Winter is almost upon us, and doctors are warning of a nasty flu season ahead. But a common virus is lurking nearby that could render you just as unproductive as the winter flu will. I'm talking about the performance virus known to those of us in the coaching field as the "Trap of the Viable Excuse" virus.
Just knowing what this virus is -- and how it hides in plain sight in your everyday life --will help you establish immunity to it before it has a chance to establish itself. And if you do start to see symptoms, you'll be able to stay calm, keep your perspective, and apply an effective antidote.
In my work coaching elite athletes, entrepreneurs, and corporate executives, I've witnessed the debilitating effects of this pernicious virus in consistently low batting stats, sagging earnings, and 15 pounds that refuse to leave the waistline. I have spent hours, days, months working with these clients to strengthen their inner resolve. Because, you see, what's particularly strange about this virus is that its effects render you normal. Remember when your mother took your temperature in the morning, removed the thermometer from your mouth, and said, "Normal, you're going to school"? Even then you recognized the downside to being normal.
How many times have you heard someone say, "I just want to live a normal life"? Or, "I can't wait until things get back to normal"?
Well, normal is fine. Acceptable. Average. But if you want to do great things, you need to be abnormal.
It can be tempting -- and it's becoming easier than ever with all our distractions -- to push things off into the future, or to give yourself blanket forgiveness every time you slide on a goal or a commitment and there's a reasonable excuse. That's normal. But to be abnormal, you need the ability to accept the adversity and stress that is inevitably coming your way -- and not only survive it but thrive on it.
Unfortunately, adding to the adversity you will surely face is the virus I mentioned before.
The Trap of the Viable Excuse is a virus that is hard to overcome because the excuses we offer for why we couldn't accomplish our goals sound so reasonable -- to ourselves, anyway. They're disguised to the point that we don't even realize that we're using an excuse. In fact, the more "reasonable" the excuse is, the more we're willing to accept failure and a lowering of our personal standards -- much the way the flu lowers our resistance.
You probably don't have to think too hard to remember some viable excuses from your own life. Do any of these sound familiar?
There's no way I can get to that. I'm too busy.
I'm doing my part, but the rest of the team is screwing up.
How can I do what I'm supposed to do? Our technology is so out-of-date.
I was exhausted.
I didn't get the breaks that other person got.
It certainly feels better in the moment to come up with a "viable excuse" for why something didn't happen successfully. You feel almost normal again. But it also prevents you from taking advantage of one of the most powerful change motivators there is: negative emotion. Fear. Disgust. Disappointment. Anger. People do everything they can to avoid those emotions. But the most successful people approach it in a different way: They take those negative emotions and use them as a fuel for improvement.
Truth is, these emotions are like germs. By overcoming them we get stronger, healthier. In fact, highly successful people have learned that even when obstacles present themselves, they still have an obligation to find a way to get the job done. Just as highly motivated people suffering from the flu are likely to get up out of bed and back to the office days before their less motivated co-workers.
When you use a viable excuse, you're stopping yourself from going through the healing process. The excuse makes underperforming feel better in the moment, but what about the future? You'll still be held back and feeling kind of low by the bug that lingers in your system.
Operating with a true "no excuses" mentality certainly takes some guts, and it may feel a bit uncomfortable for a while. But pushing through to become abnormal will improve your performance, and it will comfort you to know that you are the one in control of your thoughts, goals, and actions.