Worried that you might be about to embark on the trip of a lifetime? Looking for some excuse not to step out of your front door? Scared that perhaps you might finally become the person you always dreamt of becoming?
Fear not! For I have compiled here an easy-to-remember list of great excuses that will successfully prevent you from ever making your dreams come true.
Note: These fail-proof excuses have been tried and tested on literally millions of people just like you. The human race has been proudly dodging, delaying and demurring their dreams since time began. (Warning: 97.2% of these humans did not procreate and are lost to the gene pool forever.)
1. I don’t have enough time. (Variations: I am too busy / I have too much work.)
|Not too busy to take a photo of a clock, though.|
A thought experiment might suffice here. If you carried on doing whatever it is that you are doing now, what will the world look like in ten years? What about if you take steps to follow your dream?
Without prejudicing your answer to the above thought experiments, there is the old saying: No one, on their death-bed, wishes they’d spent more time in the office. What kind of world are you building with your time, as currently allocated? What could you be building instead?
There is another aspect to this objection: Is your time actually yours to allocate? The most obvious answer, if you’re an employee, is No. Likewise, you may feel, if you are a mother or father or even a member of the local trombone choir. But these are all different orders of obligation. There is hierarchical obligation, that is weighted on your shoulders without your choice. And there is volitional obligation, like that towards your fellow trombonists.
Obligations can always be re-negotiated. Even children can be accommodated (see below).
2. I don’t have enough money. (Variation: I don’t have the right equipment / stuff / shoes.)
|16 Twixes for £2 or 2x 9 Twixes for £2?|
What is it that you think money will accomplish for you? Think not in terms of needing money as a prerequisite for X. Think rather about how you can acquire X. Sometimes the answer will be through money alone, but I fear that would indicate a failure of imagination more than anything else. (But I accept that often we are tired and our imaginations exhausted.)
Ask the question: What would happen if I tried to do this without a million dollars / new shoes / a buffalo? Really think. 99% of the time you’ll find your imagination can fly over any apparent obstacle with ease.
Solidarity, mutual aid and recycling are all ways that you can make things happen without recourse to huge amounts of money. Do, swap, borrow.
3. I don’t have the right contacts / network / friends to make this happen.
Maybe you hate other people. Maybe you are anti-social. Maybe you don’t like asking other people for favours or access. I don’t either.
Is there something you can do to push yourself towards your goal that doesn’t require other people? As you march towards your future, you’ll find you naturally bump into people who will help you make it happen. There is no need to force relationships and there is no reason why you can’t start without them.
Taking that a bit deeper: Why do you think you need other people? Are you sure you’re not just using them as a crutch? If you are: well done! You’ve found a great excuse. You’ll never know if you could have managed without them and you’ll never know if you could have made contact with them.
4. I have a family / business / goldfish to look after.
Good for you! Caring is one of the most genuine human actions. But why are you being hierarchical about this? Speak to them (technical note: goldfish speak Portuguese) and involve them in the power structure. Why can’t you take your family / business / goldfish with you through your dream? Were they not part of your dream in the first place? If not, then perhaps you should think more carefully about their place in your life.
Alternatively, maybe you can swap dreams. Maybe they have a dream ready for the taking too. Take some time out and explore each other’s dream-lives. You might find that the world is a better place afterwards.
5. My boss / dad / government won’t let me.
|My dad, yesterday.|
Ooh, that’s a low blow. Delegating your responsibility for your life to someone else. Shifting the blame to an outside agent. Removing yourself from the equation. You might think this is an infallible excuse, but really… Why are you making an exception of your dream? You’ve already disobeyed your boss, your dad, your government – and any other figure of authority or representative of hierarchy – countless times! Why let them stand in the way of your dreams?
If you’re still having trouble squaring feelings of obligation, loyalty or guilt with your desire to act, then you should think more deeply about where the feelings are coming from. Some feelings of obligation aren’t hierarchical. The example of your dad above is mischievous. Of course your dad deserves consideration. Ask: is he being hierarchical about this? Is there room for negotiation? Are my desires being taken into account? Is there a threat of force if I disobey?
Any answer of ‘yes’ to the threat of force test is a sure sign of hierarchy and a relationship that you should immediately discontinue if possible, or disobey. Only by standing against hierarchy will you be able to win freedom for your actions. And you will probably be surprised by the emptiness of the overlord’s threats. The world will not collapse down upon you. And you will have won an element of freedom.
If you decide that this hierarchy is just too convenient an excuse to give up, I have one word of advice: Don’t tell the person that they are stopping you from becoming a god because they might get a bit pissed off with you. Also, you might find that they release you from their unwitting bondage.
