“He that is good at making excuses is seldom good for anything else.”
― Benjamin Franklin
I used to be my own worst enemy and making excuses was part of my everyday routine. It wasn’t until I learned to take full responsibility for my life that my outlook, and results, started to change. When I finally realized that what I was experiencing in my life was a product of my choices I became emotionally empowered to make changes – but a change had to first start internally before I could experience any external results.
I believe that the habit of “making excuses” was, at least in part, motivated from a disempowering story that I had in my head about how life was supposed to be, and what I was capable of doing. The stories that we believe have the power to define us – they become our reality. If we create an empowering story about life, and what we will do with it, it will become our reality. However, if we cannot change our story, and if a negative narrative consumes us, it will drag us down and create a reality that we don’t want.
Our negative stories don’t inspire us, they don’t help us to reach our potential or break through our fears. They keep us safe, but it isn’t a good safe. It is a safe that is unsettling because we aren’t living what we could otherwise live if we’d take risks.Advertising
This article will list 10 “common excuses” that we tell ourselves that drag us down – 10 “narratives” or “stories” that we need to change if we are going to live the life that we are truly proud of.
1. I have no qualifications, so I can’t earn a decent income.
If you believe this it’s likely that you’ve been conditioned to think that your schooling controls your income. This just isn’t the case. Look around – you will find many examples of people who built great businesses without much school. Sure there are the famous examples (Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Richard Branson), but there are many more much closer to home. Take 10 entrepreneurs out for lunch, you’ll likely find that several of them either don’t have education, or have built a business in an area outside of their schooling. You can get the knowledge you need to succeed.
2. I’m too old to start.
Really? Do you really believe that, or is that just an excuse you’re telling yourself so that you don’t have to face the risk of failure. There is no such thing as too old. Ever heard of a guy named Harlan Sanders? Most people know him as the “Colonel”. He didn’t start KFC until 66. Stan Lee, creator of Spider-Man, he was 43 when he began drawing his characters and his partner Jack Kirby was 44 when he created The Fantastic Four. Andrea Bocelli didn’t do opera until the age of 34. Phyllis Diller became a comedian at the age of 37. You are not too old. If you want it bad enough you’ll find a way to start.
3. I’m worried that everyone will laugh at me.
Being liked by everyone is both impossible and overrated. If you want everyone to like you then just do nothing. That way you’ll never possibly offend anyone. It is better to risk failure than to never try. Many (most) great people have failed, and every entrepreneur will fail at some point. It is part of the feedback mechanism. It is the way you learn to change your actions. You only ultimately fail if you quit.Advertising
4. I’m too busy.
So is everyone else. I know it is tough. I know that it can be tiring, working long hours at your job and trying to get that book written, or that business started, but the reality is that there is someone else, who has gone before you, that was under the exact same circumstances (perhaps even more difficult circumstances) as you and they don’t make this excuse. They find a way to get it done, even a little at a time.
5. I’m waiting for the right time.
The right time was probably several years ago. The second best time is right now. There is nothing else. A couple years from now will be no different. There will always be resistance and things that get in your way. So you make a decision right now to live, to make a change, to build whatever it is that is in your heart. Right now is the best time there ever was.
We never live; we are always in the expectation of living
6. It’s too difficult.
Everything worth having is difficult – but there is a way to conquer any mountain, it is to take one step at a time. One foot in front of the other, over and over, until the mountain is conquered. Chunk it. Break your big, scary, difficult goals down into small bite sized chunks and complete a chunk every single day until the goal is complete. That is the only way to do difficult things.
7. They made it because they’re different.
That is a story that you are telling yourself to guard against the unsettling reality that you’re probably not doing all that is in your power to succeed. If you really want something bad enough you’ll find a way to do it. You won’t settle on an excuse that you know deep down just isn’t true. Our world is full of rags to riches stories – people who had nothing to begin with, but who wouldn’t allow excuses to define their reality. Howard Schultz (Starbucks) lived in low income housing. Oprah Winfrey was born into a poor family in Mississippi. Ralph Lauren was once a clerk at a Brooks Brothers store. No matter what your circumstances are you can change them.
8. I’ve already put a lot of time in a different path
Is it the path that you want to be on? If not, then who cares? First of all, it is a sunk cost, so it shouldn’t factor into your future decision making. I know this one from first hand experience, I went to school for nearly a decade and spend over a hundred thousand dollars to become a lawyer. But I didn’t want to be a lawyer, so I couldn’t let my “time on a different path” define the future I wanted to created. If you don’t want to be on the path you are on then change it.
