Animated Bear Trap

How to Correct and Avoid the Excuse Trap

Last week, I spent 45 minutes catching-up with a colleague I’ve known and worked with in the past. He’s currently the national sales manager for a major firm and was interested in our services. As the call was winding down, he asked me for a proposal and I assured him he’d have one shortly.  

It took me a couple of hours to write the proposal, get it edited and proofed, but when I attempted to send it, my computer was offline. Rather than saving the file and bringing it home to send out, I stumbled into the excuse trap over the next couple of days, blaming my tardiness on the internet issue.  

On Monday, the proposal went out, and the timing worked fine for the client. However, my younger colleagues teased me for letting the internet be my excuse for not getting the proposal out. This led me to one of those “ah-ha moments.”

Excuses are part of human nature and one of the most common “speed bumps” we all face. At the extreme, a perpetual excuse-giver is a chronic underachiever. They have an excuse for every mistake, a reason for every bad habit, and they’re unlikely to reach their full potential.

How does that differ from a high-achiever? 

First, a high achiever is quick to recognize excuse making. How? It starts by recognizing excuses in others. Keep a daily log of the excuses you heard that day, who made them, and the corrective action they should take.

Within a week or two of keeping your excuse log, you’ll be ready to look into the mirror and identify your own excuses. Many of these can be minor like avoiding a task around the house. That’s ok for now. It’s an important first step in identifying the “speed bumps” along your critical growth path.  

With that in mind, spend some time reflecting on your past 18 months and your top 2-3  excuses. Be brutally honest with yourself: What was the excuse? Why did you make it?  How did it interfere with your growth? Spend some time and write out your answers to these questions.

This exercise requires you to be hard on yourself. Were you being lazy? Were you worried about failure? Were you reluctant to go outside of your comfort zone? Whatever your reasoning, it’s important to be able to recognize if your excuse making has a common denominator. It’s been my experience in 40 years of coaching financial advisors that the comfort zone is the most common culprit. The human species is hardwired to protect the ego and remain within a comfort zone. This is the reason why so few people ever reach their full potential.

This type of self-assessment can be extremely therapeutic if it’s followed by taking specific action, which leads me to one of our coaching mantras. Fixed daily activities, linked to a specific objective, is a powerful formula for success. 

Take one excuse at a time. What well-thought out, strategic action(s) do you need to take? Write out your action(s) steps, the frequency with which they need to be executed, and your starting date. From that point forward, keep a log of your actions, the results, and an assessment on how you feel as a result of taking action versus making excuses.   
It won’t take long and you’ll find your excuses becoming less frequent and your success more plentiful. Enjoy life outside your comfort zone. At this stage, you’ll most likely fully engage in a serious growth mode as you’re developing a powerful habit — avoiding the excuse trap.

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