No. The answer is no. It doesn’t matter. Whatever you tell yourself when you don’t meet the standard; whatever justification you make for not achieving the goal - it doesn’t matter. The fact is, the mission wasn’t accomplished.
For most, a reason and an excuse are different. A reason seems to be more justified, more legit. While an excuse is viewed as less reasonable, inferior. As you can see, Merriam-Webster doesn’t differentiate as much as you might:
Why Should We Care? Let’s say you start viewing them as the same and refuse to use either one. Anytime you feel the need to make an excuse, you say nothing - to yourself or out loud. You make no justification for the failure. You simply own it and move on. Why is that so hard to do?
We spend so much time and energy trying to rationalize, or justify, our shortcomings, not realizing that each of those justifications only weakens our character and makes it more likely that we’ll accept less of ourselves the next time.
Whatever happened to make us so afraid of coming up short, that we have to find an excuse to make it feel ok - because that’s all it’s doing, making it FEEL ok. It’s really not. The mere act of making the excuse actually compounds the failure and minimizes the importance of the goal you set out to achieve.
We would serve ourselves, and those around us, well if we banned ourselves from giving any reason for underperformance. Simply saying ‘I wasn’t good enough this time’ or ‘I have to get better’, while it seems embarrassing at the time is actually incredibly empowering. By fully owning every failure, you are placing the power of choice back in your control - and dismissing the power of circumstance, which you don’t control.
We need to do this at an individual level, but the results are anything but impactful to only you. By taking responsibility for all failings of our team, we free those we are leading to challenge the norm and pursue levels previously thought unattainable. Without this freedom, people turn to safety and the status quo.
REAL TALK - Action Steps Stopping the excuse making habit doesn’t happen without very intentional and mindful actions. It makes us feel good, at least better, to justify any lack of performance. It’s a natural tendency to do so, but that doesn’t make it good for us. Here are a few ideas to become better at shutting down our excuse making mindset.
An aspect of excuse making that we rarely think about is when we ignore potential excuses. Every great accomplishment in our lives has been the result of us ignoring many perfectly plausible excuses. We don’t accomplish anything without sacrificing something. Every one of those sacrifices was a potential excuse that we chose not to make. Take a few minutes to write down the excuses you ignored in the last accomplishment you are proud of. The mere fact that you ignored them once should let you know that you are capable of ignoring them again.
Excuses are like a lot of other things, we see them clearly in others but are unable to recognize them in ourselves. To help with this, ask a friend or colleague to point out every time you make an excuse. The best way to initiate the activity is to have partners share stories of failure, times when they did not reach the goal or accomplish the mission. As the listener, pay close attention to reasons the person sharing may want to use to justify this failure - then point it out to them. Don’t be surprised by denial, we are very protective of our egos!
Public sharing is a great way to increase awareness and hold others accountable. For this activity, ask each team member to write up to 3 excuses they’ve used or heard in the last week on a post-it. Collect and share all the excuses with the group as a way to begin the journey of eliminating excuses from their mindset. As other excuses are made, add them to the board. This also serves as a great reminder to team members that they are not the only ones dealing with the urge to make excuses.
If I throw a good pass to a teammate and the teammate doesn’t catch the pass, then guess what? It wasn’t a good pass. The only good pass is a completed pass. No qualifiers. Make the commitment to living your life the same way - with no qualifiers, no excuses. For more information on building excellence in your teams, visit us at www.bluecollargrit.com. We would love to know how we could help!