Excuses. We all make them from time to time. Some of us make them all the time. As we enter mid-life, we owe it to ourselves to examine the myriad of excuses we use that hold us back from reaching our full potential and achieving our life goals. Otherwise, we might come to the end of our days and realize that we’ve excused away our lives.
Don’t be that person.
According to Dictionary.com, an excuse is an “attempt to lessen the blame attaching to (a fault or offense); seek to defend or justify”. Some people might think of excuses simply as the reasons or explanations for why they can or cannot do something. I have come to believe that they come down to personal choices.
Case in point: I’d wanted to lose 10 pounds for a while. I’d gained the extra weight while pursuing my master’s degree on top of working full-time and caring for a home and family. The little spare time I’d once enjoyed had been replaced with reading texts, writing papers, and working on projects. To deal with the stress and busyness of my life, I turned to stuffing my face with cheese and crackers while studying at night and drinking too much wine on the weekends.
I’m sure many of you can relate.
My attempt to awaken at 5:00am to exercise lasted only a few months. When my students started telling me with increased frequency that I looked exhausted and was repeating myself, and my husband point-blank said, “You’ve been acting really bitchy since you started waking up earlier” (ouch), I knew I needed that extra hour or so of sleep more than the exercise.
When I graduated in December, my plan was to start working out immediately, but it didn’t happen. I had so many good excuses why not: I’m too busy preparing for the holiday season; it’s too cold and dark out when I get home from work; I’m too drained and exhausted from work; I just need to chill out and recover from the insanity of the past two years.
Then one day I saw them, emblazoned on a billboard advertisement for a fitness center, four words: Excuses Don’t Burn Calories. They resonated so deeply with me that I practically stopped the car in the middle of the street.
My initial reaction was resentment. I mean, the model on the billboard couldn’t be a day older than 18 and was skinny as a rail. What could she possibly know about the stress of juggling a demanding full-time job while trying to keep a family, household, and marriage going? She was so young that her metabolism probably worked in overdrive; I’ll bet she burned hundreds of calories just by breathing.
Then I felt ashamed. The model was probably a lovely young woman, and what did I know about her life anyway? I certainly didn’t want to become one of those pathetic, bitter older women who despised any woman who was young and attractive. Where was the grace in that?
I drove by the billboard a few more times after that. Each time the words sunk into my psyche a little more, until finally I realized that I had a choice: I could keep making excuses for not working out and changing my diet or I could make a choice to lose the weight.
It’s been a little over a month since I made the choice to lose the weight. During that time I’ve been going to the gym three times per week without fail, power yoga once per week, and educating myself about calories and healthier food options. It’s not always easy. Some days I’m so exhausted when I come home from work that, after cooking dinner, I literally have to drag myself to the gym by putting one foot in front of the other. But I always feel so much better afterward. So far, I’ve lost close to five pounds.
I’ve come to realize that excuses blame factors outside of us. They keep us numb and stagnant. Choices come from within; therefore, they have the ability to empower us. When we feel empowered, we are more apt to make decisions for our life that support our well-being rather than harm it.
Excuses don’t burn calories. They don’t help us get that new job or promotion. They don’t improve our relationships with others. Excuses don’t start and complete projects, decrease debt and increase savings, or do a damn thing to help us realize our dreams.
What excuses are holding you back from leading your healthiest, happiest, most fulfilling life? You owe it to yourself to ask.
Note: I must give credit to Planet Fitness; it was their billboard advertisement that inspired me. Visit them at: http://www.planetfitness.com/.