I was inspired by a guest column I received this week via email after spending 11-1/2 days with our grandchildren at our house … 4-1/2 days with three, and seven days with five.
The column was headlined, “Excuses, excuses: 5 ways to stop making them and take charge of your life.”
Dealing with grandchildren, ranging in age from almost three months old to almost five years old, made the first line of the author’s column hit home.
It read, “Everyone makes excuses on occasion.”
Of course, the column penned by John Collopy, a successful businessman and author of the book The Reward of Knowing (www.johncollopy.com), has nothing to do with children, and is directed toward adults.
He noted to be successful – in a career or in life in general – people need to put aside their reliance on excuses, and instead strive for an excuse-free life.
“Excuses may make us feel better about what does or does not happen to us, but they never help us move closer to our goals,” said Collopy. “Just the opposite, in fact. Excuses hold us back. They make us stagnate.”
Applying that logic to grandkids (or children in general) really isn’t that far fetched. If they don’t take ownership of their behavior, via natural or “parental-induced” consequences, they will never reach what most parents or guardians want for them – to grow up to be responsible adults.
“There are plenty of things in life you can’t control,” Collopy says. “Where you’re born. The family you’re born into. The opportunities you’re given.
“Ultimately, though, as your life unfolds, how you handle each situation you face remains up to you.”
I would add how a child is taught to handle situations as they grow up goes a long way in determining how they will ultimately handle life when it doesn’t go his or her way.
Collopy wrote, “I’ve had plenty of failures. I’ve had business failures, relationship failures, legal failures and moral failures. But do you know whose fault every one of those failures was? Mine. It wasn’t the economy. It wasn’t because someone cheated me, or because of any other bad break I had along the way. It was me.”
I think we all relate to failure, just as children fail.
Collopy said to move past making excuses and to learn to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves, people should:
1.) Look forward
2.) Be conscious of your “fallback” excuses
3.) Have confidence
4.) Decide what you really want in life
5.) Stop comparing yourself to others.
In regard to No. 1, he says people often use past mistakes to justify current failures, but that’s a bad habit to get caught up in.
“Certainly, it’s important to learn from the past, but then your focus needs to be on moving forward,” said Collopy.
When we chastised (Biblical term for spanked) or put one of our grandchildren in one of today’s proverbial “timeouts,” it was done so they learned their immediate past behavior was not acceptable. We also explained why what they did was wrong, before they were disciplined.
In regard to No. 2 above, Collopy notes people often have “fallback” excuses, which serve as their go-to rationalizations when things go wrong. One might say, “I don’t have enough time” or “I don’t have enough money” or “I’m too old (or young) to do that.” The key is to put aside those excuses and seek solutions.
“You need to be aware of what your fallback excuses are. “Then you need to ask yourself how to move beyond them,” he said.
In the case of my two “almost five” grandsons, the fallback excuses were easy to identify. Ben’s was, “Connor did it.” The fallback excuse for Connor was, “Ben did it.” That happened a number of times the first two days the boys were together, but we let them just sit quietly until one of them told the truth. By the end of the week, the two boys were almost immediately admitting when they were wrong, telling us what they did wrong, and not blaming each other.
In regard to No. 3, Collopy notes it can be scary to take the leap and claim an opportunity that’s outside one’s comfort zone, but the more one does it, the more his or her confidence will grow.
For our grandsons, that played out in ways such as overcoming the fear of Jacuzzi jets in the “big bathtub”, seeing who could hold their breath the longest under water, riding “fast” on Nani’s Wave Runner with their father or their Poppie, or generally attempting anything they hadn’t attempted before, knowing we weren’t going to let something bad happen to them.
In regard to No. 4 above, Collopy notes sometimes it’s easier to see opportunities when you’re looking for them.
Now that one applies to adults, as well as children.
I know my grandchildren, regardless of age, are probably quicker at recognizing an opportunity (usually based on selfishness at their age) then I am at 59.
For the babies, the sight of their bottle at feeding time was an opportunity to seize the moment. It was the prize and nobody was going to get his or her bottle. For the boys, it was who can get to, or do something first.
No. 5 on the list definitely applies to every age.
I believe, even without saying a word, our two infant grandchildren compare themselves to each other. Seven-month-old Archie, who is about four months older than his cousin, Paige, can roll over and pump his arms and legs like the Energizer Bunny. Sweet little Paige, looks at him, smirks, and then appears to try to make similar movements, but physically can’t yet do it. However, she’ll be there soon enough.
Collopy says there’s no need to dwell on how your accomplishments measure up to others.
“That does nothing more than give you fodder for disappointment – and give you an excuse to come up with more excuses,” he says. “Overcoming the urge to make excuses is almost like beating an addiction (to anything), and it can be just as powerful. If you want to live your best life, you’ve got to start by believing you can and stop telling yourself all the reasons you can’t.”
When I look back at my life, and think about some of the things my father shared, that for some reason really stuck with me, I have to smile.
Comparing myself to others is something I never really had an issue with because of something he once told me. I can’t tell you verbatim what he said, but this is what I heard:
“Son, there will always be people who are better than you at whatever you’re doing, and people who are worse than you at whatever you’re doing. There will always be people who make more money than you, and people who make less money than you.”
My 89-year-old mother forever memorialized the fact things such as that don’t bother me. She made quilts for each of her children with squares depicting qualities she saw in each one.
The middle square in my quilt has the image of Popeye – “I y’am what I y’am.”
In case you are counting up grandkids and noticed I didn’t talk about Campbell, our three-year-old granddaughter, it’s because she has to be the most easygoing human being I’ve ever seen … unless you try to tell her what to wear. She never had to be spanked, and was sent to timeout only once. When told about her infraction – slamming the door – she isolated herself on her own, and waited until she was told she could play again. The kicker is she said, “I’m sorry for slamming the door Nani,” never did it again, knew why she shouldn’t slam the door, and then merrily went about doing whatever she was doing. Nani was laughing uncontrollably, out of sight.
Campbell’s parents need to really keep an eye on her!
The bottom line is live life folks. Try new stuff. Don’t be afraid. Don’t compare. And last but not least, quit making excuses.
Until next week, have a good week.
Mike Probst can be reached at email@example.com.