue working in your same job with the same hours in the same location? There’s no wrong answer, but it’s an important question.
There’s more than one way to be a nurse, an electrician, a teacher. There’s more than one way to use the skills you’ve developed as a store manager or a mail carrier. If something else is more important to you, then it’s worth a good brainstorm and google search to open your mind to what those possibilities might be.
If all that sounds exciting but overwhelming, schedule a phone consult with me and let’s figure out how you can get what you really want.
I’m giving myself ten minutes to write this. Because it will take as much time as I allow it.
I used to be a big time procrastinator (sometimes I still am). The reasons for procrastination vary - and mine usually involved paralyzing perfectionism. But along with that perfectionism was an understanding that whatever project I was putting off wouldn’t take as much energy, time, and effort if I put it off rather than doing “a little each day.”
The “do a little each day” philosophy never made sense to me. If I worked on a research paper a little bit each day, it would take way longer than it needed to. Not to mention the time it would take to get back into the swing of it, remembering where I left off each time, etc. I’m a binger, not a chipper.
The perspective that made much more sense to me was:
If you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute to do.
And as much as it was an excuse to just put off school projects, I’m seeing more wisdom in that perspective now than I ever have. Maybe not the "wait until the last minute" part, but the idea of giving yourself a tight deadline.
If I gave myself an hour (or just “however long it takes”) to write this note to you, I would take all that time. And it might not be because it would really take that long to write, but because I would wander over to Facebook, change my mind about the subject, go off on different tangents, check Facebook again, and maybe finish it, or maybe just come back to it later.
What in the world! Why do that when you could just do it in ten minutes if you wanted?
What would it look like to limit your next project to ten minutes? I dare you to try it and report back. Tell me what you did and how it went!
Time’s up! :-)
I am a big believer in being generous with compliments. How many times do you think something nice about someone and don’t say it? WHY IS THAT? Why not say the thing?
I try to remember to say those kind, genuine things often as I think them, because I know how sweet it is to get a kind, genuine compliment from a stranger (or even a friend). And I can’t tell you how many times people say “You’ve made my day.”
A kind word from a stranger has the power to make someone’s day?
On one hand, that’s pretty amazing. Spread that magical power around everywhere as often as possible!
On the other hand….
When we give other people the power to make our day, we also give them the power to break it.
Years ago I used to have a decently-read wedding blog. Most of the comments were kind, encouraging, or at least benign. And it felt good to have so much positive attention. But once in awhile someone would say something I thought was mean or rude. And that would RUIN my day.
My happiness and contentment was based on other people’s opinions about me. My barometer for how I was doing depended on other people. I had given away my power. And that wasn’t just something I did when I was a wedding planner, that dependence on other people to give me my identity has been hardwired in me for as long as I can remember.
Tell me who I am.
Tell me what I should do.
Tell me if I’m doing a good job.
Only in recent years have I realized - truly internalized - that I have one wild and precious life, and it’s mine and mine alone to live and decide about.And that feels like a huge responsibility for someone who delegated that to parents, teachers, spiritual leaders, God… for decades. And yet, it’s a responsibility I’m learning to love - one that’s showing me just how much strength I have.
So I still accept the compliments today, but I hold them loosely, knowing that my power and confidence is mine alone to hold.
Enjoy your power and confidence this week!
I completely stole this concept from Penelope Trunk. I think of it anytime I find myself wishing I had something someone else has.
The secret is this: You can’t want just one thing from someone’s life. You have to want their whole life.
The point is that it’s easy to envy that globetrotting family if you don’t look at the whole picture. You have to want an inconsistent, not-guaranteed income (perhaps). You have to want a whole lotta time with your kids and no date nights with your spouse. You have to want to be away from the rest of your family and friends. You have to want true unpredictability.
You have to also want that guy and those kids, and who knows what they’re really like. You have to want her personality, and who knows what she’s really like. You have to want her life experience, and who knows what that includes. You have to want to actually be her (or him).
