It’s really easy to fall into the trap of making excuses. No one likes to admit it, but we all do it. And this is especially true when it comes to our health.
The two biggest excuses we give when we choose not to do what’s best for ourselves (and, yes, it’s a choice) are 1) I don’t feel like it and 2) I don’t have time. You know, “I’m too tired to work out” or “I don’t have time to cook.”
I’m certainly not saying that there shouldn’t be days where you take a break from exercising. And I’m for sure not going to shame anyone who doesn’t cook a full three-course dinner for the family. (My kids are lucky to get one course most days.)
But you know what happens when you get into the habit of using being tired or not having time as an excuse for everything. You eventually spiral down into downright laziness and a less-then-average existence.
So rather than me taking the role of drill sergeant and making you feel like a huge loser if you ever say that you’re exhausted or busy (which you are!), let’s look at this a different way.
What if every time you catch yourself saying that you’re too tired or too busy to do something, you reverse the equation?
I think a really good example of this is having a drink at the end of the day. I don’t know how many times I’ve said, “I cannot wait to have a glass of wine.” And the days I most look forward to it are the ones when I was worn out all day, I had no patience, and nothing went right.
At some point I started to notice a pattern. The days that made me want to have a drink the most were the ones that followed a night with no sleep. And the reason I got no sleep was because I’d had a drink.
So did I need a glass of wine because I was so tired, or was I so tired because I’d had a glass of wine (or two) the night before? It was classic chicken or the egg: the reality was that my alcohol consumption the previous night was making the next day a whole lot harder than it needed to be.
Just to be clear, the danger is not in having a few glasses of wine or skipping a workout. The danger is making an excuse for your behavior when you can easily change it. And when you do change it, you get benefits beyond the change itself.
For example, if you say you’re tired and don’t feel like cooking, maybe you’re tired from eating crap all the time as a result of never cooking for yourself. If you decided to cook a few meals for yourself, you would eat healthier food. Eating better definitely gives you more energy, and you would also generate creative energy that gives you the enthusiasm to try new things.
Or maybe you say you’re too tired to work out and you don’t have time to do it. But if you worked out, you wouldn’t feel so exhausted. Then you would have the energy to get more done — and you’d probably get it done a lot faster.
So when you find yourself in the chicken-or-egg scenario, the trick is to break the cycle. There are two aspects to this:
You have to break it physically. The truth is that you sometimes have to force yourself to do something. You have to get up, put on your yoga pants, and go exercise. You have to get in the kitchen and start cooking. It doesn’t have to be extreme. Just going for a short walk or sauteing a few vegetables is all it takes to snap you out of your inertia.
And if you’re going to make yourself do something, it helps tremendously to have a plan. You can’t just wait for inspiration to strike to work out when you feel like it or to eat healthy when you’re hungry, because you won’t. Book the exercise class in advance. Wash your fruits and vegetables ahead of time.
You have to break it mentally. Pay attention to how you talk to yourself, especially when you say the word “too.” Whenever you hear that word, you know an excuse is coming. Setting up a statement with “I’m too [whatever] . . .” means you’re giving yourself a pass not to do something.
When you say something like this, immediately challenge it with “Is this true?” Then reverse the statement and see what happens. If you’re too busy to do something, ask yourself whether doing this first would actually make your day go more smoothly. And ask yourself whether doing something you don’t feel like doing would actually make you feel better.
Getting rid of excuses is one of the hardest things to do. It’s a lot easier to make one and stay where you are than it is to take responsibility and grow.
Don’t get me wrong. There is totally a place for watching Netflix and having a glass of wine at the end of a long day. Just make sure you’re doing it consciously and not setting it up first with all kinds of justifications and excuses for why you should be “allowed” to.
Just making the effort to challenge your assumptions makes you feel in charge and in control, which is the place where making excuses and playing the victim can no longer exist.
And the benefits go far beyond just one workout or one cooked meal. When you hold yourself accountable, then you get to see what you’re really capable of — and it’s a whole lot more than you think.