An assistant football coach who was mired in a difficult situation last fall, read my article entitled: The Choices You Make, Make You which was about the necessity of not falling into the trap of making excuses and learning to take responsibility for all your actions, so you can perform at your optimum level.
He reached out to me for guidance and assured me that he was trying hard to follow the advice in that article, but he admitted it was a struggle when it was out of his control. He then asked me if there is a difference between reasons and excuses when it is out of your control. Below is a slightly edited version of my reply.
Great question, thanks! In my humble opinion, there is a fine line that is not a good idea to cross. Hard to explain here, but this will be my current best effort: Most of the things we enjoy today (think air travel for example) were things people had reasons to believe were impossible. In the case of air travel, gravity and weight would be the example of “reasons” for why it could not be done. After some people refused to succumb to those reasons (rather than use them as excuses not to try) the first aircraft began to appear.
To me, an excuse stops action, but a reason calls for redoubled efforts to find one or more creative solutions. When I say control what you can control, I am referring to where you put your focus and attention for productivity’s sake. For example, if you want to perform optimally in your games, you cannot be obsessed with the weather. If you drop the winning pass in the rain, was the “reason” because it was really wet, or because you did not effectively prepare for playing in the rain?
Reasons are misused to form the basis of excuses, and I see no positive outcome from any excuse, as its only purpose is to diminish pain in the present. To me, when you turn a reason into an excuse you give yourself permission to be impotent. If you don’t misuse a reason by making it into an excuse, it becomes useful information that can help you move forward and become more productive.
When talking about peak performance it’s important to eliminate big picture things (like winning a national championship) from your immediate thoughts. This, however, does not equate to no control as the better you play and more you contribute to your team as an individual the more likely it is that your team will win, and without wins you cannot play for the National Championship.
It also means putting your efforts where they are most likely to bear fruit. Example: Do I think it would be useful to talk to a boss if you have evidence that you cannot trust them? Probably not. Do I believe it would be a good idea to take no course of action? No, I do not, but you would need to be creative and either build an alliance that has a better shot of getting through to your boss to affect the changes that would be a good idea to make, go over your boss’ head, etc.
Time frame matters as well. You are not likely going to run a Hail Mary pass play on the first play of a game, but it may be called for as time is running out.
I hope this helps and I appreciate you making me think.
In conclusion, making excuses stops forward motion, and reasons are guides on how to move forward more effectively. Any time used to focus on what you can’t do is wasted time, and would have been put to much better use if you had used it to focus on the things you could be doing.