A Procrastinator’s Guide From A to Z
“It is in the nature of the human being to seek a justification for his actions.”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
There’s a fine line between justification and excuse. When we make an excuse, we tell the world that our choices were limited, that we’re not really to blame for our actions. However, when we justify our actions, we’re giving a reasonable reason for what (or was not) done. Justification focuses on the act, rather than the actor. Excuse concentrates on the actor, rather than the act. Justification presumes we did the right thing, that our actions, under the circumstances, are probably correct. Excuse assumes that we’re not fully responsible for our actions; it assumes weakness or defect.
Let’s look at this another way.
I can justify not writing or completing my word count for the evening if I purposely and intentionally decide to use my writing time to take my kiddo to an after-school activity, such as Literacy Night. If, however, I had planned on writing, but later decide I’m just too tired, or that I’d rather watch television instead because I deserve to take a break once in a while…I am offering excuses for my actions. My excuse of being too tired to write may be justifiable if I unexpectedly had to pull a double-shift at work. But if I fail to write because I’m in a bad mood, I’m offering an excuse.
How do these nuances in terms help or hinder the procrastinator?
I believe subtle changes in behavior begin with our mindset. We’re not always going to accomplish everything we set out to do. Life happens. Things come along that are outside our immediate control, but we can’t allow outside influences to completely derail all our plans. It is one thing to justify our behavior. For example, you may decide not to go to work today because your car’s check engine light came on this morning and the car needs to be repaired right away for safety reasons. But if you don’t show up at work because you stayed up too late drinking and now you’re dog tired and hung-over, you’re hung-overness is your excuse. You might have a great boss, and they might let you justify that it’s better for you to stay at home, rather than allow you to do sub-par work on a drunkard’s night sleep, but if you’re constantly making excuses for your actions, it gets really old.
Justification assumes you’re making choices for the right reason. It assumes you’re making choices, period. It says that you are in control of your actions, even when things go wrong. You are in the captain’s chair of your own life. You are the one calling the shots. You are the one in control. Bad things may occur —and you may not like it—but you did this, this, and this and here is why you made your actions happen.
Excuses assume blame, that whatever has happened was NOT fully your fault. Excuses are like a Charlie Brown storm cloud. It wasn’t my fault. I can’t be held responsible. I was too weak, tired, or depressed. I have a lot on my plate right now. Why do bad things always happen to me? I couldn’t help it.
I’m not saying you’ll never have excuses. I’m not saying justification is always correct. People justify bad behavior as well as good. You may have been given false information, you might be able to use this false information to justify your actions, but you will still be wrong! But…in general, if the procrastinator can shift their thinking away from excuses, and move towards justifying why they are making their decisions in the first place, I think it’s a start towards finding a place of healing. It’s difficult to justify being not “good enough.” That feeling is just an excuse.