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The Most Pathetic Excuse Known To Humanity

I was just writing an article on New Years Resolutions for my newsletter readers and something crossed my mind that I want to share with you.

I’ve deliberately been holding back on sending the newsletter because people that have set New Year Resolutions often don’t start to hit the wall for a week or two as to begin with they are carried along on a wave of enthusiasm and determination

As such, I think the advice is more valuable now than when somebody kicks off the new year with high expectations and great intentions and probably wont absorb it.

There are a number of reasons goals can, and do fail, and I cover off three of the most important in the newsletter (you can sign up in the box below if you want to know what they are)

However, possibly one of, if not the, most common reason, is also the most ridiculous, pathetic, annoying, frustrating and ill thought out ones known to humanity, and it goes something like this:

“Well I slipped back and had a cigarette after a stressful meeting with my boss. So I guess I failed and I may as well buy a pack”

Or it’s this:

“I had a bad day at work and drank a beer when I got home so that’s me screwed, better crack open a 6 pack and get hammered”

Or it’s this:

“I missed going to Yoga this week after I promising myself I would definitely go, so I may as well quit it now and save myself the disappointment of failing again”

If you’ve set yourself a New Years Resolution or two and have found you’ve already slipped back, don’t worry there are millions of people just like you.

It’s not the end of the resolution or goal, never mind the world. Unless that is you want it to be and are happy to use the most pathetic excuse known to humanity?

I doubt that very much, so cut yourself some slack and ask yourself, “What can I learn from this?” Then hop back on board with your new found knowledge that makes future success even more inevitable.

I cannot stress enough that this isn’t an all or nothing. You can reach goals by experiencing failures along the way. In fact, I’d almost go as far as to say:

You probably can’t hit meaningful, life-changing goals, without having some setbacks.

If you use one, or even multiple failures as an excuse to quit on your goals, then you never gave yourself the even slightest chance of succeeding. In actuality it was never even a goal, just something you kind of fancied achieving if you got lucky and all the starts aligned in your favor.

Well quite frankly, fuck the stars aligning because you’ve no control over them, only yourself and your own actions so remember this:

“You are not defined by your failures, but how you react to those failures”

32 comments to The Most Pathetic Excuse Known To Humanity

  • Hi Tim,

    The supposed logic behind this mindset is assanine.

    It’s like saying: “Well, since I am not perfect there’s no sense trying to improve my life. Since I failed, why bother trying again?”

    Sounds ridiculous to me. Make a decision to stick to your resolution. When you screw up – and you will – acknowledge that you are a human being and proceed to stick with your resolution. When you screw up again, repeat the process. Forgive and move forward with your resolution held in mind.

    Even enlightened beings had moments when they were not the most enlightened folks around. Such is the deal with living in a human body, where you can and will experience strong emotions from time to time.

    Thanks for sharing your insight Tim.


    • I was having a coaching session and every time my client talked about the next resolution on their list, the phrase: doing the same thing, expecting different results kept popping up. These are things she desperately wants to change but wants to change them doing exactly the same thing she did last year, and the year before. I find that, that’s one of the biggest obstacles to some our most lofty goals. They are sunk before they can even float!

  • Tim, I’m working hard to learn to start again straight away after every setback. It means I don’t have to eat the whole packet of chocolate biscuits, just because I’ve eaten one more than I should have.

    • You’ve completely misunderstood Dave. This is no way refers to chocolate biscuits (I’m having a pre-senior moment here because I can’t for the life of me think what Americans call biscuits because their biscuits are horrible dry things they eat with chicken) as they are healthy and calorie free.

      I’ll dig out the research for you, but in case I forget, just trust me.

      • No way! I insist you return to Britain immediately! I won’t have you deprived in this cruel and barbaric fashion.

        Either they start selling chocolate biscuits or you’re coming home!

        • I realize this will just cement your opinion of me as a wuss, but I’m not that bothered about cookies (I remembered without even using Wikipedia).

          And let me tell you, the chocolate over here (Hershey’s anyway) is disgusting! I always head for the “Ethnic Aisle” and grab me some ridiculously overpriced Cadburys.

          Speaking of which, I can no longer use the expression Bournville Boulevard as nobody knows what it means over here. Which is a shame ;-)

          • bournville?

            i had to google Bournville Boulevard, and urban dictionary came to the rescue. we call that ‘The Hershey Highway’ on this side of the pond.

            • LMAO, thanks for that!

              I must tell Frank Skinner for if he ever tours the US.

