Tag Archives: excuses

13 Things unsuccessful people never stop doing.


IMAGE: Getty Images

Recently, close to 9,000 Inc.com readers shared my article about the common habits of successful people–on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. That was pretty cool–and it got me thinking: What about the other side?

We all aspire to be like the really successful people we know, but how do we avoid thebad habits that unsuccessful people demonstrate? This is about those woefully pathetic souls–and we all know them–who squander every opportunity, then complain loudly about how their lives have turned out.

Here are the 13 most common behaviors they share. Let me know what other habits I’m missing here, and we might add them to another column.

1. Procrastinating.

We’re all human. We all procrastinate sometimes. Heck, I’m writing this column at 11:30 p.m. However, pathetically unsuccessful people take it to the extreme, living by the mantra, don’t do today what you can put off until tomorrow (or later). There’s always an excuse, always a distraction–and somehow things never get done.

2. Blaming.

Blaming others, that is. The sadly unsuccessful among us can always point the finger at someone else. And after they’ve spent so much time and energy blaming others, they still haven’t accomplished anything.

3. Minimizing.

Other side of the coin: It’s not just that extremely unsuccessful people blame others for their failures, but they talk down other people’s achievements. Whatever other people accomplish, these are the folks who are there to talk about how it wasn’t actually so great.

4. Consuming.

There’s a smart saying–if you want to be successful, spend more time producing and less time consuming. From scarfing fatty junk foods to spending hours watching mindless television and trashy pop culture, the pathetically unsuccessful among us spend a lot of time consuming.

5. Talking.

…and talking and talking and talking. Where successful people spend time making an effort to actively listen to others, the ridiculously unsuccessful among us believe they already know it all. Clearly, they have no need to infuse their knowledge with others’ experience.

6. Assuming.

Closely related to talking too much, wholly unsuccessful people make assumptions left and right. Often, they’re wrong; often they miss opportunities as a result. (They’re just so certain that things will be doomed, or too difficult to be bothered with.)

7. Naysaying.

It’ll never work; that’s a crazy idea; the deck is stacked against us. These are the typesGeorge Bernard Shaw had in mind when he said, “People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.”

8. Malingering.

They talk big about the things they’re going to accomplish. Then, suddenly, they’re “sick.” They’ve got a cold, or a phantom health issue they have to take care of, or an allergy you’ve never heard about before, and they’re a last-minute scratch–not able to participate. They never win gold, silver, or bronze–they’re perpetually in the “DNF” category, for “did not finish.”

(Clearly, some people have legitimate medical conditions. We’re not talking about those people here; we’re talking about the perfectly healthy folks who always seem to make up “convenient” maladies.)

9. Loafing.

Relaxing is important. We all have times when we need to just kick back, but the ridiculously unsuccessful among us are the slothful lurches who seem always to be lying down, letting time pass by, and accomplishing nothing.

10. Equivocating.

You were counting on them to do something for you? (Oh, you must have misunderstood.) You were sure they were passionate about following their dreams? (Meh, you must have been reading into it.) No matter what these people say, you can be pretty sure they’ll be backing off it later.

11. Safeguarding.

There are legitimate times to cut your losses or be cautious. However, the chronically unsuccessful among us are so cowed by the fear of losing what little they have, that they never have the courage to try anything great.

12. Sour Graping.

Whatever it is that they couldn’t accomplish–well, they later spout off a reason why they didn’t really want it. The project their team really needed them to accomplish? It wasn’t all that important to begin with. The love interest they never had the guts to pursue? He or she probably wasn’t that great anyway.

13. Quitting.

Whatever goal they might have set for themselves, they decide later that it’s too hard, or it’s too unlikely to succeed, or it’s just not worth the effort. Suddenly they have other priorities–not that those other priorities wind up coming to fruition either. It’s pathetic. By definition, truly unsuccessful people can be trusted to do only one thing consistently: fail.

Excuses versus being mentally strong

 Explanations and excuses are not the same thing. It is rare to hear someone say, “Sorry I’m late. I should have left my house sooner.” You will much more likely hear, “Sorry to keep you waiting but traffic was terrible,” or, “I would have been on time, but I had to stop at the store and it was really busy.”

There is a critical difference between an explanation and an excuse: An explanation accepts full responsibility for a mistake. An excuse places blame, minimizes liability, and tries to avoid consequences.

Source: visivastudio/Shutterstock

Explanations are pivotal to repairing your relationships and learning from your mistakes. Excuses, on the other hand, hold you back. Trying to convince others—or even yourself—why your shortcomings are justified can be self-destructive. Despite the problems associated with excuses, for many people they have become commonplace.

Excuses Deflect Responsibility

When young children get caught misbehaving, they often blame someone around them: “He made me do it.” Grown-up excuses are slightly more sophisticated, whether it’s a student telling his professor, “I couldn’t get that paper done because my computer wasn’t working,” or a man telling his partner, “I can’t help that my ex-girlfriend keeps calling me.” But the underlying message is the same: “It’s not my fault.”

Sometimes people assume excuses will help them escape consequences. By saying, “I shouldn’t be to blame,” they expect others to take pity on them and not hold them accountable. Unfortunately, excuses can become a way of life. Some people insist that everything from their stress load to their difficult childhood is keeping them from achieving their goals.

Yet, covering up your mistakes with excuses damages your relationships as well as your reputation. How can someone trust you to do better next time if you claim that today’s mistake was completely out of your control? Before you can begin convincing someone that you won’t let it happen again, you need to accept personal responsibility for your behavior.

Excuses Temporarily Relieve Uncomfortable Emotions

Shirking responsibility temporarily relieves feelings of shame, guilt, and fear. According to a 2014 study(link is external) in the Journal of Consumer Research, claiming you didn’t have a choice in the matter reduces emotional discomfort in the short-term. Researchers discovered that when people justified their behavior by saying they were “forced” to indulge in guiltypleasures, they experienced fewer negative emotions.

For example, when participants experienced pressure by others to blow their diet, they were less likely to worry about the long-term consequences of overindulging since they were convinced they “had” to do it. But when offered options without the same pressure, people who indulged experienced regret.

Clearly, blaming others for your choices can relieve the uncomfortable emotions that accompany acceptance of responsibility. Rather than trying to escape uncomfortable emotions, build mental strength so you can tolerate the discomfort.

Create Results Not Excuses

You can learn from your mistakes by looking for explanations. Accept full responsibility for the way you think, feel, and behave without blaming other people or circumstances. Don’t waste valuable time and energy trying to justify why you shouldn’t be held accountable.

Examine your role in executing the problem. Take time to discover exactly where you went wrong so you can use that information to improve. By being able to say, “Yes, that’s my fault. Here is how I will avoid making that mistake next time,” you increase your chance of success.

Amy Morin is a psychotherapist and the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do(link is external), a bestelling book that is being translated into more than 20 languages. To learn more about her personal story behind the viral article turned book, watch the book trailer below.