9. I don’t know where to start.
None of us know where to start when we begin. So what do you do? You find someone who knows (someone who has experience in your field), you figure out what they did, and then you take the same action. At least to start, and over time you develop your own unique voice. If you can’t find anyone who will give you the time of day, go to the Internet, a couple search engine queries and you’ll be able to find an article about someone who did something similar to what you want to do. Read their story, and take similar action. Once you’ve done 5 things, then find another 5, then another 5, then keep taking action until you get what you want.Advertising
10. It’s all about who you know, and I don’t know anyone.
This is a common excuse that isn’t serving you, and it isn’t true. Leonardo Del Vecchio, the owner of the world’s largest sunglass manufacturer, with brands like Oakley and Ray Ban, was born into an orphanage. Do you think he relied on his “family connections” to get going? Legendary financial trader George Soros survived the Nazi occupation of Hungary and arrived in London as a penniless college student. Larry Ellison, one of the richest men in the world was raised by a single mother in Brooklyn. It wasn’t his connections that helped him. Jerry Yang, the founder of Yahoo, was an immigrant from Taiwan who didn’t even know english when he came to the US.
Start today. Eliminate those excuses that you are carrying in your head. They aren’t serving you. They aren’t empowering you. They aren’t helping you live the life you want. They don’t need to define you.
Last Updated on September 28, 2020
How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Personal Goals
There’s no denying that goals are necessary. After all, they give life meaning and purpose. However, goals don’t simply achieve themselves—you need to write an action plan to help you reach your goals.
With an action plan, you’ll have a clear idea of how to get where you want to go, what it will take to get there, and how you’ll find the motivation to keep driving forward. Without creating a plan, things have a way of not working out as you waver and get distracted.
With that in mind, here’s how you can set goals and action plans that will help you achieve any personal goal you’ve set.
1. Determine Your “Why”
Here’s a quick experiment for you to try right now: Reflect on the goals you’ve set before. Now, think about the goals you reached and those you didn’t. Hopefully, you’ll notice a common theme here.
The goals you were successful in achieving had a purpose. Those goals you failed to accomplish did not. In other words, you knew why you put these goals in place, which motivated you to follow through.
Simon Sinek, author of Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Finding Purpose for You and Your Team, explains:
“Once you understand your WHY, you’ll be able to clearly articulate what makes you feel fulfilled and to better understand what drives your behavior when you’re at your natural best. When you can do that, you’ll have a point of reference for everything you do going forward.”
That, in turn, enables better decision-making and clearer choices.
I’ll share with you a recent example of this in my life. Earlier this year, I decided to make my health a bigger priority, specifically losing weight. I set this goal because it gave me more energy at work, improved my sleep, and helped me be a better father—I really didn’t care for all that wheezing every time I played with my kids.
Those factors all gave me a long-term purpose, not a superficial short-term goal like wanting to look good for an event.
Before you start creating an action plan, think about why you’re setting a new goal. Doing so will guide you forward on this journey and give you a North Star to point to when things get hard (and they inevitably will).
2. Write Down Your Goal
If you really want to know how to create an action plan for goals, it’s time to get your goals out of your head and onto a piece of paper. While you can also do this electronically through an app, research has found that you’re 42% more likely to achieve your goal if it’s written down.
This is especially true for business owners. If they don’t schedule their time, it’ll be scheduled for them.
When you physically write down a goal, you’re accessing the left side of the brain, which is the literal, logical side. As a result, this communicates to your brain that this is something you seriously want to do.
3. Set a SMART Goal
A SMART goal pulls on a popular system in business management. That’s because it ensures the goal you’ve set is both realistic and achievable. It can also be used as a reference to guide you through your action plan.
By establishing a SMART goal, you can begin to brainstorm the steps, tasks, and tools you’ll need to make your actions effective.
- Specific: You need to have specific ideas about what you want to accomplish. To get started, answer the “W” questions: who, what, where, when, and why.
- Measurable: To make sure you’re meeting the goal, establish tangible metrics to measure your progress. Identify how you’ll collect the data.
- Attainable: Think about the tools or skills needed to reach your goal. If you don’t possess them, figure out how you can attain them.
