My soapbox has been dusted off and is now ready for my latest rant. Don’t worry – I’m not going to spend much of time on it, but I feel the need to speak out. For some time now I have found myself becoming increasingly frustrated with blamers and excuse makers. You know the type: everything is always someone or something else’s fault. When something doesn’t happen exactly the way it was laid out these people never just say “I’m sorry. It just didn’t work out.” Instead they find it necessary to deflect the attention from themselves to some external source responsible for the shortcoming. They are always right; it was something else that produced the wrong result. As Flip Wilson used to say, “the devil made me do it”. (Does anyone remember Flip Wilson?? Or am I hopelessly out of date? Hmmm . . . probably. But I’m sticking to my premise anyway!)
This is not to say that there are never occasions when circumstances get in the way of the best intentions. Of course, this happens all the time. The best laid plans can get derailed by any number of occurrences. But instead of launching into a lengthy story about what or who is at fault, a simple acknowledgement that whatever it was just didn’t happen would be so much easier to accept.
Unfortunately, right now we don’t have many good role models for people who are just willing to acknowledge that something went wrong and find a way to fix it. Instead there is a whole lot of finger-pointing. In fact, that practice has become so prevalent that inaction often results simply because people are too afraid to be blamed for something that might go wrong under their watch. So doors get locked and insulating walls are built around these folks and the things they are responsible for that become impossible to scale. As a result they can smugly say, “Nothing will go wrong now.” Or my favorite line of late, “This will never happen again.” Wouldn’t life be lovely if we could find a way to prevent every bad thing from happening ever.
OK – you get the picture. I’ll climb back off the soap box now. But if you haven’t stopped reading yet, here are a few more thoughts along this line that may be more relevant to my favorite subject: exercise. Have you ever made an excuse for not adhering to your exercise plan? Maybe you finally made that decision to go to a class or begin a walking program. The day arrives and suddenly the weather is bad. Or the dog gets sick. Or your exercise clothes are still in the hamper waiting to be washed. Something distracts you and suddenly you find the time has come and gone and you never managed to stick to your plan. There are a couple of different ways you could react to this realization. For example, you could think “I knew I couldn’t do this. I’m not cut out for it. There are two many problems standing in my way.” In other words, find someone or something to blame. If it weren’t for all those forces pulling you in another direction, you would be able to do the things you said you would do.
But wait! Think about that. This implies that you are powerless and your fate is totally out of your hands. Do you really believe that? Of course, there are many factors influencing our lives that are beyond our control. But, to me, this makes it even more important to take control of the things you can control while you can control them. When it comes to how you treat your body and your mind you have much more power than you think you have. It’s all about perception. There will always be unexpected roadblocks in your path. If you feel like you have to wait for those roadblocks to clear before you can move forward, you might be waiting a long time. And you will again be dependent on external forces for your own progress.
Perhaps there is another way to view this situation. Maybe there is a way to get around the roadblocks. So you stumbled. We all make mistakes. None of us is perfect. Whatever happened, it’s not the end of the world. But you will find yourself faced with a decision: should I give up? Or try again? This may not even be a one-time decision. You might find that you have to make that decision again and again. But that’s OK. As long as you’re still on the planet and able to move and breathe, it’s not too late. You can always start over.
So next time your tempted to make excuses for an effort gone awry – even if the excuses are valid! – how about simply acknowledging the malfunction and vowing to do better if given another chance. Depending on the circumstances, another opportunity may or may not be possible. But either way, leave it where it belongs. In the past. Once the moment is passed you can’t get it back. So move on. One thing you can be sure of, there will no doubt be other challenges ahead. You will have another chance to acknowledge whatever curves life throws at you and still keep moving to the best of your ability.