6. The time isn’t right. (Variation: I’m too old / young.)
|We’re all just birthday candles in the wind.|
When is the right time? When should I take the bins out? Now? In ten minutes? At 4.27pm? On Tuesday? Does any of this make sense? No. Is this an extraordinarily boring discussion? Yes.
Am I too old to take the bins out? Am I too young? At what age should we start taking the bins out? At what age should we stop? Does any of this make sense? Is this an extraordinarily boring discussion?
Ultimately, as any parent who intends to devolve bin-removal duties to their offspring will know, you just have to pick a day – any day – and start. The time is never right, so don’t wait for it.
7. I have no grand dream to follow. (Variation: I have too many dreams!)
I can sympathise with this one, having swung from one extreme to the other several times. A “dream” is a stupid concept that means nothing. Last night I dreamt that I had a heart attack and my mum had to give me CPR. Full of symbolism, perhaps, but utterly useless as motivation.
What is a dream, then? A dream (he said, blithely attempting the impossible) is simply something that you think about or do for long enough that it begins to define you. You don’t define the dream, the dream defines you.
For example: I got it into my head about twelve years ago that I was going to be a writer of earth-shattering proportions. I flounced around university for a few years boasting of my soon-to-be-realised achievements and did precisely zero writing. BUT this wasn’t all hot air. Eventually, I started to feel that being a writer of earth-shattering proportions WAS part of my destiny. And I started to feel bad that I wasn’t doing anything to help fate along. So I started writing. Twelve years on, that stupid adolescent “dream” has defined me.
Don’t panic about not have a grand dream. Just do something you enjoy. Then do it again. And again. And again. And gradually, you’ll find that your actions define you and, retrospectively, you’ll define your actions as contributing to your dream.
Likewise, don’t worry about pursuing countless “dreams”, goals or white elephants. Find a way to combine them all into one thing. For example, my first book, The Soles of My Shoes, was a travel book – and that’s my top two right there – travel and books.
8. There’s no point. (Variations: It’s all been done before! / I can’t make a difference.)
This is particularly common as an excuse in the fields where there is the most point, where the difference to be made is greatest: politics, medicine, education to name but three. The size of the problem is so great that a single person feels overwhelmed and doesn’t see the point in swimming against the tide.
But it is those three fields which perhaps illustrate best the answer to ‘It’s all been done before!’ syndrome. Just imagine a doctor, faced with open heart surgery, heaving a big existential sigh and muttering, ‘It’s all been done before!’, before dropping his scalpel and going for a cigarette. The sentence loses all meaning.
The value of something is not in its uniqueness, but in its doingness.
I hope this illustrates the answer to ‘There’s no point!’ as well, but there is a more obvious response to the fear of ennui: you have more allies than you think. Logically, you know this must be so. On a planet of seven billion people, you cannot be the only person who thinks what you are doing is a good idea. You can even be alone with one other. There are literally thousands, millions probably, of people who think what you are about to embark on is the bee’s knees.
‘But how do I find these legions of allies?’ I hear you cry. There is only one answer: by starting. By starting, you are pushing a beach ball down a dune. You and all your friends begin to live your new reality, your new reality starts to define you and everyone you encounter starts to associate you with your new reality. Before long, you aren’t looking for allies; they are looking for you.
9. I don’t have the right skills / fitness levels / brain.
|Get fit! Frowning uses more muscles than smiling.|
Nobody does. I can tell you right now that 0% of basketball champions, 0% of Nobel Prize winning scientists and 0% of dauntless explorers came out of their mother’s wombs being able to do what they ended up being famous for.
Cycling 4,110 miles is a long way. Guess what: I didn’t have the fitness to cycle over 100 miles in a day when I started. How did I get to that level of fitness? By doing it. By getting on a bike and riding, day after day. Start now and you’ll get there.
10. I’m scared.
|There is nothing to fear, but fear itself. And a traffic warden with a shotgun.|
Ah – congratulations! You have discovered the catch-all excuse des champions, mon ami! This would appear to be the perfect excuse. It doesn’t harp on about circumstances, it can’t be bought, it won’t disappear over time – and, to top it all, it has the glossy veneer of self-deprecating honesty about. “I would do it, mate, but to be honest, I’m scared!”
Well, I’m sorry. You may be a champion excuse-finder, but this one won’t cut it. In fact, being scared is the ultimate motivation. When you feel scared of something, you can be 99% certain that this is exactly what you really want to do.