What happens when you run out of excuses?

“I don’t have the time” has always been a useful excuse for me. I’ve used it all sorts of circumstances and it’s almost a get out of jail free card that isn’t challenged all that often. The lockdown has really exposed how weak it is. I’ve an abundance of time but there are still things that I’m actively not putting energy into.

The definition of ‘excuse’ is ‘a reason put forward to conceal the real reason for action or inaction’. So it is easy to see how I use this excuse as a pretext when there is something else that is getting in the way. What I’ve become curious about is what is the true reason behind my inaction. What is really stopping me engaging in those things that I know would be a good use of my time, would be productive and useful for me and others but for some reason I can never find the energy to commit to.

What it all seems to come down to can be covered under the heading of ‘fear’. What I’m not talking about is that useful intuition that stops me from doing things that will pose a real risk to my life. The fear that is the source of my excuses is something quite different.

Brene Brown has written much about courage which definitely feels helpful in this exploration – there’s certainly something going on about my own vulnerability and how I let that get in the way.

Tim Galwey’s work explores how ‘fear’ is part of the interference that prevents any of us accessing our true potential. I’ve always liked how he makes some simple classifications through which to explore what type of fear I might be experiencing: fear of failure, fear of looking foolish and the one I find most interesting fear of success. I certainly experience the first two but often find that I can use bravado to get me through. Fear of success is another matter, there’s more to explore there.

What I’ve noticed is that sitting behind the excuse is a deeper fear: the fear of changing the narrative I tell myself. The inner voice, self-talk or the beliefs I hold all create a certain story that I have been telling myself for years.

My identity is wrapped with a lot of self-talk that might begin with “I’m the type of person who …..” or equally “I’m not the type of person who …..”. Once I begin to explore these stories then I can begin to see where I get stuck. If I mess too much with this narrative I run the risk of undermining the ‘truths’ that form the foundation of how I navigate the world.

This is the real source of my fear – What happens if the stories I tell myself are not true? What happens if the beliefs I hold onto are are not as substantial as I’ve let myself believe?This runs the risk of destabilsing the person I think I am – the existential threat to the very core of my identity.

It was certainly easier to hide behind “I haven’t go the time”!

I’ve come to see this fear as something to explore in this period of lockdown. Just like developing any other skill there is something about raising awareness, recognising what is going on and then beginning to lay the foundation for a new way of thinking and behaving.

It’s going to be little things that begin to change the story. This blog is evidence that I can begin a new narrative: “I’m the type of person who publishes his thoughts”. Only two weeks ago I didn’t believe it. The first time felt like a big step, this second one has been a little easier.

Now it’s just a question of keeping momentum and challenging the old excuses whenever they become part of the interference that might be getting in my way.

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