August 19, 2019

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“Make improvements, not excuses.” — Tyra Banks

I’ve written a few posts lately on making improvements and changing your life based on what you’ve identified as “not working”. Most of my points in those pieces are aimed at the people who already know they need to do something—they just don’t know what, or how to find that out. As Tyra Banks once said on America’s Next Top Model, “Make improvements, not excuses.”


Because excuses hold you back.

Good Excuses Are Still Excuses

Excuses feel natural. They feel safe, normal, understandable, and are easy to invoke. Do any of these common excuses sound familiar?

  • “It’s not my fault I’m late this morning. Someone got into an accident and traffic moved slower than a glacier.”
  • “I’m not a runner. I’ve always admired people who run but that’s just not me.”
  • “He set me up for failure!”
  • “She just makes me so angry.”

These sound reasonable in our heads, but they’re excuses. The thing about excuses is that no matter how good they are, they’re still excuses.

Excuses turn us into the victim. Why would anyone ever want to be a victim?

Because playing the victim lets you always be right.

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right. — Henry Ford

Excuses allow us to shift responsibility away from ourselves and onto something or someone else. This makes us feel better. If it’s not our fault, then we can’t take the blame and we’re allowed to stay right where we were, comfortable in our victimhood.

Make Improvements to Your Life

On the other hand, improvements make you a better person.

Let’s look at those four excuses from the perspective of making improvements instead.

  • “I should have checked traffic before I left. That accident looked like it was there for a while before I even got on the road. I’ll check the traffic before I leave for work from now on—and leave earlier just in case.”
  • “Historically, I haven’t considered myself a runner. I know I’m physically capable of running but doing so is uncomfortable. Once I identify why it’s uncomfortable, I’ll know what to address in order to start running.”
  • “He’s well-known in the office for taking credit and blaming others for his shortcomings. I should have taken precautions beforehand to protect my work and deal with him.”
  • “I am responsible for my emotions. No one can ‘make’ me feel anything.”

The common theme here is that to make improvements, you must take extreme ownership over your life and your circumstances. Is it your fault that bad things happen to you? No, but it’s your responsibility to take those bad things and fix them.

Lisa Feldman Barrett, in her TED talk on emotion, says this: “Responsibility doesn’t necessarily mean you’re to blame; it could mean you’re the only one who can change it.”

Related: Ask Yourself This Self-Development Question

The Part Mindset Plays

The mind is a powerful thing. In fact, every thought we have is completely optional. Brooke Castillo teaches this concept frequently on The Life Coach School Podcast, and episode 10 dives deeper into this.

How we choose to think about things will define what actions we take. If we think that this thing isn’t my fault then we’re choosing to avoid taking any actions that might make the situation better.

However, if we choose to think that I am responsible for the result this thing created, then we’re in a much better place to fix or change it.

Put simply, are you in the growth mindset, or the fixed mindset? Do you think you can always learn, grow, improve, and change yourself, or do you think you’re stuck where you are because the cruel world is out to get you?

Mindset matters.

Excuses are easy and hold us back. Improvements are hard and make all the difference. Here's why you should make improvements instead of excuses.

Why Excuses Hurt You

Excuses do you no favors. They don’t let you move forward with your life because they keep you right where you are.

We make excuses for not exercising, not eating right, not spending enough time with family and friends, working too much, indulging in vices—you name it, we make excuses about it.

And for what?

For the temporary satisfaction of avoiding responsibility?

Unfortunately, in the long run, that just hurts us.

The more excuses we make, the further behind we become, and the more likely we are to blame others for our lot in life.

I get it, though. It’s easy to make excuses. Practicing extreme ownership takes just that—practice. It’s not a natural way for humans to think, but it serves us a lot better than excuses.

Do You Want to Be Better?

If the answer is yes, then start making improvements. Identify where you’re falling short, come up with one action to get you moving, and then make improvements, not excuses.

It’ll serve you in the long-run.

Your Move

This is the part where the ball is in your court and it’s up to you to make a change. Life doesn’t happen to us. We’re in control of how we react, respond, and behave in the world.

If you want to become better, make improvements, and live a fulfilling, successful life, it’s your move.

So make one.

About the author 

Colleen Mitchell

Mindset & accountability life coach, writer, podcaster, and full-time analyst in the power industry. I'm passionate about showing people that how we think determines our realities.

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