Positive excuses

Published 11. August 2016.

Often during my life I've found reasons to not do something, excuses for avoiding what I needed to do. Whether that's to get up, go outside, and move around, to talk to that interesting stranger next to me on the bus, or to do the dishes before they become a foreboding mass. We use excuses all the time. Our minds have the incredible ability to justify just about anything, regardless of how twisted the logic needs to become to justify the decision. It's as if there's a team of the sleaziest copywriters on the planet in your head, tasked with selling you on the idea that the laziest, most stagnant, and boring version of you is the one you want to be.

The challenge is that you can't stop generating excuses, but that's okay. What you can do is either ignore the internal excuse generator (a trainable skill) or like a good martial artist, flip its power in your favor.

How? Positive excuses.

A negative excuse is a reason NOT to do a task.

A positive excuse is a reason to DO a task.

Positive excuses change the question from an avoidant "Why not?" to a playful "Why not?" The easiest road into practicing positive excuse making is for handling boredom. If I find myself bored or in one of those moments in-between during the day I often will cook up a movement challenge. When I used to take the bus to and from town all the time I'd practice balancing on one leg. Waiting in line at a store I'll often do ankle conditioning, standing on the outside edges of my feet. If I'm out walking somewhere I'll begin a floor is lava game, or balance alongside an edge of the sidewalk. If I'm doing a chore like sweeping or doing the dishes I adopt the Shaolin mindset of treating it as part of my practice, attending closely to the quality of the movement.

Another way to use positive excuses is to consciously choose to make it harder. When I was living without a car in college I would often get groceries and then not take the bus back, walking the 1-3 miles back to my apartment with two filled-to-the-brim bags of groceries instead. Other ideas include choosing to use the stairs over the escalator (unless you're running backwards on it!) or elevator; taking the shorter route while walking, even if there are obstacles to get over; or choosing the longer but harder route if the short one isn't challenging enough.

When the choice is the mundane or inactive, choose active and interesting. When the choice is between boring and challenging choose challenging. When the choice is between self-love and self-hate, choose self-love. After all, why not?