Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2016 01 Making Excuses Diqthumb

Does this excuse make my 'but' look big?

Jan. 11, 2016
Tracey C. Jones explains how making excuses and relying on the word "but" can stifle success.
Making excuses can stifle success. By eliminating the word "but" from our vocabularies, not being "excuse enablers," and recognizing cognitive dissonance, Tracey C. Jones says we can take control and avoid getting caught up in an endless cycle of excuses.

One day, during his lunch break, a construction worker opened his lunch box, pulled out two sandwiches, hoisted them aloft, and cried to the heavens in anguish, “Not peanut-butter sandwiches again!”

The next day, he opened his lunch box, peered inside, and wailed in agony, “Not peanut-butter sandwiches again!”

Day after day, the same scene played out: open lunch box, extract contents, and cry, “Not peanut-butter sandwiches again!”

Finally, after 13 days of unchanging lunchtime drama, his coworker said, “Say, mister, if you don’t like peanut-butter sandwiches, why don’t you ask your wife to make you something else?”

“You leave my wife out of this,” he replied. “I make my own lunch!

We all make our own sandwiches, and too many of us make sandwiches that we don’t like to eat. Negative elements often take root in our lives because we allow ourselves to get caught up in an endless cycle of excuses instead of taking action. Here are a few ways to take control of what’s in your lunch box.

Prune the word “but” from your vocabulary.

It’s just as important to weed your mind as it is your physical surroundings, and the most effective way to accomplish this is to prune the word “but” from your vocabulary. Excuses are mental weeds that strangle any chance of new growth, regardless of how many seeds you plant. They’re virulent vines that strangle everything in their vicinities. Excusatory words can be just as venomous as accusatory ones. Steer clear of both. They are two strains of the same weed.

When you expunge the word “but” from your vocabulary, an amazing thing happens: Where you used to see unfairness and lost chances, you will find fortune and opportunity. What you say and what you think affects your circumstances. Changing what comes out of your mouth—and what you say to yourself in your head­—can give you a whole new outlook. You can create possibility by avoiding a simple three-letter word.

Don’t be an excuse enabler.

Excuses come in two categories. The first derives from what we will not do, despite the negative impact of inaction, such as developing a healthier lifestyle or pursuing a more fulfilling career. These “buts” are insidious and pervasive when you don’t care enough about yourself enough to take action. If you want it badly enough, you’ll find a way; if you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.

The second category derives from what we will not stop doing. This could be an addiction or allowing negative peopleto stay in your life. These “buts” thrive on guilt- and fear-driven excuses and an enabling personality. As much as you might like to blame others, you are the master of what happens in your own mind. That’s right—you. It’s that simple, and it’s that difficult.

There is nothing positive or productive to be gained by making excuses or by repeating them. Repetition gives them credibility and allows them to continue to drain you and others. Let’s face it: Life is tough, even for the healthiest and wealthiest of us. Making excuses exiles you to being stuck in a perpetual rut, while choosing to take responsibility for your happiness and your attitude frees to you to move on to bigger and better things.

Learn to recognize cognitive dissonance.

Oftentimes, the only way to get off your “but”is when the results of your behavior become so positive or so painful that you are forced to take action. Psychologists refer to this as cognitive dissonance. Something either brings you joy or causes you so much pain and sorrow that you have no choice but to change your behavior. If you keep repeating the same excuses, rather than taking action, you aren’t at this point yet. Benjamin Franklin is credited with having said, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” You definitely don’t want to have “Excuse Master” engraved on your headstone!

Endless repetition of excuses could be described, in the words of Alan Watts, as “all retch and no vomit.” How grossly appropriate! When we allow ourselves to associate with thankless, negative, or even unethical people, we become poisoned by them. It’s not their fault; it’s ours. When we lack the discipline or self-esteem to break a negative habit and instead cling to our big “buts,” we poison ourselves. It’s better to be silent than to regurgitate the same old thing over and over. Albert Einstein is credited with having defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” This includes making excuses. For things to change, you must change first; eliminate the three-letter B-word from your vocabulary . . . because a big “but”doesn’t look good on anybody.

Tracey C. Jones is a United States Air Force veteran, entrepreneur, speaker, and publisher. She speaks to audiences across the nation on leadership, accountability, business success, and other topics. Her latest book is Beyond Tremendous: Raising the Bar on Life. To learn more, visit