We are all capable of so much more than we accomplish, and often fall short of our potential. In this series, I’ll be discussing the personal development roadblocks that hold us back.
One excuse I often hear (and sometimes make) is how we did the best we could, and then blame our failure on “the situation.” For example:
- “I didn’t quite reach my goal weight, but with work and happy hours it was impossible to stick to my diet. I would say I did pretty well, considering the situation“
- “It might have looked like Mike dropped the ball on that one, but he did the best he could – given the situation.”
- “I know from the outside it may have seemed irresponsible to be as late as she was, but you can’t blame her considering the situation“
Making Excuses with “The Situation”
There are times when this blanket reason of “the situation” is legitimate. Perhaps physical constraints, disabilities, or absurdly difficult obstacles presented a “situation” that was impossible to overcome.
Often however, I have found that “the situation” is an excuse used to avoid confronting a difficult problem that has a difficult, uncomfortable or uncertain solution. Rather than tackling the actual issue head on, we instead pretend there is no way to resolve some solvable problem, work around it and then say we “did our best, given the situation.”
Avoiding The Difficult Questions With “The Situation”
“Most people will choose unhappiness over uncertainty.”
– Tim Ferris, The Four-Hour Work Week
A great example of avoiding difficult questions is presented in The Devil Wears Prada. Miranda hires Andy as her personal assistant – the job “a million girls would kill for.” The job invades Andy’s personal life with phone calls at all hours, destroys her social life, interrupts a weekend with her father and strains her relationship with her boyfriend, Nate.
Rather than deal with the reality of finding a new job or making her work with Miranda more manageable, Andy constantly avoids the issue among friends by saying she has no choice, saying she has to work.
The difficult problem the whole time was she had a job that was at odds with her lifestyle. Rather than confront this conflict as a problem, however, she just accepts the job as part of her situation.
We are not powerless. Every day we can decide to accept things that happen to us, or to confront issues and to change them. In Andy’s case, she finally comes around and leaves the job when she realizes she just wants her life back.
“Situations”, Problems – And The Difficult Questions
The table below shows a number of common “situations” that hold us back. The table then lays out possible root causes of “the situation” – and the difficult solution or decision that needs to be made, but is being avoided. In many cases, the root problem is that there are two or more conflicting needs.
There is not necessarily a right or wrong answer in each tradeoff. Oftentimes, however, this exercise helps us realize that either a difficult change needs to take place, or perhaps sacrifices made – or else we won’t be able to accomplish what we set out to do.
|“The Situation”||The Real Problem(s)||The Difficult Questions(s)|
|“I can’t go that weekend – I have to work”||
|“I couldn’t stick to my diet – we went out for happy hour.”||
|“I haven’t been working out – I’m too tired, since I haven’t been sleeping as much as I would like.||
The Five Step Process For Resolving “The Situation”
The above table discusses this through example, and here is a five step process for helping you make the difficult decisions you need to resolve “The Situation” -
- Realize that nothing is non-negotiable. Everything in your life can be responded to and reacted to. In many cases, commitments and issues can be changed.
- Define “The Situation.” It’s sometimes said that knowing is half the battle – and in this case, this is especially true. Write down the specific conflict that are causing your situation.
- Define the root causes of this conflict. Refer to the second column above for some common problems. Everybody’s “situation” is different, so there is a good chance your specific conflict is not on the list.
- Ask yourself the tough questions to resolve your conflict. This is easier said than done, and I know it’s something I struggle with. Even when I know I have two conflicting needs (typically something in my lifestyle that gives short term enjoyment versus my long term goals), I have a hard time just asking myself the tough questions.
- Answer the tough questions, and move on. Simmer in step 4 for a little while, consider your options and think through your individual situation. Once you’ve decided on a course of action, accept your answer and move forward. In some cases, this may mean canceling commitments and lettings things go.
- 6 Bold Faced Time Management Lies We Tell Ourselves Every Day
- 7 Common Procrastination Excuses
- You Work Too Damn Hard To Make Excuses
- Personal Development Roadblocks – Taking Things for Granted
- Personal Development Roadblocks – Pushing Pleasure Buttons
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