Excusitis: Psychological disorder resulting from the need to defer responsibility to anyone or anything other than oneself. This disorder is usually accompanied by rationalization disorder.

There is a story about a farmer who went to his neighbor to borrow some rope. The neighbor refused. “Can’t. I need the rope to tie up my milk.” Confused, the farmer replied, “But you can’t tie up milk with a rope! “To which the neighbor replied, “True. But when you don’t want to do something, one excuse is as good as another.”

The more successful people are, the fewer excuses they tend to make. Paraphrasing Yoda: There is no try. There is only do or not do.*

It is an interesting exercise to listen to yourself throughout just one day and keep a running, written tally: How many excuses do you make?

Another exercise: How many commitments do you make? How realistic are those commitments? How enthusiastic and committed are you to your commitments? How many excuses flow from making commitments you are not committed to? Would you have been better off (and those depending upon your response better off as well) if you had paused and thought through the commitment you were making?**

Would your reputation for dependability, reliability, and professionalism increase over time if you made fewer, but higher quality, commitments?

*Actual dialogue, Star Wars Episode V, The Empire Strikes Back:
Luke: All right, I’ll give it a try.
Yoda: No. Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.

** Frequently people ask for more than they need or ask without understanding the full impact of their request. I often throw the initiative back to the other person. “If you need that, would you please email me a request for it?” You’d be surprised how often the email doesn’t arrive. On second thought the person decided it was not that necessary or it was not really needed in the first place.

This is a classic from the NSC Blog archive, originally posted June 10, 2008.