The Excuse not to Try

An excuse not to try is needlessly self-limiting.

It takes a desire, bathes it in fear and tells you ‘no, don’t bother. Your efforts will be wasted’. Evidence is non-existent but your belief in it is high.

What is an excuse not to try?

It’s a weak rationalisation for not doing something you want to do. They usually take a very general form that can be applied to anything rather than specific to your personal situation.

For example:

“I don’t have time…”

“I’m going to do poorly…”

“I haven’t planned anything yet…”

There are many others of this form and there’s a reason for that. They are quite lazy and don’t assess the situation properly.

Here’s an example:

Emily wants to join her university’s football society but chooses not to because she’s never played before and doesn’t want to make a fool of herself.

We have some facts: she wants to join and she’s new to football.

However, she’s made some suspicions that are wrongly taken as fact.

Firstly, that she’ll make a fool of herself. Secondly, that making a fool of yourself is going to be bad. Nothing says she can’t continue to enjoy it. Thirdly, other people won’t be in a similar situation.

The reasons for believing these things are powerful. The image of herself running, falling and getting hit on the head with the ball are potent. They replay in her head many times becoming more powerful each time. She’s already embarrassed before even looking at the sign-up sheet.

If these things aren’t true, what other reason does she have to not try for something she wants?


She can try, overcome the fear and hopefully have fun. If it doesn’t turn out the way she desires, at least she knows why rather than living with ‘what ifs’.

Excuses and Reasons

If we take these excuses seriously and put pressure on them, we find out two things.

  1. They shouldn’t stop us from trying; or
  2. They are justified as actual reasons rather than excuses

Both can be very valuable.

The first is liberating. It gives us the power to follow the things we want rather than being crippled with fear.

To end the excuses we can do a few things:

  1. Find a solution

Want to write more? Set aside 10 minutes every day.

Eat too many biscuits? Simply stop buying them.

  1. Be aware of the excuse

Knowing you’re making an excuse rather than giving a valid reason is useful. Excuses can be so automatic we never put pressure on them.

  1. Ignore the excuse and do it regardless

Put the excuse in a bubble, label it as an annoying pest and do it. There have been times when I’m writing while telling myself I don’t have the energy. Then I realise how silly that sounds.

The second is useful. It puts us in the position to assess our priorities and admit that some things are more important than others. We then put our attention towards fewer things and do a better job in the process. If your justification for not doing it becomes more specific, then it becomes a valid reason rather than an excuse thrown at a problem to avoid slight discomfort.

In short, we actually think about whether we’re being honest to ourselves.

Excuses not to try stop us from achieving things we actually want.

Thankfully, it doesn’t need to be that way.

We can rid ourselves of the excuse not to try and finally start making some progress.

Is there a big difference between an excuse and a reason? Are you making an excuses not to try something?

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This shouldn’t be taken as a manifesto to do everything.

There are good reasons for not doing things. For example, not wanting to smoke because of the poor health implications is not a flimsy excuse. Finding these reasons can even start us on the path to actually achieving the things we want. Being unable to travel because of money problems gives us the opportunity to start saving for it in the future.

Excuses in general are a slightly different problem. The excuse not to try prevent us from doing things we want. Excuses can also cover things we should probably do but want to avoid (like exercise). I’ll get to that another time.

In other news, I’ve rid myself of the excuse not to try a newsletter. So I made one.

You can subscribe HERE.

To start with, it’ll be about once a fortnight if I keep up my writing. I hate spam too, don’t worry.

Other stuff to read:

99 reasons for NOT making ideas happen

Let the Fear Pass

How to Kill your Excuses

Again, newsletter subscription HERE.

What does it mean to be open-minded?


During conversations about a controversial topics like politics, religion and science, you’ll probably hear the phrase ‘you’ve got to be more open minded!’ Those are the contexts I usually hear the phrase and often times it is used as way to escape an argument that isn’t going in your favour. It’s based on a misunderstanding of what it actually means to be ‘open-minded’.

Open-mindedness is the willingness to consider new ideas.

Open-mindedness is not accepting information and ideas uncritically.

When discussing the theory of evolution, I have been told I’m close-minded because I don’t accept the alternate theories. The story is the same with belief in ghosts and horoscopes. When you come across a new idea or argument, your aim should be to evaluate whether or not the supporting evidence is strong enough for it to be regarded as truth. Especially if the idea is being presented as fact.

For example, this sometimes happens with alternative medicine. If someone recommends something like homeopathy to help solve a problem, it’s not bad to be skeptical towards at first. Nor is it wrong to oppose it in someway because you’ve researched it and come to the conclusion that it is either useless or harmful. Requesting evidence does not make you close-minded.

It is also important to understand the difference between dismissing an idea and not believing in one. This is how caricatures of peoples arguments form which leads to them shouting ‘you’re just being close-minded!’ If I say ‘I do not believe in unicorns’ it does not mean ‘Unicorns can’t exist’ or ‘you’re stupid for believing in unicorns’ or ‘unicorns are ugly’. It just means I haven’t been convinced they exist. By misrepresenting their position, they’re rehearsing their own prejudices on the person without consideration of their opinion. Which is quite the opposite of being open minded.

With all of this being said, we don’t need evidence for everything that we’re told. Always demanding evidence when a friend tells you a story is an easy way to lose a friend. It’s when someone is trying to make to accept something as fact or make you do something you doubt that you should be more alert and willing to ask them to support what they’re saying in some way. It helps us determine what is true or false in important situations.

Being open minded is not merely about believing in things. That would be too easy and make you far too gullible. There isn’t much value in believing any story or adopting a belief just because it sounds interesting. It is the willingness to consider ideas, assess them for what they are and determine whether or not you accept them.

However, it is difficult. No one enjoys finding out what they believe might be wrong. No one enjoys having their world view shaken and disturbed but sometimes it happens. It leaves us vulnerable. Which is why many people ignore things that contradict an opinion dear to them and take solace in a closed mind.

An open mind without a filter will attract a lot of rubbish. Properly assessing what you come across and being willing to consider new ideas is an invaluable skill we should all aim to improve.

Do you think you’re open minded?