Excuses or Solutions?
Are You Looking for Excuses or Solutions?
Have you ever found yourself in a spot where you create an excuse – you really, truly believe that there was another person or another factor outside of your control that was the reason you couldn’t reach your goals.
Now, we all start building up our “excuse bank” very young because we don’t want to feel badly or shamed or blamed. It’s a natural occurrence it’s called a defense mechanism (the ego trying to “defend” us) – we all use them to some level, and it’s there to protect us (I’ll get into this in more detail in a minute).
Early on when we get in trouble as young children, we don’t like it. We don’t like feeling guilty, or shamed, or blamed. As a result, we learn to create all these different excuses – we try them out – to deflect the bad feelings that result from “getting in trouble.” What we learn as very young children is that some excuses work, and some don’t.
And then maybe you’d find out that some excuses work for your mom, but not for your dad – so you’d have to find other excuses to use for your dad. And from there, you learned that you had to use different excuses with a teacher, colleague, friend, or boss.
We create a repertoire of excuses, and I think it would be fun as a challenge to write down every time you use an excuse. Writing it down helps you realize how frequently it’s appearing in your lives – and will help you identify whether it’s an excuse or a solution.
What’s the Difference Between An Excuse and a Solution?
What’s the difference between an excuse and a solution? When you use an excuse, there’s no momentum. You feel badly, you have a bit of an icky feeling in your stomach. And, that feeling is usually based on fear.
In psychology, we call it cognitive dissonance – your authentic self knows that it’s not really true, but your conscious self, the part that you’ve learned to create, the ego part that’s naturally trying to save face, is going to come up with something to blame something or someone that isn’t real.
Does that mean that there wasn’t traffic, that wasn’t real? No! It means there was traffic – and you move from that problem to asking yourself, “how do I solve this?”
So instead of encountering traffic and saying,”okay, how can I fix this?” You just sit in the low energy (literally!) of being stuck in traffic – and you create more problems just by the story you create around that traffic jam. You’re in Excuse Mode.
If I get stuck in a traffic jam – and that’s a very real thing here in Los Angeles! – I can plan to put more time into my day, but if there is an emergency in the traffic, that’s a different story. But my question still remains: how many emergencies really occur in traffic?
So let’s go back and ask the only question we need to ask: “how can we solve this problem?” When you’re stuck in Excuse Mode, your knee-jerk reaction is to think, Uh-oh, how can I save face? Uh-oh, how can I not get in trouble? Uh-oh, what can I say, what can I blame, instead of taking responsibility?
That’s when you know you’re in the Excuse Mode!
To move over to the Solution Mode, it might sound something like this:
I hit a lot of traffic, but the reality is, I could have planned better. I know coming east, like I did yesterday, in the afternoon isn’t going to work. In order to have made this happen, I would have had to leave two hours earlier to bypass the traffic. That’s not a big deal – I could have brought my computer and gotten some work done while I was waiting to meet my colleagues.
So now I have a solution – and why is that important? Because when you’re looking to create solutions, you’re able to maintain momentum and you’re able to move forward – nothing can hold you back from what you’re trying to accomplish.
Another solution might be, You know, the traffic in Los Angeles is just too much for me, and I don’t like it. I want to move to a smaller area, or another community outside of LA. Or, I want to move East of the 405, or whatever that might look like.
But now, in Solution Mode, I don’t feel stuck and I don’t have to feel badly. I’m looking for ways to help myself. I don’t have cognitive dissonance, and I don’t have to protect myself from shame or blame from anyone. I’m nurturing myself my taking responsibility to do something. Here’s another telltale sign you’re in Excuse Mode: when you have that icky feeling, or when you’re afraid someone is going to get upset with you, you start going into the blame-shame-excuse cycle. When you’re in that place, you need to nurture yourself and go from fear to truth.
One way to do that, is to ask the question, “How can I solve this moving forward? What can I do differently moving forward? How can I handle this differently in the future?”
Business and life are a lot like a relay race. You’re not going to come in first or second if each person in the relay race doesn’t do what they need to do when they need to do it!
Say that you need to have a presentation ready – and this happens to me a lot. I need to sit down and create the structure of the presentation so I can hand it off in a timely manner to my marketing director, who can start the process. So then she does it in a timely manner, her part of the relay race, and gives it back to me for notes and changes, which I have to give back to her to adjust in a timely fashion.
And she might say, “You know, Ruth, I really needed to have that by this time,” so that she could get her part done in a timely manner.
If I felt attacked or that she might not like me, then I might say, “Well, gosh, I have all these projects, and I’m trying to prepare for this event, there are too many things to do in my day!”
Even though all of that is true, it doesn’t provide me any solutions or any way to move forward – and that doesn’t help!
However, if I ask the question, “How can I do this differently? What can I do so I can get the presentation information over to my marketing director in a timely fashion so she can do it in a timely fashion and neither one of us has to rush?” Those questions open up a whole new world of opportunities for us!
Any time you worry you might get attacked, or you’re feeling defensive, you’re stuck in your ego – stuck in your inauthentic place.
Now, the ego gets a bad rap, and it doesn’t need to – it’s there to protect us! It helps us determine our dreams and helps us go after our dreams – the home we want, the lifestyle we want, our ego is there to make sure we get it!
However, our ego is very fragile and wants to protect itself constantly. So that’s when we need to say, Okay, at the end of the day, if someone doesn’t like us, we can’t do anything about that. If someone gets upset with us, we really can’t do anything about that. If someone isn’t being nice to us, we can’t do anything about that – it’s coming from them.
But what we can have control over is how we accept it, what we do with it, how we respond, and how we move forward. Are we going to get lost in the rabbit hole of not feeling good because of what someone else said, or are we going to find a solution and get to the next step? (That’s a whole other blog post!)
For the next week, I want you to really focus and think about your words and thoughts. Whenever you have that yucky feeling in the pit of your stomach, I want you to ask yourself: am I in Excuse Mode, or am I in Solution Mode?
Let me know what you discover!