Last week I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Ben Carson speak at our local college. His life story is fascinating. Even though he was raised in poverty in a single parent home by a mother who could not read with only a third grade education, she knew that her sons needed to read and get a good education. When they began struggling in school, she took away television privileges (which he thought was child abuse) and made them check out books from the library and write book reports on those books for her, in addition to their school work. (They did not know that she was unable to read their reports!) He found that reading the books gave him all kinds of interesting knowledge and motivation as he read about the lives of individuals who made a difference in the world, and he began to excel in his classes. He eventually went on to become a world famous pediatric neurosurgeon. If you have never read his story, Gifted Hands, I highly recommend it to you. There is also a DVD documenting his life story by the same title.
One thing he shared was that his mother would not accept excuses from him. He said, “And if we ever came up with an excuse, she always said do you have a brain? And if the answer was, ‘yes,’ then she said then you could have thought your way out of it … It was the most important thing she did for my brother and myself. Because if you don’t accept excuse, pretty soon people stop giving them, and they start looking for solutions. And that is a critical issue when it comes to success.”
It seems to be human nature to make excuses. I was late because…traffic was heavy, slow, lights all red, etc. I did not get that assignment done because I was not given enough time. I can’t…because…I was not able to…because…I am the way I am because…I am not creative because… the list can go on and on. As long as we are able to put the blame on someone or something other than ourselves, we don’t have to take responsibility for the way things turn out in our lives.
Stop and evaluate your life this week. How often do you find yourself making excuses? If you are not sure whether or not you do make excuses, make it a point for the next couple of days to be aware of what you are saying and thinking. Your excuses don’t always have to be voiced to other people. Probably more often you are thinking excuses in your head. If you need to, write down the excuses you find yourself thinking or voicing.
After you have written down the excuses you find yourself saying or thinking, look at the list. For each situation, what would be a solution instead? Write down that solution (or several possible solutions.) Then take your pen and cross out the excuses, leaving only the solutions. For instance, one possible solution to being late all the time might be to get up 15 minutes earlier and leave earlier. Maybe you need to take a different route. Maybe you need to find a better time in the day to check on emails, social media, news, etc. instead of before you leave.
Do you find yourself making excuses for why you can’t do creative projects? Is it because you don’t know how and need someone to teach you? Find someone! Is it because you think you don’t have enough time? What can you eliminate from your schedule to free up some time for pursuing creativity? Is it because you don’t have the right tools and supplies? Start with the basics needed and build up your resources as you can. (Maybe you really don’t need another outfit or pair of shoes and can use that money to buy supplies for a creative project.)
As Dr. Carson says, “The person who has the most to do with what happens to you in life is you. You make the decisions, and you decide how much energy you put behind those decisions.”
So stop making excuses and start living life to the fullest! If you don’t like the direction of your life, make steps to change it. If you wish you knew how to do something, make steps to learn it. Take responsibility for you.