Creating Habits: The First Excuse

It’s been a long day. You have worked hard and now you’re looking forward to some time to relax in front of the television. You’ve earned it, you think. It is time to take it easy.

This may may be true, you may have earned it, but there is still something looming over your head(or something that will be). There is still more that wants to be done. That project that you’ve been working at on, and off, and on, and off, and on again, and off again, is hoping you don’t ignore it today. What excuse will you make this time?

This project could be one of many things. Learning a language, writing a book, finding a new job, learning a new skill. Whatever it may be improvement requires attention. At the same time, that attention requires time, and sometimes it all just gets to be too much.

Who could blame you really? Ripping open a bag of chips and kicking your feet up is a relaxation many enjoy, and many would probably like to enjoy more often. It’s not a bad thing. There is no treason in relaxation, in fact, it is quite necessary. But, caution must be taken.

The excuse of, “I deserve a break,” while it may be legitimate, it is still an excuse and it opens the flood gates for the next one. When you’ve said one time, “I’ll just take time to watch this football game,” it becomes easier to say, “yes, it will be okay to watch one game a week. I’ll just watch my favorite team play,” and once you’ve said that it becomes easier to say, “well, my team is not playing in this game, but it is important anyway, so I’ll watch this one too.”

Before you know it you are watching 5 football games a week, which is not too bad if that project we were talking about is starting a football blog, or becoming an analyst. Assuming that is not the case, you are digging yourself a hole.

As I warn you of the danger of excuses, let me also assure you they can be a powerful tool if used correctly. Let’s reverse the scenario. Maybe your favorite football team is playing and you always watch their games, but you told yourself you would exercise tonight. MAKE AN EXCUSE TO DO THE WORK.

If you leave for your run now, you could probably still get home for the second half, if not most of the game. Or, compromise, watch the game without the junk food and do 20 pushups every time there’s a foul, penalty, flag, goal, or touchdown(depending on which nation’s version of “football” you’re interested in).

This situation works much in the same way. The first excuse makes the second one easier. As you begin to submit yourself to this excuse more often it is no longer an ‘excuse’, it’s just a habit.

Excuses have a bad reputation, but they can be used for good as well. Flip the stigma. Use excuses to your advantage to create positive habits, and healthy loops of activity. It’s all about how you make your first one.

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