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February 25, 2011 / Man in the Mirror

Why To Stop Giving Excuses (Hint: No One Cares)

Excuses, excuses. They’re so plentiful and cheap they’re like monopoly money–and yet we continue to use them as the currency to buy our way out of obligations, invites, and opportunities that, well, we’re just not that into. The question is–why? We hate coming up with them, and frankly, we also hate hearing them. So let’s make a pledge we’re going to stop. Right now.
I decided I’m taking my paper-money excuses out of circulation. And guess what–no one misses them. Least of all, me. Of course, sometimes I want to explain to someone why I can’t come/attend/show up/participate in whatever it is she’s been kind enough to invite me to. But I’m talking about the general, run-of-the-mill “How do I get out of this one” situations where you feel the need to come up with something, but can come up with nothing other than this one reason: “I don’t feel like it.”
Why–and I’m tempted to say this is women more than men, though I could be wrong–do we feel the need to flash a get-out-of-obligation-free card whenever something comes up that we don’t feel like doing? Since when did our default become “yes” for everything?
Now, granted, there are things we need to get off our butts and do, especially when the person who’s asking us is someone we really do want to support. But for the most part, I’m guessing the things that come your way and clog your calendar are things that you could do without, and you’re not even sure why you feel the need to go.
My Advice: Break the Excuse Habit
Protect your time, guard your calendar, and maintain your own and others’ dignity by politely bowing out or turning down an invite you really have no interest in accepting–promptly, succinctly, and respectfully. INSTEAD of making up excuses for why you may not be able to or can’t go, or worse, doing the “maybe” dance where you put on a big show of good intentions, but then skip out at the last minute.  I’d much rather someone be realistic with me about their ability/interest in attending whatever it is–a birthday party, a book club meeting, a live reading of the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop–and then, if that person does show up, it’s a welcome surprise.
Take a good hard look at your schedule today and decide what your priorities are, what you’re going and NOT going to do, and stick by your guns–don’t hide behind excuses.
Check out more of my video tips right here.
Terri Trespicio is senior features editor at Whole Living magazine and the host of “Whole Living” on Martha Stewart Living Radio, which airs every day at 10a East / 7a West on Sirius 112 / XM 157. Follow her on twitter @TerriT or subscribe to her videos on youtube at TerriT73.


One Comment

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  1. Joe Hefferon / Jun 23 2012 6:05 am

    Terri is right, in some ways, the simple (simpler) minds of men make some things easier. Girls and couples make excuses, guys just say, “No” and it’s forgotten about until the next game/party or whatever. We just flick the ‘dump’ switch on our brains and move on.
    The “paper-money excuses” are a stall. It’s about indecision, which Teri has written about before. Indecision comes from having a fuzzy identity, because honest self-evaluation is dicey. It’s easier to figure out what some inane Housewife of Wherever is going to say when her man’s ex shows up at the wake – easy and forgettable, but that predictive analysis doesn’t apply to the self. We can’t forget about it; we live with it. Hard-core honesty is difficult in human relations and stroke-inducing when turned inward. So it’s not just about deciding on priorities for the day, but deciding upon who we really are (way down deep) because ultimately our identity drives our decisions. If you don’t like poetry readings, then don’t go, unless it’s your friend and you want to support her. I like some poetry (The Marshes of Glynn for instance), but I’d rather eat a bag of light bulbs than sit through a reading on the lower east side with a roomful of pretentious a-holes in canvas sneakers.
    I realize this post was about decisions and not poetry, but I think you get my point. Just as setting vague goals delivers flaccid results; inept or fuzzy self-evaluation begets indecision.

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