              • bournville?

                the similarities and differences in word meaning are amazing, all in the supposedly same language. did someone who was bi-lingual in a cultural way take BB and come up with HH? or were the two arrived at independently??
                i worked with a brit who had been over here with his brit wife for a good 30 years. when they went back on holiday (vacation to us), his wife somehow said “hold on, i think i’ve got that in my fanny pack”, having forgotten what fanny means over there.
                “fag” is another good one. I work with a mexican gentleman who had spent a year in Europe fresh out of college, later on he had an issue when he told some americans in the states “i am so stressed out, i could really use a fag”.
                find some way to work those nuggets into a post on clear communication.

  • I would also, honestly, like to encourage the setting of goals that can’t be “failed” within the first week. You’re vastly more likely to fail if you say “I resolve to quit smoking cold turkey” than if you say “I resolve to cut back my cigarette smoking”. With the latter, if you “break down” and have a cigarette after a stressful meeting, that doesn’t indicate failure – just an area that needs work in order for you to meet your goal. :)

    • There’s an entire post in that answer Chris because I think it depends somewhat on the person.

      I do encourage people to take the former approach as long as the set up is done correctly. However, one of the things people miss with goal setting is there should always be flexibility built in and then when they veer of course they presume that’s the end of their goal and return to previous behaviors.

  • I think this is the main reason why New Year Resolutions fail.. so many ppl are setting lofty goals and expecting so much of themselves… and being unrealistic. When they should give themselves some slack and expect days where they just won’t be perfect.

    • I agree with the latter, but I like my clients setting unrealistic goals.

      I’d rather a client set a goal of earning $1m in a year and only getting to $200k than aiming for $100k and hitting it.

  • Like I always say, progress not perfection. If you have the attitude that your plan will run 100% the way you planned it, you would either have to have the simplest one step plan or have the luck of a unicorn.

  • I find that I’m getting better at planning for failure without planning to fail.

    Does that sound nice a catch-phrase-y? My goal for 2012 is to get my own show on the new Oprah network.

    We do tend to be very all or nothing in our thinking, don’t we?

  • This is so important. We can’t be so hard on ourselves when we fail. The amount of times you get back up and try again should be the real measure of success.

    • I’m too lazy to research the numbers but Abraham Lincoln lost a shit load of elections at all levels before he became President and I think he was in his 60′s before he won anything.

      What a loser! ;-)

  • You know, I’ve been like that before when I miss a mini-goal or a deadline. I then immediately berate myself, often without thinking about it.

    But then I pull back and say ‘Hang on’. Why should I be hard on myself for being human? Why should I hurt myself even more for failing to meet a goal, when it might have been out of my control?

    It’s forgiveness after failure, that makes things sweeter :-)

    • Agreed Stuart. Do you ever follow up with something like “What can I do differently next time so this doesn’t happen?”

      • Sometimes I do, but there’s times when I’ve done everything in my power and I’ve still ‘failed’.

        I guess I just learn as I go, learning as much as I can.

  • If you put this phrase on an inspirational magnet, I will buy it from you: “fuck the stars aligning.”

  • Yeah that’s like trying to cure alcoholism with drinking. :P

  • Susan

    I come at this from a slightly different perspective which I’m tryng to deal with for myself. As a closet perfectionist the lesson I took from childhood was “you’re a failure ” so my tendancy has been to fear success because that would make the inevitable failure that much harder to cope with after raising other peoples expectaions. Therefore giving up at the first stumble fulfills all those self expectations – See I tried, I knew I couldn’t do it.
    So as I see it the problem is not the goal or even the excuse but the acceptance of failure as your norm.

    As to trying not to give up I like my little ones reframe she heard me say “practise makes perfect” and said thats wrong only God’s perfect so Practise makes you better.

    now to leave old posts and try to put that to work on the housekeeping.

    Yours Aye

    • Susan, sometimes I use provocative headlines to grab peoples attention. I actually don’t believe any excuse or any person is pathetic. I just think we make the best decisions we can based on the info we have at the time.

      And that is a brilliant, brilliant quote that I am about to tweet!

  • Hi, Tim! Just wanted to share my piece as well.

    Whenever I come to the point of grabbing the quickest excuse for giving up, the one thing that comes to mind is that “It could be better.” I dunno where and when it will, but I just believe in my heart it will.

    So when failures and disappointments would get in the way, what would be most important is the quiet time to reflect, meditate, perhaps take a break from the whole “road” or just sit among the rocks, boulders and dried-up creeks and rivers.

    That moment would be where I’d find the missteps, lessons learned, a different “road” that’s most likely to work.

    Instead of thinking negatively, we should kick ourselves by reaffirming that life ain’t meant to be a long, hard road towards nothingness. There are just specks of setbacks, failures and obstacles, like any road. But the destination is still there, so believe that things WILL be better and you COULD make it better.

    It really actually will!