Last March, the Penguin Foundation in Australia requested sweater donations from the public to protect the birds from ingesting the oils while grooming themselves. Many donors came to their aid.
One sweater donor, however stood out among the rest. At 109, Alfred “Alfie” Date, Australia’s oldest man still continues to practice a favourite past time of his: knitting. After hearing about the penguin sweater or jumper call out, two nurses from the “aged care village” where he lives knew that Alfie was just the person for the job and told him that he should contribute. ” The two girls come in to me and say “We believe you can knit”, he said in a video interview. And that’s just what he did. “I can’t say no”, he said.
Why am I sharing this? If Alfie and many others had turned around and said no, these endangered birds would have further declined in numbers. Instead they stepped up and took action. And this made all the difference.
The mind is a wonderful thing. It’s also a complete liar, constantly convincing you not to take actions you know are good for you, and limiting many great experiences and changes in your lives. Changes like a healthier diet, regular exercise, meditation, paying off debts, quitting smoking-if you didn’t have the excuses taking complete power over you, you would stick to the changes, wouldn’t you?
The mind wants comfort, and is afraid of discomfort and change. Its used to staying wrapped up warm in it’s cocoon, and anytime you try to push beyond, the mind starts playing the tricks to get back to the “safe” cocoon. At any cost, including our long-term health and happiness. Let’s put the mind aside and look at the excuses.
I can’t do it: It seems too hard, so you think you can’t stick to the change. You don’t believe in yourself. This can be countered from the fact that many other people no more capable than us have done it.
He/She can do it, but that doesn’t apply to me: Just because someone else can do it, doesn’t mean you can, right? You look for reasons they can do it, but you can’t. She doesn’t have children, so she can go to gym after work. Maybe she doesn’t have all the commitments that you have, or has a supportive husband, or doesn’t have a health condition. I get it. It’s easier to find excuses: but look at all the other people who have lots more on their plate and have done it. Stories abound of people with limitations, responsibilities and illnesses who overcame their obstacles to achieve amazing things. Your obstacles can be overcome.
I don’t know how: Yes, it’s true, but you can learn. Start small and learn to embrace this new change. Ask those who have successfully done what you are doing, get support and you’ll be able to kick this pesky excuse.
I can do it later: Sure you can…but your later self will also feel the same way. How would the later self be more disciplined than your current self. In fact, as you are allowing yourself to slip now, you’re building a habit of putting yourself in the back burner. Don’t let yourself fall behind just because you don’t feel like it or don’t have the time.
I’m afraid: Let me tell you, this is the most honest excuse there is and one that most of us don’t want to admit. Just because you are afraid doesn’t mean you can’t do something. You can. I have done tons of things, I ‘m afraid of- creating a new career that I worried I’d fail at. Sure, there are challenges but the act of pushing through the fear is incredibly important and I learn a lot in my journey.
I have used all of the above excuses a thousand times each, so don’t think I have overcome them all. You have used them too. The key is to be aware of what you’re doing. Are you giving in to a lame excuse? After giving in, see what the results are. Are you healthier? Are you happier? Is your life better? Was it worth not taking action? What price does saying no cost you? An extra ten pounds? Guilty about saying no? Stress? Don’t like the results? Remember, the best way to get something done is to begin.
This post was first published in The Huffington Post UK on 05/03/15.