The 4 Levels of Excuses

I’m still working on this lesson but I’ll share it anyway. Feel free to suggest improvements, additions, or objections.

It is inspired by words from my mentor Paul Martinelli.

As I have developed my leadership skills, I have realized there are several levels of excuses. Each level more clever than the previous one.

Paul’s statement came as a question…

You did your best; but did you give it your all?

Here is an excerpt of what I have so far.

Level 1 – I Can’t

This is the most convenient level. It is where we don’t do anything because we can’t do, be or have it.

I can’t…

  • Have a bikini body because I have never seen my abs even when I was skinny.
  • Lose weight because I love to eat.
  • Because I don’t have the money.
  • I don’t have time.
  • I don’t have a degree.
  • My boss won’t let me.

I can’t is about total disbelief that I’m more than capable.

This level of excuse is the most convenient because it requires zero (0) effort.

Since I have convinced myself I cannot do something, I might as well not even try to do it.

Level 2 – I Don’t Know How

Here is when we start using our creativity.

Compared to level 1, this phrase feels good. It’s progress. We have started using the positive affirmation, “I can but I don’t know how!”

I don’t know…

  • How to find the time.
  • Where to start.
  • How to bring up the subject with my boss.
  • Who to talk to about it.
  • If they’ll approve it.

This stage is a clever attempt to say we tried but we couldn’t figure out which step to take first; thus, we didn’t even start.

Level 3 – I Tried

This is were most of us get stuck. It is about taking action and stopping when we don’t see results or significant movement.

It is almost as if we look to defend ourselves from judgment by being able to say “at least I took action!”

  • I went to the gym but I didn’t like it.
  • I sent the e-mail but no one replied.
  • It’s not my fault people didn’t listen the first time.
  • I called several times but no one answered.
  • I signed up but something came up last minute.

What I have found about this level of excuse is that the only reason I tried it is because I didn’t want someone asking me whether I had done something or not.

This excuse is the polite solution to “I didn’t really want to do it but I acted out of fear or obligation.”

And, the last level…

Level 4 – I Did My Best

This is were it gets tricky because the statement in itself is a valid answer and, most likely, a reasonable expectation.

There are many times in which this statement applies. Nevertheless, what I have discovered in my life is that sometimes I use this phrase as an upgraded version of “I tried.”

I would use a variation of “hey, I did my best but it didn’t come in my favor;” when I really meant to say “I did the best I could considering the circumstances.”

Do you see a difference?

Which statement generates a greater sense of internal peace:

  • “I did my best considering…” versus
  • “I did all I’m able to do considering…”

Many times, my best implies I only acted on the items I thought could work. Whatever happened to trying anything and everything? Is it not the objective to achieve the goal whether it is a pretty or ugly journey?

An Alternative

I have started the word willing.

  • I was only willing to…
  • I did what I was willing to do given the circumstances…
  • I am not willing to…

I’m not saying this is a better answer but it is closer to what is actually happening. These phrases represent the thought process I used to make decisions and, ultimately, take action.

Practice it for the next few weeks and let me know how it goes.



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