- Relevant: Why does the goal matter to you? Does it align with other goals? These types of questions can help you determine the goal’s true objective — and whether it’s worth pursuing.
- Time-bound: Whether it’s a daily, weekly, or monthly target, deadlines can motivate us to take action sooner than later.
Learn more about setting a SMRT goal here: How to Set SMART Goal to Make Lasting Changes in Life
4. Take One Step at a Time
Have you ever taken a road trip? You most likely had to use a map to navigate from Point A to Point B. The same idea can be applied to an action plan.
Like a map, your action plan needs to include step-by-step instructions on how you’ll reach your goal. In other words, these are mini goals that help you get where you need to go.
For example, if you wanted to lose weight, you’d consider smaller factors like calories consumed and burned, minutes exercised, number of steps walked, and quality of sleep. Each plays a role in weight loss.
This may seem like a lot of work upfront, but it makes your action plan seem less overwhelming and more manageable. Most importantly, it helps you determine the specific actions you need to take at each stage.
5. Order Your Tasks by Priority
With your action steps figured out, you’ll next want to review your list and place your tasks in the order that makes the most sense. This way, you’re kicking things off with the most important step to make the biggest impact, which will ultimately save time.
For example, if you have a sedentary job and want to lose weight, the first step should be becoming even a little more active. From there, you can add more time to your workout plan.
The next step could be changing your diet, like having a salad before dinner to avoid overeating, or replacing soda with sparkling water.
Learn these tips to prioritize better: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster
6. Schedule Your Tasks
Setting a deadline for your goal is a must; it prevents you from delaying the start of your action plan. The key, however, is to be realistic. It’s highly unlikely, for example, that you’ll lose 20 pounds within two weeks. It’s even less likely that you’ll keep it off.
What’s more, you should also assign tasks a start and end date for each action step you’ve created, as well as a timeline for when you’ll complete specific tasks. Adding them to your schedule ensures that you stay focused on these tasks when they need to happen, not letting anything else distract you.
For example, if you schedule gym time, you won’t plan anything else during that time frame.
Beware the temptation to double-book yourself—some activities truly can be combined, like a run while talking to a friend, but some can’t. Don’t trick yourself into thinking you can both write and catch up on Netflix simultaneously.
While you can use a paper calendar or planner, an online calendar may be a better option. You can use it to set deadlines or reminders for when each step needs to be taken, and it can be shared with other people who need to be in the know (like your running buddy or your mentor).
7. Stay on Track With Healthy Habits
Without healthy habits, it’s going to be even more challenging to reach your goal. You could hit the gym five days a week, but if you’re grabbing burgers for lunch every day, you’re undoing all your hard work.
Let’s say your goal is more career-oriented, like becoming a better public speaker. If you practice your speeches at Toastmasters meetings but avoid situations where you’ll need to be unrehearsed—like networking gatherings or community meetings—you’re not helping yourself.
You have to think about what will help transform you into the person you want to be, not just what’s easiest or most comfortable.
8. Check off Items as You Go
You may think you’ve spent a lot of time creating lists. Not only do they help make your goals a reality, but lists also keep your action plan organized, create urgency, and help track your progress. Because lists provide structure, they reduce anxiety.
There’s something else special about lists of tasks completed. When you cross off a task in your action plan, your brain releases dopamine. This reward makes you feel good, and you’ll want to repeat this feeling.
If you crossed out on your calendar the days you went to the gym, you’d want to keep experiencing the satisfaction of each bold “X.” That means more motivation to go the gym consistently.
9. Review and Reset as Necessary
Achieving any personal goal is a process. Although it would be great if you could reach a goal overnight, it takes time. Along the way, you may experience setbacks. Instead of getting frustrated and giving up, schedule frequent reviews—daily, weekly, or monthly—to see how you’re progressing.
If you aren’t where you’d hoped to be, you may need to alter your action plan. Rework it so you’re able to reach the goal you’ve set.
The Bottom Line
When you want to learn how to set goals and action plans—whether you want to lose weight, learn a new skill, or make more money—you need to create a realistic plan to get you there. It will guide you in establishing realistic steps and time frames to achieve your goal. Best of all, it will keep you on track when you stumble, and we all do.
More on Goal Action Plans
- How Does Setting Goals Lead to Success?
- 20 Examples of Personal SMART Goals To Improve Your Life
- How to Plan Your Life Goals and Actually Achieve Them
Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com