And if I think about actually being someone else, I recognize how very happy I am to be me.
Enjoy all that it means to be YOU living YOUR LIFE this week.
P.S. If you’re not happy with who you are or the life you’re living, we can change that. Seriously. Schedule an introductory coaching consult with me here and let’s make a plan.
What does it mean to live a life of no regrets?
You know how sometimes you have to keep re-learning the same things? And how sometimes a really old idea hits you in a totally new way and it’s like OH MY GOSH! TREAT PEOPLE THE WAY YOU WANT TO BE TREATED! (Bad example; I think the Golden Rule is confusing and misleading, but you get what I’m saying).
One of those things for me right now is a sliver-lining thing: embracing my regrets. I'm choosing to no longer be a victim of my past decisions, relationships, or experiences, and instead embrace them as having helped me become the person I want to become - the person who can look back on those things with far more maturity and clarity and insight than she ever could have without those experiences. Without this perspective, I can easily regret almost everything I’ve done in my life - not because I think I made “bad” choices but because those choices have added up to a life that’s so far from what I expected of myself at 34. Then again, I’ve had more personal growth in the last 15, 10, especially the last two years than I could have achieved in a lifetime of killing it on Wall Street or whatever out-in-the-world thing I think I should or could have done.
Ironically, I’ve lived most of my life in fear of regret, making decisions according to what I think I’m least likely to regret - which, by the way, is impossible to truly know. And, sure enough, as my beliefs have evolved, it’s been easy to think of many of my past decisions in a regretful way. But through those experiences I learned discipline, sympathy, patience, gentleness…things that do not come naturally to me and may never have become part of me had I not made so many of those “regretful” decisions.
I now have a new way of understanding the pursuit of a life with no regrets. It’s impossible to know what Future Monica will regret, but I can definitely say she would regret not growing. And growth means Future Monica won’t be able to stand by everything Current Monica says or does or believes right now.And that is scary! It keeps me from saying and doing and believing now, because I’m sure I’ll say and do and believe differently in the future. And yet, that is what I ultimately want because THAT IS GROWTH.
So I will continue to try to live a life of no regrets, but what that now means to me is I will choose to see my past and my future as lessons and growth points and the forging of a path toward becoming the person I’m so excited to be.
Do you have a fear of regret? Have you ever done anything you thought you would regret, but later turned out to be a decision you're pleased with? I'd love to hear about it!
I’ve studied a lot of personality theory over the years, and the hardest thing about putting out content for a broad audience is this:
Everyone needs different advice.
And not just because some people need help with understanding themselves and others need coaching on mindset. I mean that two people could need complete opposite advice on the same topic.
I recently attended a Women in Business event in which a panel of female entrepreneurs answered audience questions. Someone asks for tips for launching her new business. A panelist replies that she should find a niche quickly. That's great advice for some people, but totally paralyzing for those who will let this need to find a niche keep them from just going out and broadly doing their thing.
So unless you sit down and really get to understand someone - who they are and where they’re coming from, it’s hard to give really great advice all the time.
Slow down or hustle?
Let it go or get a grip?
Lean in or opt out?
Ask for help or “you got this”?
My unchanging advice to all my clients is this: Do hard things. Do the things that your memoir would say were THE ANSWER to success in your life.
Someone recently told me his revelation that just five minutes of planning changes his day completely. I laughed. We both did. That guy does not need more spontaneity or flexibility or presence in his life - he automatically does that. Five minutes of planning might be THE ANSWER for him, but someone else will find their key to success in the opposite: “OMG yesterday I put down my to-do list, took my kids to the beach, and practiced being fully present…and it changed my day completely.”
The thing is that THE ANSWER isn’t throwing out our to-do lists or making detailed plans - in reality, we need both. It’s that oft-misunderstood concept I still have so much to learn about: BALANCE. More on that another time.
So tell me, what is hard for you? I’d love to get to know you better.