Are you constantly letting yourself off the hook when it comes to your goals and dreams? Do you always come up with an excuse not to do what you say you are going to do?
So what does letting yourself off the hook mean and how do we stop doing it?
Letting yourself off the hook means not taking responsibility for yourself and your actions. It means not keeping the promises that you make to yourself. It might involve canceling important plans, breaking your promises to yourself, and not following through on your goals.
It can also include not keeping the promises you make to other people.
Mostly it’s about disappointing ourselves.
Letting yourself off the hook usually means lying to ourselves, drowning ourselves in excuses, and generally slacking off because we can’t be bothered to follow through. We fail to make an effort to do the things that we told ourselves were important to us.
While I am a strong advocate for self-compassion and self-love there are times when we definitely need to give ourselves a good (albeit kind) kick up the butt to get ourselves moving.
When it comes to our goals, plans, and dreams, it can be too easy to just let ourselves off the hook. We start believing our own excuses and we drag them out at every opportunity.
A lot of negative self-talk and emotional turmoil goes into constantly letting ourselves off the hook. When we continuously fail to follow through, we start to doubt ourselves. We lose faith in ourselves. When we disappoint ourselves over and over again, our self-confidence starts to crumble, and a vicious cycle sets in.
To break that cycle, we need to take action. We need to keep the promises we make to ourselves.
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Let’s dive into 12 ways to stop letting yourself off the hook.
1. Understand how letting yourself off the hook makes you feel
You need to understand how constantly letting yourself down makes you feel. We are often so focused on how we feel when other people let us down that we totally ignore how it feels when we disappoint ourselves. Come to think of it, a lot of the anger or resentment that we carry around that we think is bought on by other people, can be actually a rage against ourselves.
So how does letting yourself off the hook all of the time, make you feel? Do you feel sad, disappointed, angry, or frustrated at yourself? Or do you feel some other emotion? Perhaps it’s shame or guilt or something else?
You might be thinking, I’m not good enough. You might wonder why people have more self-discipline and willpower to get important things done than you. You might start thinking – What’s wrong with me?
Work out and fully understand how letting yourself off the hook makes you feel.
One other thing to look out for when it comes to your emotions is that you might start redirecting your anger or frustration at other people, so be on the lookout for that.
Deep down I know when I have let myself down. I know that I didnʼt deliver on a promise I made to myself. I feel it in the pit of my stomach. I feel unsettled and cranky but I am not really sure why.
I sometimes credit my disappointment to other people’s actions but I know it has nothing to do with them. I feel disappointed in myself when my actions and behavior are not in line with my values.
2. Know your standard letting yourself off the hook excuses
It is easy to come up with excuses for not doing what we want to do or what we know we should be doing. Each of us, often without even knowing, has a set of standard excuses that we roll out and use on a regular basis.
Here are some common excuses.
I don’t have time.
I am too tired.
I need it to be perfect.
I need to have a partner before I start.
I need everything to be right before I start.
I don’t have the money.
I can’t take the time off work.
I don’t have the time to spend with family/friends.
I can’t do it because my family won’t let me (feel free to apply the name of the family member in this one).
I can’t do that because my boss won’t allow it.
My partner won’t let me.
My parents won’t let me.
I will do it later.
I will do it next year.
I am not ready right now.
I will do it when my situation improves.
I will do it when life gets better.
I will take care of myself when things get better.
I will get help for my problems when things change.
I will stop smoking or drinking (or whatever you want to substitute here) when I don’t have any stress (yeah like that no stress part is ever going to happen!).
You will have your own spin on your excuses. Get familiar with your own excuses, so that when you whip them out you know that your mind is simply trying to trick you and you have the choice to choose some other course of action.
Our excuses can turn into habits, but thankfully we can work on our habits. This excellent habit book can help –
Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones by James Clear (This book is a massive bestseller and a life-changer so make sure you grab yourself a copy. I really loved the chapter on identity.)
3. Know WHY you are whipping out your normal excuses
The why is important. Why do we use the excuses that we do?
We tell ourselves we don’t have time to do something but then we binge watch 2 seasons of a new show on streaming. Clearly, we did have time, we just didn’t want to do whatever we said we wanted to do.
If we are being honest with ourselves, one of the key reasons we don’t follow through on things is because we don’t want to.
What is your why? What is your honest why?
There are a lot of reasons we make excuses. It could be a fear of failing (so why bother trying at all), we may be drowning in self-doubt or feeling overwhelmed. We might feel that other people will judge us for our actions.
Struggling with self-doubt? Instead of letting yourself off the hook or beating yourself up about it, take action and work on your self-doubt. An excellent course I recommend is How to Break the Habit of Self-Doubt and Build Real Confidence by Mel Robbins. This is an inspiring online course on CreativeLive. I took this course myself a while ago and I got a lot of it. You can read my course review here.
