I Can See Clearly Now

January 4, 2013

For any students of mine reading this…I am no longer irresponsible in the ways I will describe in this post.  However, my past errors in judgement have only made me better at calling BS on almost everything, so take my words to heart and take responsibility for your choices.

I had a student a few years ago who rarely turned in assignments on time, if at all.  When I would follow up, this person would tell me something to the effect of, “I’m really sorry – site reports just aren’t a priority for me right now,” or “It just didn’t get done.”  I appreciated my student’s honest statements so much that I didn’t deduct as many points when I gave a grade at the end of the semester.  Since then, I generally have much more respect for the responsibility students take, even if means that it’s really just honesty about being lazy or unmotivated or going out too many times and losing track of priorities.

Most of us aren’t like that.

We make excuses.  Specifically, we make excuses about why we didn’t [insert anything here].  We didn’t have time, our dog ate it, we spilled wine on our computer, we had a surprise hospitalization, our battery was dead, we were sick, our toenail was itchy, we had a headache…the list goes on.  Most of the time, these excuses come from not taking responsibility for our choices and subsequent actions.

Have you made those excuses, and in hindsight realized the error of your ways?

Well, I have.

When I was in school (every school, forever) I had my own ideas about the way things should go.  Here are a couple of examples:

When I was in early elementary school I didn’t understand the rules of kickball, so I would develop a “stomach ache” about once a month (kickball day) prior to gym class.  My mom would come and pick me up, and I would spend the rest of he afternoon on the couch pretending to be sick.  She eventually caught on and made me ask the teacher how to play.  I was fine with kickball after that.  What I should have done, was ask the gym teacher how to play kickball from the get-go. This wouldn’t have been so bad, since I was just six years old, but the patterns continued…

I also didn’t like doing homework.  My parents didn’t allow my brother and me to watch TV or play video games until our homework was done, so I would do my homework in a cursory manner in order to watch a little “Doug” or “Rugrats.”  Sometimes, I would say I did my homework but actually didn’t and I’d wake up the next morning with a “stomach ache” and stay home from school, for fear that I would get in trouble for not completing an assignment.  My parents eventually caught on and began checking my homework for errors and level of completion.  What I should have done was go to school anyway and take responsibility for the fact that I didn’t do my homework.  I’m sure the same irresponsibility happened in middle school, but nothing comes to mind, so…

When I was in high school, I did not enjoy gym class.  I did not have any interest in getting sweaty and having to shower or change in a room with my classmates.  So I wrote fake notes from my dad (who was a department head in that school system and worked in the building) getting me out of gym class.  The thing with doing stuff like that, is that someone always catches you.  Damn.  I was also a procrastinator and was easily distracted by everything that high school has to offer, particularly extracurricular activities like the plays and musicals, a social life, boys, so I left EVERYTHING until the last minute (except for stuff having to do with music or art, surprise surprise…). I can’t even think of what I should have done for these examples because they are so flagrantly unacceptable.

Which brings me to college.  There was something attractive about going to college in Boston – there was a lot to do, there was a bustling atmosphere, and culture and liberal ideas.  I love Boston, but in hindsight, I should not have gone to college there.  I am so distractible even without the bustling atmosphere and I ended up having many of the same issues as I did in grade school, except in college I was expected to be responsible for my choices and actions and accountable for myself, and I wasn’t ready.  (I also didn’t know anything about nutrition or exercise and gained 50 pounds, but that’s a story for another day).

Luckily, I became ready at some point during internship and began taking responsibility for myself.  And you know what?  It felt good.  I was calmer.  I was able to say, “I didn’t do this because I got distracted and didn’t use my time effectively.”  I was able to make the decision to get to sleep early so I would be well rested for an early morning the next day.  I was able to really plan ahead and make smarter choices so I would be successful in my internship, and when I didn’t, I was on edge and nervous, and it didn’t feel good.

Which brings me here, almost seven years later, to a place where most of the time, even if I don’t do something when I’m supposed to, I take responsibility for it, and try not to make excuses.

obstacles2Something that comes to mind when I think of excuses is the notion that there are these obstacles that we can’t get around, and I notice this in many areas of my own life.  When there is a reason that something that needs to happen can’t happen, chances are it’s an excuse.  It’s like that with homework, bills, getting to work on time, exercise, eating healthy, walking the dog, and there are many many others in that same vein.

Do I want to exercise every day?  Of course not.  It’s inconvenient, and there’s not as much time as I would like.  I’m also pretty lazy.  BUT!!  Do I have to exercise every day?  Yes, at least most days, or I will gain weight and become unhealthy.  If it’s cold, I run and become warm.  If it’s snowing, I shovel or snowshoe.  If there’s no time, I probably could have made more time, but either way, I make up for it the next day.

Do I want to go to work when I’m sick?  Of course not.  I feel crummy and can’t sing as well.  BUT!!  Do I have to work so that I can actually make money (self-employed people don’t get sick days) and maintain reliable relationships with my clients and contracts?  Yes.  Unless I’m really symptomatic or contagious, I go.  I lead types of sessions where I’m not forced to sing as much or at all, and I rest in between groups.

Sometimes obstacles are serious and inhibit certain other things from happening, but usually, they are petty and exaggerated.  When there is an obstacle in our way, do we see only the obstacle, or do we see a solution? Do we see a way around it?  If we don’t, then the obstacle is probably an empty excuse in disguise and should be treated as such.

So, all you excuse makers out there…pull yourselves up by whatever bootstraps you have, acknowledge the obstacle and come up with a way around it, or you will never survive in this world.


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