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Excuses aren't all bad

Contrary to common belief

November 27, 2021

Excuses usually justify inaction.

For the past couple of months, I’ve avoided programming anything outside of work and school. I’ve been telling myself that I’m too tired to do anything, but in reality, it’s because I’m not interested in any projects at the moment. Maybe that’s another excuse, but at least I’m trying to get to the bottom of it.

It’s important to be honest with ourselves. Otherwise, we may never break the loop of excuses that inhibit us. But excuses aren’t all that bad. You can use them to promote positive change as well.

It’s interesting how it can go both ways. An excuse can stall progress for months or years, but it can also be the reason you start something new. We’re all afraid of venturing into the unknown, and we all spend an inordinate amount of time convincing ourselves that we’re doing what’s right for us, so if there’s any way to ease that fear, I think it could make a massive improvement in people’s lives.

An example from my life

College applications left a bad taste in my mouth. The person who I put onto paper was not the same as the one who existed. Yes, I did do all these clubs and activities, and I certainly didn’t lie about myself on my essays, but half of me felt missing. There was absolutely no way for me to explain years’ worth of coding projects, or even my best ones, in less than 50 words. I told myself for months to make an online portfolio of what I had done but when the time came, I had nothing to show and paid the price.

I clearly had a reason to do something about it, but just thinking about making a website sent shivers down my spine. I had made many up to that point, so my aversion didn’t come from a lack of experience but from complete and utter disgust. Web development is completely awful most of the time. Let me explain in as few words as possible. Web development is mostly a meaningless endeavor where your goal is figuring out what knob to twist to do what you want. Unfortunately, making websites is a necessary evil in today’s world.

So how did I get myself to make something I desperately needed? Well, I made an excuse.

Actually, I made more than one. The monstrous web of excuses I accidentally created carried me through the project. It started with wanting to create a blog. Here’s how my thought process went.

Well, I’ve always wanted to start a blog so I might as well include one on my website. And now that I’m making my website, I might as well try to learn something new, so I’ll make it insanely over-engineered and create it from scratch. And once I finish, I’ll have no choice but to start blogging because of the ridiculous amount of time I sunk into making it.

Do you see what I mean? It’s almost like a circular commitment device where the escalating time investment only reinforced the strength of the excuses, in the same vein as the “it’s too late to quit” kind of deal. I would say interweaving the excuses served the purpose of hitting X numbers of birds with one stone. Surprisingly, it worked pretty well. All it took was appealing to something I did value, starting a blog, and using that as an excuse to do everything else. It’s an extreme example, but it goes to show that all you need is a good enough reason to start doing something, and before you know it, you’ll have piled on countless other things you’ve been meaning to do.

I used my blog-to-be to justify the absurdity of creating my own website from scratch, but that’s why excuses are great. They justify the otherwise absurd. An excuse is sometimes the extra little push that we need to do what we’ve always wanted, bonus points for stacking them.

The whole reason we’re forced to make excuses is because we don’t have a good reason for something. Doing things for the sake of doing them is a recipe for failure, not to mention being inefficient and soul-sucking. On the other hand, good excuses can serve as a starting point, a clarification of what you value, and how to align your goals with your task. So instead of making excuses not to do something, why not make an excuse to start something? Article start here