Good Excuses

The better an excuse is, the more damaging it is as a trap.

Some excuses are so laughably bad that we actually feel embarrassed about even considering them. In a way, they become a little more motivating, because we think not only about the consequences of failing to achieve our task, but also the social shame of trying to pull out something on the level of “my dog ate my homework” as an explanation.

But some excuses are so widely accepted that we can even find ourselves subconsciously steering towards them in order to have a viable reason to give up, to fail, with the explicit approval of our peers.

That’s a killer trap, right there.

Here’s how you can catch it. Watch yourself, and watch your own mind – look out for the wave of relief an excuse tends to bring washing over you before you’ve actually failed. Imagine a college student, a week before a final paper is due. He feels stressed about the deadline, but then he also starts to feel (unrelatedly) a bit under the weather. Suddenly, relief! “Oh good,” he thinks, “I’ll be so sick I won’t be able to do this project, and everyone will understand and it’ll be okay.” The deadline is still a week away, and all he has is a sniffle!

Let that shock you back to work! Drink orange juice, go out in the sun, and get writing. When you feel the relief of a good excuse coming, fight it for your life. That’s a siren’s call, and it’s too easy to let it crash you to the rocks.

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