Difference Between Excuses and Obstacles


My oldest daughter, Daisy (8), is very bright and pretty strong for a string bean, so when she gives me excuses as to why things aren’t done, it’s really hard to except them. Usually, I push back telling her that I’m confident that she can solve the problem and get the job done, whatever the job is.  When she is forced to come up with a solution and finish the job, because it’s not getting done for her, she does find ways to solve the problem. Often she’s so proud of how she solved the problem she forgot that she didn’t want to do the job in the first place.  I really wouldn’t be doing her any favors by doing everything for her. It’s not my job; my job is to help her become a self-sufficient adult.

When she starts to complain that she can’t do something, she gets in trouble, because “can’t” is not a word I allow in my house. It’s always “I don’t know how yet.” I don’t know when she’ll learn, but if it’s the only thing I teacher, she will learn to know the difference between an excuse, an empowered choice, and an obstacle.

Excuses don’t serve anyone.

As we’re going into the third week in January, many people find that their resolve starts diminishing while others notice some desired improvements and that changes are easier this week than they were last week. It’s make or break time for your new habits, and I want to share something that will make you more self-aware of when you might sabotage yourself so that you can overcome what makes 80% of people fail at keeping new years resolutions.

This year will be different for you!

How Elrod, author of The Miracle Morning, breaks out the stages habit forming as such –

Unbearable >>  Uncomfortable >> Unstoppable

During all of those stages, however, life happens. Until a habit is an automatic, unconscious choice, we have to constantly make decisions to follow through. Our brain doesn’t like change and constantly tries to help us get out of it. We have to be aware of this if we are going to override it. Pay attention to your self-talk during these decisive moments. You may just notice a pattern that has stopped you multiple times throughout your life, which gives you the potential for tremendous breakthroughs in every area of your life. Keeping a journal is a great way to track, measure and improve how frequently this self-talk interferes with keeping long-term goals.

When you notice this, start to reverse the self-talk in support of the long-term goal.

For instance, one thing I’ve noticed I have said in those moments:

“You deserve a treat. Don’t deprive yourself.”

But I also deserve to be happy and healthy, and if I’m not currently happy or healthy and the short-term desire doesn’t offer me long-term health or happiness, it isn’t offering me the SUCCESS I deserve.

I am not saying that I should deprive myself all the time, but the more I notice this thought and decide that I will delay gratification and treat myself in a way that will still enable me to keep on track, the less frequently I will give in to this self-talk.

Keep the long-term desire as visible as you can. Write it down or print out visual queues and post them where you are sure to see them frequently. It will be easier to keep your brain motivated toward the long-term goal versus whatever you think you want in the moment. You are 1.2 – 1.4 times more likely to achieve your goals if you do this.

Some things we have to legitimately prioritize higher than our goals and take care of, such as health emergencies. It’s not an excuse it is an empowering choice. Still, I know from my own personal experience that in the midst of goals in life challenges to achieving those goals, I probably gave up too soon on too many. That is not an empowering feeling.

A question I now ask myself and my daughter if I feel that I have to choose between an urgent priority and a long-term goal is, “Did I try everything? Is there a way to do both?”

For instance, my daughters and I came down with a chest cold last week, the second week I should have been back on my walking schedule after winter break. Usually, I walk the kids to school at least 4 out of 5 days and on 3 of those days do an extended 5K walk back home. It’s winter, but it was REALLY winter last week – windy and cold. I made an empowered choice to drive in the morning and afternoon. That could have been an excuse to not exercise at all. I even looked it up on google “Can you exercise with a chest cold?” What I found was that exercise in moderation is really good at helping to break up chest congestion. So, I did a dance class Monday and some yoga with resistance and basketball Friday.  Those days in between I just needed extra sleep. I did what I could, though.

If I had learned that exercising with a chest cold is bad, I would have made an empowering choice to rest.

Today, I’m back on my walking schedule. It actually feels harder to restart a goal than to start it in the first place, as Gretchen Rubin points out in Better Than Before.  It’s probably because you are more discouraged this time knowing how life got you off track, but if you can fight through to start again and keep up progress, you are more likely to get back on track in the future and reach your long-term goals.

In fact, if you can accept from the get-go that you will be able to roll with whatever life throws you and get back on track when challenges occur you will be less likely to see them as discouraging. And, had I not exercised in spite of not walking, my self-confidence and self-talk would make it that much harder to get back on track, because the problem would have been me – not my chest cold or the weather.

If the available data turns up no potential solutions, you are at an impasse – an obstacle. Don’t let the word fool you, though. Obstacles are almost always not permanent and new data and new solutions still may be possible. This may be when you ask for help from an expert, but you have to pick an expert who understands the nature of your particular obstacle.

For instance, if your parental responsibilities keep interfering with your ability to keep commitments to yourself around your goals, you need someone who has successfully navigated parenthood AND reached the other side. Furthermore, if you are a single parent, getting advice from a parent with a partner will not sound credible to you.

If your resolutions are career-oriented and you have any of the following challenges or obstacles, I can help you exponentially increase your chances of achieving your 2019 goals – set up a consultation:

On the job (Schedule a consultation):

  • Teams that resist change
  • Drama and lack of collaboration
  • High turnover
  • Frequent sick time
  • Lack of creative solutions
  • High disengagement/low productivity
  • Not attracting high caliber talent

In job transition (Schedule a consultation):

  • Unclear goals
  • Lack of results for time invested
  • Lack of responses
  • Always the runner up
  • Hate job seeking
  • Difficulty getting motivated
  • Not knowing what to do each day

Best wishes for an extraordinary 2019!

Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (bit.ly/GetFocusIn30), is founder of Epic Careering, a corporate consulting and career management firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play. 

While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales. 

Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends in hiring and careering. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Career Transition Consultant, and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot. 

She was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business, will be an Associate Professor in Cabrini University’s Communications Department in 2019,  and is also an Instructor for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy where her students won the 2018 national competition and were named America’s Next Top Young Entrepreneurs.

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