Stop Making Excuses: How to Quickly Pivot into Power
Below is a transcript of this recording:
Today we’re going to talk about excuses. More importantly, we’re going to learn how to listen to our excuses and use them to take powerful action.
If we want to expand into greater freedom, aliveness, love, and peace then that means we’re going to be moving beyond what seems comfortable or safe. It means we’re going to invite small amounts of discomfort and risk and failure. And you can bet your butt that there’s gonna be some resistance. If we’re going to lie on our deathbed with any regrets, our regrets will have resistance to thank.
So let’s expect resistance to crash the party and try to kill our momentum. Let’s expect resistance to try and convince us that a tiny speed bump is really a wall. And since resistance is the part of us that feeds our excuses, let’s run through some of the most common excuses I hear in my coaching sessions with clients.
First up is the excuse that has us say…
If I Make a Big Change Everything Will Fall Apart
I talk to so many clients that have big dreams and even bigger excuses. They paint a wonderful picture for themselves and then grind to a halt because they believe they’ll have to do something reckless or dramatic that would endanger their family or lifestyle. It’s usually some story about having to quit their job, or get a divorce, or raise vast amounts of cash before they could even get started creating the thing they want to build.
It’s some belief that says making this change means some huge, terrible thing will happen. But most of the time this kind of thing is just resistance. And convincing ourselves that the next step is reckless or dangerous is a highly effective way to rationalize staying in our comfort zone for years.
But when I walk through these nightmares with clients, most of the time we come to realize they’re just fantasies. In reality, the next step isn’t drastic. It’s usually quite small and mundane. Our ego may want to believe that we’re the hero who has to slay some big dragon, but what’s more true is that we’re just a person facing an uncomfortable conversation, phone call, or task. There is no dragon.
I once worked with a guy who told me he had this huge burning desire to start his own real estate investment company, but by gosh he just couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t moving forward.
I asked him, “What do you think needs to happen before you can move forward?”
He said, “Well, I would need to quit my job. And before I can do that I have to have X amount in the bank so my family is okay. And I’m just not saving it quickly enough. It’s going to take years at this rate.”
I asked, “Ok. Well tell me this. What’s the first thing you would do after you had all of the money saved up, knew your family was safe, and had quit your job?”
He thought about if for a little while and then said, “Well, I’d reach out to some mentors and start figuring out how to create this investment deal. I’d research what would make it work for them, that kinda thing.”
“And do you really need to quit your job in order to do that?”
“Huh. I guess not.”
If resistance has us believing that we need to quit our job, or sell our business, or have a ton of money in the bank before we can do the thing we really want to do — then let’s first imagine we’ve already done those things. Let’s put ourselves in that situation mentally. Now if this were true, what would be the very next practical step we’d take?
What we’re likely to see is that this step is not dependent on our professional or financial or relational situation. We can see that this step is within reach today. And while it may be a little scary, it’s something we can do right now.
Let’s keep going. The second excuse that holds us back has us say…
I’m Just Not Ready. I Need to Be Confident. I Need to Be Inspired.
Here we are, moving forward towards the thing we want. And then — SNAP! — in comes the thought that says Wait a minute. I’m missing something. I can’t move forward because I need to have a burning desire or more passion or more confidence or experience in order to get this done.
In other words, when this tension naturally shows up, resistance has us believe it’s a sign to pull over and wait until we’ve somehow magically accumulated the motivation, confidence, or experience to push through the discomfort.
Unfortunately this mentality has it backwards from reality. What’s true is that we build passion, confidence, motivation, and experience by engaging our challenges. Waiting around for them to show up is a trap.
One day I was on a coaching call with one of the members of my group program. He was feeling trapped in his current work situation and wanted to start his own investment business. Time was passing, nothing was getting done, and he claimed he was stuck because he wasn’t fired up. He even said, “I’m just not passionate. I’m missing that burning desire, you know?”
So I asked him, “What would you do if you already had that burning desire?” We talked for a while and drew up a very clear set of actions that included stuff like filing the paperwork to form his own company and make some contacts to line up funding. And so I said, “Great. You can do that stuff this week, right? You don’t need to be inspired or fired up to do that stuff. You can simply go do it. When will you contact me and confirm that you’ve completed these tasks?”
If we’re thinking we need to be confident or passionate before we get going let’s ask ourselves, “What action would I take if I believed I was ready?” Most often we’ll see that performing this action doesn’t require any inspiration on our part. We can do this thing whether we’re in the mood or not. And by doing it, we’ll feel our spirits lift. By doing what matters we’ll get stronger.
Now let’s talk about the third excuse that has us play small. It’s the one that has us say…
I Don’t Know What To Do
One of the biggest excuses we make most often is “I don’t know what to do.” But what I’ve found to be more true is the statement, “I don’t know what to do that isn’t scary or risky or isn’t gonna make me look stupid.” When we ask ourselves to come up with options that would be risky, uncomfortable, or possibly lead to embarrassment, then suddenly we have lots of clarity about what could be done. When we’re willing to take on some discomfort or risk, then we often have many options.
But in an effort to “get clarity”, resistance has us play the fool when it convinces us that “researching” and “gathering information” is the same as doing the work. I’m certainly guilty of falling into this trap. For example, I spent two years reading about meditation before I actually started my daily practice with a 10 day silent meditation retreat. Now which period do you think had a more profound impact on my life — the two years I spent gathering information or the ten days I spent meditating? I’ll let you take a guess.
This all points to a misunderstanding we may have about creating clarity and certainty. We don’t find clarity and certainty under some magical rock. We find it by rolling up our sleeves and getting into the process right in front of us. Information just becomes entertainment if we don’t apply it to our lives.
So let’s shift our focus from knowledge to gaining wisdom. Wisdom — learning what truly matters and what truly works for us as individuals — comes from trial and error. If we’re not totally clear on what we want or what steps to take, then let’s imagine we’re building a fire. Take some time to turn off the distractions and social media and information, and simply slow down. Simply listen. If we’re building a fire then we only need a spark. And that spark often appears as just a hunch. Ask yourself, What would have me feel a bit stronger today? What would have me feel a bit more free or alive or connected or at peace? Again, it can be a very, very small hunch. That’s fine.
Then we want to create an experiment. We want to see what builds that fire. We want to feed that spark a little air and a little fuel by taking some tiny action in service of that hunch. And we’ll know we’re on the right track if it feels a little bold, if it challenges us to get over ourselves.
Instead of waiting around for clarity to show up, developing this practice of experimentation will have us build strength and momentum as we go. We’ll learn through trial and error what has us feel more alive. Instead of falling into the trap about what we “should” do, we’ll align our choices with what truly feeds us. And when we’re fed and stronger, we’ll see the world differently. We’ll see more and more opportunities.
As I said before, we’re going to be doing things that are a little uncomfortable and risky from time to time. So let’s expect to hear some excuses and choose to take action anyway. This is how we develop clarity rooted in our own wisdom — our inner knowing, our authority — that can only come from creating experiences in the world.
I hope these insights into excuses have been empowering for you. If you’d like to learn more about resistance, check out the free micro-course I created at TheNewManPodcast.com. I also highly recommend the interview I did with Steven Pressfield who wrote The War of Art as well as the interviews I did with Phil Stutz and Barry Michels who wrote The Tools and Coming Alive. There’s lots of great stuff in there.
But more importantly I want to encourage you to sniff out these excuses in your life. What’s a challenge you’ve been avoiding? And what’s the smallest little action you could take today in service of building your fire? Lean into the process and let’s see what strengthens you.
I wish you the best and thanks for listening.
To learn more about coaching with Tripp Lanier visit https://TrippLanier.com.