You know I like to make lists, right? Well, this is probably one of the hardest to do, as it implies that you take a really good look at your own wonderfully fragrant mixture of flakiness, self-sabotage, victimism, resistance and other such shadowy beauties.
What are your top (however many) excuses for not doing things you want to do? Or have declared you want to do? (there's a clue to my first one!). Here are my top ten:
1. I don't really want to do what I said I wanted to do. Epic fail: lack of authenticity. Of course, it's more than that. It's a house of cards built on some pretty robust foundations of fear (fear of displeasing others, fear of being rejected, fear of what others will think, fear of not meeting my own expectations, and a long etcetera...).
2. I don't know enough. A massive one for me. I have to say it's perfectly paired up with my insatiable desire for learning. So that's one happy couple, waltzing away till the end of time... Truth: I will never know enough. Another truth: That doesn't mean I can't do stuff or express what I do know. Final truth: I know enough of what I need to know. Does that makes sense?
3. I haven't prepared enough. Ok, perfectionism in another disguise (it loves dressing up - in fact most of what I do and don't do responds to a version of perfectionism). Preparation has its benefits, don't get me wrong, but since we can never prepare for every eventuality, there comes a point when we have to just put our two feet on the ground and take a step... And then another...
4. Now I don't have the time / space / energy to do this properly. Notice the last word? Yep, it's Ms. Perfect back in town for another show... If it was up to her, the most mundane and easy tasks would take lifetimes to do, and even then, they wouldn't be quite 100% perfect. Do you see what a tyrant she is? An absolute monster.
5. There are other things I should be doing first. Distractions anyone? Surely cleaning the oven for the second time this month is more important that writing for my blog...
6. It's done but I need to tweak it (to death!). Another perfectionist disguise. Once I thought I could make some money off my obsession with detail and improvement by becoming a copy-editor and proof-reader. I am not joking. But feeding the obsession did nothing for my mental health or fulfilment (plus it was as boring as hell!).
7. I need to do it right from the very beginning! (Or I need to start all over again). So just because I signed up to 31 days of yoga, I need to start all over again because I missed a couple of days here and there?!?!
8. I can't be sure if I will succeed. No shit, Sherlock... Who does? The problem is not the lack of certainty but the implicit belief that failure will somehow hurt me. It’s an unhelpful belief (and a lie too). We are all rejected every day of our lives, but we fail to see the rejections because we don’t choose to acknowledge them. What if I practiced more often detaching from outcomes and seeing the process as a journey of self-discovery?
9. There was too much traffic, my mother called me as I was leaving, there is a lunar eclipse happening tonight... You get the drift. I am a victim of circumstances outside of me. We all use this one. I've been working consciously on keeping a mentality of responsibility lately, and it brings up some fascinating stuff. For instance, why do I cut it so fine when it comes to time? Or why am I afraid (or uncomfortable) about telling others "I can't talk to you right now"? When I started looking at the consequences of making excuses by blaming others or taking a victim stance, it became clear that it's nearly always about avoiding discomfort to myself and ignoring my own less-than-healthy patterns.
10. I can't be bothered. Great. So go back to excuse number 1. Is this really what I want to do???? Or am I self-sabotaging? (If it's the later, watch this space as I'm writing a piece on that).
Now, this is not an exercise in self-flagellation but in self-awareness. One could approach it enthusiastically like spring cleaning your wardrobe (well, some of us would!). Or one could tentatively feel their way around in the dark, scared of finding some unfathomable monster(s). But, actually, once you sit down and let them come out into the light, they're like old friends... Always there, not always at the forefront of our minds, yet liable to show up unexpected at any moment. It's a popular little group called self-deception. And most of us have made a habit of inviting them to the table. On a daily basis. Their favourite word is "can't" and they use it all the bloody time. In fact, they talk endlessly and it's always about all the things we can't do. They're very opinionated!
So list them. Explore them. And then, ask the big question (the one we were after all along...): What am I going to do instead? What would happen if I changed all those can'ts with won'ts? Then they wouldn't be excuses, they would be choices. Ouch. But here's the thing - I would finally take ownership. Because it's by finally coming face to face with my weaknesses that I can become really strong and clear.