Beat your excuses to it

Summary: Start doing before you begin finding reasons why not to or looking for other things to do. Be faster than your excuses.

– Right, it’s run time! (But it’s cold and dark outside, my legs are tired from yesterday, I had such a bad day at work, I’d rather stay in and eat)

I’m so ready to eat that healthy meal! (That cookie looks so much better than my chicken, rice and broccoli. It’s basically screaming ‘eat me’. One cookie won’t make a difference. Oh, I’ve got crisps as well?)

– Let’s begin that proposal that we need to submit by tomorrow morning (I’m so thirsty! Actually, thirsty and hungry. I can’t write a proposal with my physiological needs not met. Also, I’m already pretty tired. Maybe I’ll just have a quick nap – I’ll wake up in 20 minutes, refreshed and ready to do that piece of work)

– It’s time to read that book that will help me in my job (I wonder what’s happening on Facebook. Just a quick peek and I’m back to the book. Whaaaat? They got married? Who was at their wedding? I wonder how they’re doing. Oh and they’re watching ‘Lost’? I always wanted to do that. I’ll just watch one episode and then it’s education time)

Any of these sound familiar?

If you recognise the pattern, I’ve got a technique that I use and that I want to share with you – hopefully you’ll find it useful, too. This the secret to short-term motivation:

Be faster than your excuses.

How do you do it? It’s a matter of training yourself, obviously (you didn’t think it would be that easy, did you?). What you have to practise is:

a) The awareness that the excuses are coming
b) The ability to catch that moment when they appear
c) The skill to not identify with those excuses, not empathise with them, just observe them
d) The power to plough on with those excuses in your head

We’ll go into medium- and long-term motivation soon, in a different post (it’s going to be amazing, trust me), but for now, for those moments when you know that the excuses will be coming, practise those things above.

This is how I achieved running 5 days a week in 2016, with only one week break due to illness. Whenever I came home from the client’s site, I knew that in a second there will be a firstly quiet, and then an increasingly louder voice within me saying that I’m too tired to go for a run, that I should just have a dinner and watch some TV in my hotel room. That voice didn’t care that I had a training plan that I wanted to stick to. So with the awareness of the inevitability of this voice, I would put on my running shoes, shorts and off I went. When the voice appeared, I was already pounding the streets and it shortly after got quiet.

And that’s a skill worth training in my opinion. You have to be quicker than those voices. Surprise them with action, with doing of the thing they would be opposing to and they will not have the effect on you like they would if you’d just patiently waited for them to appear.

I wish I came up with this technique a few years ago, when I was preparing a report for one of the clients. We needed to submit it in the morning, it was 11 PM and I still had a lot to write, so I knew I was in for an all-nighter. That’s when a voice appeared and said ‘have a nap, you’ll feel energised, you’ll only sleep for 20 minutes and then you’ll power through the night’. After 20 minutes of the timer, I would reset the timer for another 20 minutes and another, and another… Long story short – I got up at 3 AM, felt really bad about this and was useless the next day. All because I listened to my excuse in my head and I gave into it, instead of knowing that it would come and surprising it with action.

So what to do when you weren’t quick enough? Well, that’s when you need to employ your own internal BS Detector. It starts with point c) above – your Detector requires your awareness and observation skills. A voice appears, you didn’t outrun it – let it speak, but don’t let it become ‘you’. Maybe it’s got something valuable to say? 9 times out of 10 it won’t. But just letting it talk might appease it and the awareness-trained you will decide that this isn’t something that needs to be considered. Sometimes, though, the voice might say ‘look, it’s -2 degrees out there, you’ve been suffering from a cold the whole week, you’ve got x coming up and you know you can’t be ill for it; so why don’t you stay in today and maybe do some strength training or at least run at the gym, where it’s warm’. And that’s where your BS Detector should go ‘not BS’ and you can actually work with that information. In the other situations, like the italic voices from the introduction, the reading of your Detector should be ‘BS’ and then the awareness-trained you can consciously make a choice to ignore them.

If the excuses come up during the activity – and they most likely will, that’s again that awareness bit, don’t be surprised by them coming! – I’d suggest again employing the Detector; in 95% of the cases you’ll see that the excuse is not valid and you’ll just plough on and will give the other 5% appropriate consideration.

To sum up, a lot of my thinking is based on awareness and making informed, conscious choices. This is the case in this instance as well, so please, do this for yourself: identify all of the situations where you have had excuses thrown at you (by yourself) before and be ready for them next time – either to outrun them and surprise them or put them through the Detector and make conscious choices.

Let me know how it went. Soon we’ll explore where the excuses are actually coming from and what can be done to stop them appearing altogether.

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