A Purposeful WIP eXamines eXcuses

When I started The ABCS of a Purposeful WIP series, I had alliteration on my mind. I envisioned topics that resonated and titles that were memorable. In the beginning, it was simple. Finding meaningful words that begin with A, B, C, and D was easy peasy. Then I got to J and K and U. Eh, it was a bit more of a creativity challenge, but I managed.

But X? Impossible. The English language is severely lacking in the X department. In fact, the entire X section of the dictionary, which covers less than two pages, runs extremely short on purposeful nouns and verbs. And since I don’t feel that xylophones or xenon are particularly inspiring for a work in progress (unless of course you’re a musician or a chemist) I had to cheat a little. So although eXcuses don’t actually begin with the letter X they are an important topic to discuss here primarily because progress doesn’t really stand a chance unless we take some time to eXamine those eXcuses.

If you’re a parent or a teacher or maybe even a personal trainer, you’re likely very familiar with the area of eXcuses. You’ve probably heard them all: from the enduring, “my dog ate my homework,” to the generic, “I just didn’t have time.” We all, in fact, have at some point been frustrated or annoyed or just plain angered by someone else’s eXcuses.

But what about those we tell ourselves? What about those justifications that we refuse to tolerate from others but for which we repeatedly offer grace when they come from our own mouths (or minds)?

I’m just not good enough, talented enough, creative enough, [fill in the blank] enough to even try. Yes, I have this great big dream I’d like to pursue, but right now XYZ is more important [release giant sigh]. Oh, I’ll chase after that goal someday when the time is right, when life is less hectic, the kids are grown, I’m retired, etc., etc. I’d really like to do that one special thing I’ve always wanted to do, but I just don’t have the time, energy, resources to focus on it. And my favorite: I’ll get started . . . tomorrow. Lather, rinse, repeat ad nauseam.

Another day, another month, another year goes by and that goal is still lying stagnant at the bottom of a drawer beneath a crushing load of eXcuses that we’ve heaped upon it. Why? Because progress is hard and eXcuses are easy, they’re safe. They take the responsibility off of us and place it on someone or something else. And even sneakier than that, at first glance, they can actually appear valid. Now I’m not saying that all eXcuses are created equal—some may very well be real—but for the most part, eXcuses are just clever ways to mask some underlying feeling. Like fear or insecurity or doubt.

My agenda is not to find remedies for your eXcuses, nor to judge you for having them—believe me, I have delivered eXcuses aplenty over the years for why I wasn’t making progress on my novel manuscript. But my purpose today is simply to encourage you to eXamine those eXcuses. Pick them apart and look at them closely. What are they made of? Are they built on truth or old beliefs that you’ve carted around for years?

For example, if you’ve always wanted to write a book, but you say you don’t have time, ask yourself if there really is absolutely no leeway in your schedule or if it’s possible that any free time you might have to write is just being eaten up by other less essential things. If you do find an open block, but you’re still resistant to writing, ask yourself why. See if you can’t uncover the real reason behind your eXcuse. Once I discovered that my own eXcuses for not finishing my manuscript were powered by a deep-seated belief that my words don’t matter to anyone, I was able to move forward by finding ways to counter that old story with new facts.

The truth is there’s very little room for eXcuses when it comes to making progress because, like any other habit—good or bad—we condition ourselves to accept them and the longer we do that, the harder it is and the longer it takes to break out of that cycle. And we have such limited time here on this earth as it is, so think about how you want to spend it. Do you want to keep making eXcuses? Or do you want to make progress?

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