Listen in to any conversation for very long and you will hear them…
Excuses are so prevalent in our words and thoughts that we often miss them. Why are they so pervasive?
Because they work.
We tend to excuse people for things when they share an excuse, so we have created a self-perpetuating loop. The excuse gets us a positive response, so we use it again.
As I often do when I am thinking about a word or behavior I look up the definition of the word. For our purposes, the definition of excuse (as a noun) is: something offered as justification or as grounds for being excused.
(Full definitions and more can be found here.)
Many of the verb definitions include the word blame. When we make excuses, we blame circumstances, but mostly we blame other people. Why? If we blame someone or something else, we don’t have to look at our choices, our actions (or lack thereof) or our responsibility.
Excuses are funny things – we don’t like it when others use them, but we overlook them in ourselves. (Tweet That)
Perhaps even funnier (or sadder) is that we make excuses for things we didn’t achieve or do that we often really wanted to achieve or do. We excuse (justify) our results to ourselves and others – and we often get a knowing glance or a pass.
Stated another way, excuses are an obstacle to us achieving the (big and little) things we want in life. As a leader, whose role is to help important things get accomplished, excuses are a major impediment.
Excuses justify failure.
Excuses rationalize results (or lack thereof).
Excuses shift the blame to someone else.
Excuses are the enemy of accountability.
Excuses undermine confidence.
I was prompted to write this article because of a quote I was reminded of recently. The words come from Chi Chi Rodriguez, the professional golfer. He said:
“Don’t look for excuses to lose. Look for excuses to win.”
While I am sure Chi Chi would agree with everything I have written, his short quote flips the script for us all.
He is encouraging us to avoid the rationalizations for losing; and at the same time urging us to look for “excuses” or reasons to win. Because we all make excuses when we fall short, we are really good at looking for the reasons why. Why not look, instead, for the things in our favor, the slight advantages, the incremental improvements, the tail wind that can help us achieve what we set out to achieve?
There are many lessons for you to consider from this short article, and I encourage you to think about the messages that will impact you most. I will however, close with some challenges I feel from these thoughts.
- How can I help my team look for the advantages we see as “excuses to win”?
- How often do I role model a “no excuses” approach – by looking in the mirror, and taking responsibility for what I (we did) that led us to where we are?
- What excuses am I looking for?
Note: Finding and creating accountability is a component of many of our workshops and consultations. You can learn more about two of those workshops here: