Spring Clean Your Excuses! Make space for what really matters.

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Excuses.  Everybody makes them.  As a Yoga teacher and wellness professional, I hear excuses all the time.  Sometimes people find out I teach Yoga and immediately give me their excuses for not trying Yoga.  And then they tell me about how they prefer Pilates, or they are not flexible, or that they hate getting quiet.  When I share information about my retreats, some people feel compelled to say that they would totally come on retreat, except for x, y, and z reasons why not.  They don’t have the time or money, and then they tell me about the other trips they are taking.  I might run into someone at the grocery store, and they tell me their excuses for having lots of ice cream in their cart.  I don’t care; if they would peer into my shopping cart, they would see that I have lots more ice cream than they do!  But, since I work in this field, and wrote a book called A Year of Mindful Wellness, just seeing me makes them feel guilty about what they think they should be doing, and are not doing.

I make excuses too.  My main excuse is that I don’t have time.  I don’t have time to catch up on email.  Or return calls. Or work out. Or journal.  I do realize that I do lots of things, and have just as many hours in my day as anyone else.  I also realize that one of my Lunch and Learn sessions is called “Mindful Time Management”, so I don’t mind helping others find time, I just don’t have enough time in my day to do all of the things that I say want to do.  And yet, I do lots of things—so a good question, and one we will come back to, is how do I decide what I do have time for, and what I will make a “lack of time” excuse about.

Other go-to excuses for me are:  that my shoulder hurts, that I am exhausted, or that I have so much on my mind “I can’t even think about that right now.”  This year I have had a new, sad excuse for not moving forward—my dad was sick for about 5 weeks, and I went back and forth to Houston to visit, and then he passed away, and I went back and forth to Houston for the funeral and then to help my mother.  And I’m grieving.  And it is exhausting.

At this point you might be saying, “You need a break to process what you have been through!”  or “It’s time to take care of yourself” and other things like that. A lot of you have said that to me, in fact.  And I agree with you, and I am taking care of myself.  But at a certain point, I need to get back to work and bring forth the things that I have said are important to me:  determining a strategy and plan for marketing my book, building workshops or retreats around it, and continuing to evolve in my Yoga and mindfulness teaching.  And start the podcast I have been talking about for years. And create some corporate Yoga video content that would beautifully fill out my offerings. At some point, the excuses need to be cleared out.  I think that point is about now, and I’m starting with this blog; I haven’t blogged in a while and intend to do so more regularly.  So, thanks for reading, you are helping me move forward and release that excuse.  My dad was not one to make excuses, and I am honoring his memory by letting go of that one.

Back to that question, how do we decide what we will actually do, and what we not do, because we have a great excuse not to do it?

In my experience there are 3 drivers of excuses:  fear, habits, and lack of interest.  Let’s take a look at those:

1. Fear. You might ask me, why would you be afraid of blogging? Or making a video?  You have done both before, and you are doing something you have been doing for a while, so what’s the big deal?  The fear behind my excuses shows itself on several levels. 

First, there is the fear that I will put something “out there” and it won’t be good, people won’t like it, and they will judge me.  Yes, even at my age, and after all these years of teaching, I still often face that fear of not being enough.  It’s what’s behind a lot of my excuses.  I also fear the unknown.  I don’t know how to do a podcast, and it feels daunting to begin.  And I fear looking stupid because I don’t know how to do it.  Silly, I know.  I’ve learned a lot of things in my life and I can learn this too.  Sometimes it’s not fear of failure that scares us, it’s fear of success.  I once had a boss who felt that might be my issue.  And, in hindsight, I think she was on to something.  I was afraid that, as I moved up in the organization, I would lose control over my personal life and time with my family.  I sometimes fear failure, and sometimes success.  Go figure.  Do you feel like fear is behind some of your excuses?  How can you acknowledge the fear, name it and put a little bit of perspective between you and the fear?  That is a great mindful first step to move through it.  If your excuses are based on fear, please take a look and work with that—you may find, as I often do, that there really is nothing to fear at all.

2. Habits. Old habits are hard to break.  We keep doing things that are comfortable and familiar, and in which we know what the outcome will be.  We might really want to make a change, but the habit has a strong hold on us.

 Inertia is a real thing, and if we are not mindful, we will not make changes.  When dealing with a habit that is supporting an excuse, we have to acknowledge that habit before we can make a change.  It is a great mindful practice to name something, in this case the habit; and let’s say it is eating chocolate every night after dinner.  And one day you realize that you are consuming too much sugar, or the chocolate gives you a stomachache or keeps you from sleeping, or whatever, and you don’t want to eat it anymore.  And so, you decide not to.  But then 8 o’clock rolls around and you head to the kitchen for your chocolate.  There is still some left—that’s your excuse, you are going to finish it and then you won’t eat any more.  The next night comes, after a long, hard day, and you go for the chocolate.  You don’t have any.  But it’s been a hard day, and just for one more night, you want the chocolate.  So, you run out to the store to get some more. This could go on forever, unless you consciously stop it by digging a little deeper.  Maybe the chocolate represents a reward for making it through the day.  Or a closing ritual for the day.  Or you just really liked the taste.  Acknowledge whatever it is, so you can move through it.  If it is a reward, give yourself a different reward.  Same thing with the ritual.  If it is the taste, perhaps you find something else that you like that makes you feel good.  What are the habits you will need to deal with to stop making excuses for a change that is important to you?  Once you name the habit, as a habit, you can make a plan to move through it.

3. Lack of interest it’s not important to you. This one makes me smile, when I realize it is happening.  What’s behind this excuse is just not caring about it.  For years I made excuses for not running for exercise. I used to do it, and even once ran a half-marathon.  After that, every time I wanted to “get back into running” I would come up with an excuse.  It was too dark in the morning, and too hot during the day.  My ankle hurt, or my shoulder, or my back.

I couldn’t get the music right on my headphones.  I would often start a run, and then stop because it didn’t feel good.  And I realized.  I don’t like running.  I feel like I should run because I am strong and into fitness and it is a very efficient workout that is great for your heart.  And I see groups of friends running and it looks healthy and fun.  But I don’t like it.  I might even hate it. I could come up with excuses forever to not run.  I could continue to feel bad when I made those excuses.  Or I could just decide not to run.  There are lots of other ways to work out, and I don’t have to run.  So, I let it go.  Sometimes making excuses is just a mechanism for not doing things that, for some reason, you feel like you should do, but really don’t need to do. If you are not interested in practicing Yoga or going on a retreat, it may not be a priority for you right now. You can stop making excuses to yourself (and me) and focus on what is important.  Are you making excuses about things you don’t really care about or need to do?  Is it because you feel like you “should”?  Can you let it go?  Would that free up some space for other things?

This spring, clear out your closet, declutter you desk, and clean out those old excuses that are weighing you down.  Determine whether it is fear, habit, or don’t wanna, that is keeping you from moving forward and let go, once and for all, of those tired old excuses.  And instead of excuses, make time for what you really want to do.

Lisa Feder, founder of Being Well Yoga, loves teaching Yoga and Mindfulness anywhere—studios, offices, and the rainforest! Her company, Being Well Yoga, brings Yoga on-site to the workplace so employees can work well and be well

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