Is It an Excuse or a Reason That Holds You Back?

Joyce Shafer

Joyce L. Shafer

We sometimes say we want certain things and may, in fact, talk quite a bit about our ideas, but we don’t take action to make them happen. Perhaps a more honest statement would be, “It would be nice, but I’m not willing (yet) to do what it takes.” That’s a better thing to say because it’s authentic.

Someone intent on success, whatever that means to them, makes a plan, figures out resources needed, and gets started, taking step after step until the outcome is reached. Intention sees obstacles as clues for what doesn’t work and inspires us to ask, What might work instead?

Many people are familiar with the huge number of “failures” Thomas Edison had before he discovered what would make a light bulb function as he believed it should, or the numerous rejections Colonel Sanders got before someone accepted his idea for how to successfully season and fry chicken. Edison’s statement was that every idea that didn’t work was one more way not to make a light bulb. Sanders needed to find one person who believed, as he did, that his fried chicken recipe would sell. Many of us would give up long before either man considered doing so (but didn’t). Theirs were bigger ideas than some of us have, but we can apply their examples to anything.

When we say we can’t or shouldn’t have to do something in order to have what we desire, this is the time to look within. Sometimes, a particular fear is the cause. Sometimes, it’s a belief that doesn’t serve us. If there is something you truly want but never seem to be able to attain it or stop just short of the mark, you want to look at what’s holding you back. Your excuses are a good place to start. Make a list of things you believe you want in life. To the right, make two columns entitled, “It Would be Nice, But…” and “Whatever It Takes, I Intend to Make This Happen.” Place a checkmark in the correct column for each item. This not only distinguishes what you’d like from what you are committed to, but also shows where your energy is going and where it needs to be directed.

Sometimes, what holds a person back requires therapy to be discovered so it can then result in a significant shift. Most times, all that is needed is to, for a period of time, work with a life coach to discover and decide how to go beyond self-imposed limitations. At the very least, if you categorize what you believe you want into the two columns suggested above, you discover whether an item is a genuine goal, as well as where you limit yourself with excuses or plan to succeed. The question is: Do you want to be remembered for your excuses or your successes?

I was recently contacted by someone who’d read one of my articles and seen my Take This Life and Live It! workbook. Our conversation left me inspired. A major transition is taking place in her life, one most would consider negative. She contacted me because she wants to move forward in the way most appropriate for her. This is courage in action.

Most of us have to cope with a major life transition at least once in our lives, one where the foundation we believed to be solid, shifts or crumbles, and we find ourselves looking for a foothold. Many deal with the accompanying emotions as best they can and do and eventually choose to get on with their lives. Some, sadly, choose to stay rooted in pain. The result of this is either a life not lived fully or a tragic story that makes the news.

The reason I say this woman is courageous is that she doesn’t choose to focus on the past. She chooses to focus on the present and strengthen and direct herself so she can better create her future now. She intends to use the workbook to not only better understand what is happening at an inner level (emotions, thoughts), but to also map out how she wants her life to look from this point on (work, relationships, finances, etc.). She intends to make conscious choices on both levels and do what she can to make this journey easier and focused. Detours will arise; but she’ll have her direction in mind and will find her way back onto the path to get where she aims to go. Her choice is to respond, not react. To move forward, not stagnate. To be her own compass; her own North Star.

Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage takes action in spite of fear. Action sets you free. It’s important to make it Right Action, not reaction. Since this woman decided to face this challenging time in this way, I can only imagine she will accomplish whatever she chooses as she heads deliberately onto her path. Whatever she was before, she is on purpose now. Be on purpose. It’s a good practice, one you’ll appreciate.

Practice makes progress.

© Joyce L. Shafer

You are welcome to use this article in your newsletter or on your blog/website as long as you use my complete bio with it.

Joyce L. Shafer is a Life Empowerment Coach dedicated to helping people feel, be, and live their true inner power. She’s author of “I Don’t Want to be Your Guru, But I Have Something to Say” and other books/e-books, and publishes a free weekly online newsletter that offers empowering articles. See all that’s offered by Joyce and on her site at


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