One of my biggest personal hurdles towards saving money has always been believing that the excuses I make up are a logical reason for me to delay my goals. When I set my mind towards a specific savings goal I often believe the logic to my excuses, whether it’s “out of my control” or “I just don’t make enough money,” they are excuses, not facts.
At work, you could be making excuses for wanting to finish something later instead of now. Or maybe its making an excuse for not stepping in on a new task that could help you get noticed more by your manager.
Ultimately, these excuses are just that, excuses that allow us to live in the “go with the flow” lane of life. This is where everyone else tends to be and where it is often easiest and costliest (both nominally and opportunity wise) to live.
In an article by Dr. Claudia Aguirre, she states that psychologists place excuses in the self-handicapping category.
Why might we handicap ourselves though? According to Dr. Aguirre,
it’s a behavior we express that hurts our own performance and motivation. It serves as a distraction of sorts that prevents us from achieving the task, but it stems from a deeper, unconscious desire to protect ourselves (our Ego, if you asked Freud) against anxiety and shame. And the more anxious or ashamed we are likely to feel, the more likely we are to build barriers that impede our chances of attaining a goal.https://www.headspace.com/blog/2015/01/16/why-do-we-make-excuses/
She then goes on to say that our subconscious goal of making an excuse is to shift the focus from issues of self to issues that are less central to our own being.
In our personal finance this could be making the excuse “I’m at least better at saving than (insert friends name).” This shifts the focus of failing to reach your goal to one of being better than someone who is below your personal finance standards. Though it is substandard, by shifting your focus away from yourself you are then able to rationalize it and feel good about it, all while protecting your ego.
Another reason we might make an excuse is the fear of failing. Maybe you’re at work and a new position with higher pay opens up at your company, but you’re afraid to ask for it because you would have to communicate your desire for it in front of your entire team. If you got turned down that might be very embarrassing, so you shield yourself from it by making the excuse you are happy with your current position and don’t want to have “all that additional work”
Egos and the fear of failure are very real emotions that every human has to deal with. But if we let these emotions subconsciously control our decision making we will continue to put ourselves in a position that is short of our goals.
For the final part of my Not-To-Do challenge, try reflecting back on your day yesterday. What decisions could you have made because you believed an excuse that you subconsciously made. Often times we keep ourselves from checking items off of our To-Do list out of fear of failure. We rationalize with excuses by self-handicapping or blame shifting. I’m not saying that getting past this fear is easy, but being aware of it is the first step and that is progress in and of itself!
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