Whenever we’re faced with a failure, we can have one of two default reactions:
1) Make excuses
2) Identify reasons
And there’s a world of difference between the two!
Excuses are attempts we use not simply to explain why we managed to fail, but to justify the failure, as though it could not have been avoided.
The motive behind excuses isn’t to overcome the failure, but to not feel guilty about experiencing that failure. We do this by:
- Blaming external factors (such as luck, the stars, the weather, our upbringing, etc)
- Feeling helpless and, therefore, trying not to be held accountable for the failure
I remember several (come to think of it, many) occasions when I would go to work around an hour late. Whenever I would get stuck on a traffic light I would immediately think to myself (i.e. by default) that I was late because I got stuck on a traffic light.
This would explain a minute of my lateness, but what about the other 59 minutes?
That’s not a question for excuses to answer. That’s where reasons come in.
When you set your mind to identifying reasons, you begin by trying to understand the reason for the failure, without passing judgment or looking for someone (or something) to blame. You simply want to understand.
Having identified the reasons, you take responsibility for your contribution to the failure and look for ways to learn from this experience for the future.
When going late to work, rather than scan my environment for excuses, I can look for the factors that contributed to my lateness: drinking coffee the night before, sleeping late, pressing the snooze button, pressing the snooze button again, taking a long time to get ready, etc.
I can then identify the ways in which I can eliminate these factors, so that I would not go to work late.
A person who aims to identify reasons isn’t afraid of the truth and is willing to accept his faults, so that he can overcome them.
A person who seeks to make excuses takes the truth as his enemy, because it might reveal something about him that he does not wish to discover.
To be successful in life, you can never create excuses. You must always find the reasons for your failures and your successes no matter how hard they are to swallow.
“There are a thousand excuses for failure, but never a good reason.”