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Tales of a Bottleneck Business Owner – Sally’s Story

You are only as good as the excuses you make!

This is not in anyway an encouragement to make better excuses – this is calling you to look at the excuses you regularly make, (also known as the reasons you can’t do stuff and the stories you tell yourself). These are the things that determine the pace at which you move forward, how or if you achieve your goals, dreams and aspirations, or whether you settle for quiet desperation – ok, that might be a bit dramatic, it might just be you settle for what you know you can do and fall short of why you are really here and the impact you want to make with your life.

I can hear some of you screaming out of the Internet – ‘why does this stuff have to be about life, a bigger mission, making an impact’ and the truth is: it doesn’t. You can sleep through your life making excuse after excuse and even convince yourself it is not your fault and there is no other way – that’s absolutely your choice.

But, and it’s a big but, I’d put money on the fact that as you are reading this, means you are a seeker, a difference maker, someone who already knows they are here to make some kind of contribution – even if you are not quite sure what it is. In reality we are all here to make a contribution, we all impact on somebody or something – it’s just that a lot of the difference we make day in day out, we consider to be ‘business as usual’ – it’s just what we do.

As humans, significance – the fact that your life matters – has a lot to do with how you see the contribution you make. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying for a second everyone has to go out and change the world – but I do believe we all change our bit of the world, both with what we contribute and with what we hold back.

Which brings me back to excuses. How often have you had a great idea or been offered an opportunity which sounds really exciting, while at the same time you find a tsunami of reasons about why it’s not possible, flooding through your mind. Whether you listen to them or not isn’t really the point. The point is your brain, or more specifically your neuro processing, is firstly about keeping you safe – so living and breathing, your physiology autoregulated, your chemistry stable and your brain processing familiar patterns and well-versed stories.

Those stories come from childhood, from your social environment and what you are regularly exposed to. Most of our stories come from regular insidious exposure – like being told how clumsy you are, how you are not clever, not pretty, not popular etc  and left unchecked they can become part of the identity you develop for yourself. Some stories come from powerful single experiences, particularly in childhood, where an action or experience leaves you feeling shamed, isolated or at risk, creating a rapid imprint and subsequent neural reaction when the same triggers are experienced.

It is also fair to say that the positive things you say to yourself, or others say about you, form part of your identity too, but your brain prioritises the negative, as that is what potentially makes you unsafe. Think about the last time someone paid you a compliment versus the last time someone criticised you – for most people the criticism has much more impact than the praise.

Part of your limbic brain function is to create reference and give meaning to your experiences, memories and emotions – all geared around keeping you safe. So, if something makes you feel vulnerable, at risk or in some way fearful it is most likely your brain will serve up a whole load of good reasons why you shouldn’t do it. The trouble with this is that accounts for a lot of the things we don’t already regularly do. 

Cue your favourite excuse. I can’t because …..

Your excuses create bottlenecks in your life, not just in your business. They stop you being the person you are here to be; they stop you making the impact you truly want to make. Your excuses are also in your control! You created them, you can change them – if you know what they are and if you want to. Now I’m not saying this is easy, your excuses are your default way of showing up, your habits and you’re probably not always aware you are making them.

Managing your excuses takes a bit of mindfulness (also known as paying attention), clarity about how you want to show up and usually a fair amount of upfront effort to consciously change the way you react to situations, opportunities and your own internal dialogue. The good news is, the more you kick the excuses habit, the easier it becomes. Your brain gets used to action and positive dialogue and creates new pathways (or default responses), your comfort zone expands and things that made you feel vulnerable, at risk or in some way fearful, become business as usual.

How do you get there? (your homework)

 1. Make a big old list of all the excuses you make – sometimes this takes a few days as you have to catch yourself in the act so to speak – remember a lot of this self-sabotage is unconscious.

2. Look at what’s on your list and decide where to start – usually when I do this exercise with clients excuses fall into a few categories and it’s quite easy to identify the cluster that have the biggest impact, of the excuses that are least congruent with the person we want to be. Start there.

3. Take baby steps and be kind to yourself – it’s probably taken you decades to develop some of your excuses, it may take a while to recode some of your internal programming.

4. Take notice of the things that once phased you and while they might not be totally comfortable, they are not super stressful either – this is how you know you are making fewer excuses and increasing the impact you want to make.

If you are not actually doing anything different (although you want to), check in with your self-talk and make sure you haven’t simply ungraded your excuses.

There is no Sally’s story – she made an excuse and didn’t tell it!  Don’t be like Sally