Results or excuses, choose one!
Success is defined by results and destroyed by excuses. It is a fundamental part of human nature to be driven by wants and fears. This drive is manifested in each of us by our personal goals that subjectively define success or fear of failure to each of us in our own unique way.
Things will inevitably get difficult, and this is where we most frequently encounter our excuses. Just as no one willingly wants to fail, no one willingly accepts excuses. Too many hopes and dreams out there have been crushed by excuses. There is always a choice to be made, but the truth is that very often we don’t even realise we are making it. So many painful could-haves, would-haves, and should-haves out there!
Imagine if there were no excuses, how would things be different? Take a minute with me to explore, understand and find solutions to this pitfall.
The lack of awareness is frequently at the root of the excuses that destroy our hopes and dreams. All too often we don’t recognise the voice that rises up within us, churning out rationalisations for the easy way out. That is simply weakness. If it was easy, everyone would do it. The more excuses we make to ourselves, the better we get at making them.
Sometimes, succumbing to these is simply due to a lack of mental preparation. I believe that very often we fall for our excuses because we simply haven’t thought the entire process though enough to anticipate the excuses that will inevitably arise as things get difficult, and how to negate them ahead of time.
The most dangerous and harmful type of excuse is the one that you actually fully believe and don’t even realise that you are making. This type of excuse usually comes when things get really difficult and is perhaps the one most responsible for preventing us from reaching our goals and maximising our potential. Does a voice in your mind rise up spouting familiar things along the lines of “it’s impossible”, “no one could do it”, or “its not my fault”? This is the epitome of a mixed mindset.
A fixed mindset is part of Dr. Carol Dweck’s brilliant mindset theory which is the result of decades of research on achievement and success that groups people into two distinct sets based on how they view themselves and reality.
Dweck describes people as either possessing a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. According to him, having a fixed mindset means that you wrongly believe that your innate qualities such as intelligence, talent etc are fixed.
Often times, things usually come easy for people with this mindset and they tend to spend their time recognising their abilities such as talent and intelligence instead of working to develop them.
Fixed mindset people tend to believe that their talent alone is a big part of their success.
This is all well and good until fixed mindset people encounter a problem that really gives them difficulty, then because of their views, they perceive a harsh reality in which they have encountered a rare problem that they are incapable of solving due to a lack of talent or appropriate means.
These people will frequently be the ones who make and believe the excuses that something surely is impossible for them, or that the current situation could not possibly be their fault and so don’t take responsibility for their failure, thus accepting those excuses and an easy way out. Having a fixed mindset is one of the main reasons people tend to fail to maximize their potential and achieve their goals in life.
This contrasts sharply with the way people who possess a growth mindset view themselves and the world. According to Dr Dwek, growth mindset people believe their abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. They see their current state as just the beginning. Having this view fosters a love of learning, self development and a resilience that is essential for surmounting challenges.
All great people have had this mindset, and because of it, they are less likely to accept excuses from themselves.
For an example of the difference: In a study a group of very bright young children who had not faced any problems in school that they were unable to solve, a test was given. The test entailed problems that were several levels more advanced than anything the children had faced before. The young students with the fixed mindset quickly made their outlook apparent when they became frustrated and made excuses, such as declaring the problems impossible because they believed that if they could not solve them, the problems simply could not be solved; or they complained that they lacked the capabilities necessary to do so. However, the young students with the growth mindset patiently, systematically worked at solving the problems because of their optimistic belief that it was possible through work to succeed, and many of them did.
Looking back, to me it is obvious now that throughout my whole life I have used a growth mindset.
I will admit that as a young swimmer, in fact all the way up until my late teenage years, I was not outstanding by any means, just a hard-working, average one. I believe that my growth mindset gave me the optimism and belief in my ability to improve through hard work and dedication and it allowed me to silence the countless excuses that constantly arose. Excuses such as: I was not talented enough, or lacked the abilities compared to other swimmers who at the time would thrash me, or that it was simply impossible to even conceive of becoming a great swimmer from a Third World country with Third World facilities. I can’t help but wonder how amazing and legendary the swimming careers of the many phenomenal young record-breakers at age group level would have been if they had possessed more of a growth mindset that would have allowed them to deal with the inevitable difficulties that lay ahead. Perhaps my growth mindset was my greatest asset. Do you possess a growth mindset of a fixed one?
We can all silence that voice that arises with clever reasons of why we should not feel bad about giving up on achieving our goals.
There is always a choice to make; to choose to be aware of our excuses as they arise, to choose to prepare to counter them, to choose between a growth and a fixed mindset, and to choose between results or excuses!
Article first appeared in Trinidad Express at