4. Know when you are lying to yourself
There are countless reasons to procrastinate and humans are pretty good at justifying their excuses. We become experts at lying to ourselves.
We get so good at it, we don’t even know we are lying to ourselves anymore.
We have to program ourselves to recognize when we are lying to ourselves.
Related post – How to Stop Lying to Yourself About Your Actions and Thoughts
5. Be honest with yourself about how important your project or goal is
Let’s be honest with ourselves here. When we really don’t want to do something there is a good chance that we won’t unless it comes with huge consequences (and even then sometimes we still don’t take action).
Often we tell ourselves something is important but when it comes down to it, it’s really not. If it was that important, we’d make time to do it.
If you really want to see something through from beginning to end, then you need to make it important to you.
You need to make it a priority.
6. Understand the promises you make to yourself are important
Some of us are great at keeping the promises we make to other people (such as our bosses, family, and friends) but not so good at honoring the promises that we make to ourselves.
I won’t lie. I am one of these people myself.
We think the promises we make to ourselves are somehow not as important as the ones we make to others. But this is not true. When we disappoint ourselves it eats away at our self-esteem. We become crushed by self-doubt because we are constantly letting ourselves down.
One of the best ways to improve our self-confidence is to keep the promises that we made to ourselves.
7. Organise your life to prioritize what’s important
Instead of rushing around trying to do all of the things, it’s important that we focus on our priorities.
The truth is we probably need to be letting ourselves off the hook for some things that aren’t important. We lose focus when we spend too much time doing things that aren’t important. Often we trick ourselves into believing that the insignificant things in our lives are important when in fact they aren’t. They are just a nice distraction from the important things that we should be doing.
Let’s face it folks, we spend a lot of time doing things that don’t matter.
What we don’t realize is that we need to organize our lives better to be able to achieve our goals.
8. Understand the consequences of your inaction
You need to understand the consequences of letting yourself off the hook and not doing what you are supposed to be doing.
Some consequences will be small. Others are massive and life-changing.
If you stop paying your mortgage, you will most likely lose your home. If you don’t turn up for work for weeks without a reason, you will lose your job.
It’s important to remember that ditching your responsibilities comes with consequences.
9. Get off the blame and punishment rollercoaster
I’m guilty of spending a lot of time on this particular ride and let me tell you, it is not a lot of fun!
To be honest, it’s a complete misery.
I have let myself off the hook and then punished myself, more times than I care to admit. It’s a vicious cycle of blame, guilt, and punishment that causes self-doubt and insecurity.
It’s a ride you can’t wait to get off.
To get off the rollercoaster, you need to be aware of your behavior in the first place. You can’t stop what you don’t even know you are doing.
Related post – How to Be More Self-Aware
10. Do the work
How do you get off the blame/guilt/punishment rollercoaster?
You do the work.
That is how we turn things around, make things happen, and stop letting ourselves off the hook. We do the work.
Not just any old work though, we need to do the important work. The stuff that matters.
This doesn’t mean that we have to try to do all the things all the time. That is not possible. There are always more things to do than we can get done, so try not to freak out about that.
Instead, focus on your priorities. Focus on the stuff that really matters to you. Remember that the stuff that really matters to you might NOT be the same as the stuff that matters to other people (such as friends and family). Your priorities (and your values) need to be your own.
Books that can help you prioritize and finish.
- Eat that Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy. I love this book, it’s a great little pocket rocket for productivity.
- Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff
- How to Finish Everything You Start: Understanding the Causes of the Unfinished Epidemic, Its Cures and When Choosing Not to Finish is Okay by Jan Yager
11. Do your best under difficult circumstances
Sometimes life gets hard and doing what we need to do can be extremely difficult.
I have experienced this firsthand myself recently. At the beginning of last year, I was diagnosed with a debilitating chronic illness. I’ve been struggling with a variety of symptoms ranging from severe fatigue, dizziness, muscle aches and pains, headaches, and brain fog so bad I found it hard to concentrate on anything.
Some days I struggled to walk around my small apartment, let alone do the work that I desperately wanted to do. I felt like I was failing at my full-time job (I was constantly taking sick leave) and I was definitely failing to create new content for this website.
For a long time, I was too sick and fatigued to do anything. At first, I went into a cycle of beating myself up for not being able to do anything. It was incredibly frustrating and a vicious cycle of not being able to work and then beating myself up about it.
Now I am being kinder on both my body and my mind and doing what I can when I can and resting when I need to.
Related post – When Life Gets Hard: 24 Important Things to Remember During Hard Times
12. Understand when you need to rest and relax
Taking time to relax and rest is important.
Life isn’t just about hustle, hustle, hustle. It’s not about always being busy for the sake of being busy.
Don’t get me wrong, there are times when we need to push ourselves. Other times we need to rest. We need to rest and recharge our batteries. We need to do the right thing for our physical and mental health.
Sometimes it’s the breaks that we take to recharge that let us get work finished. Without those breaks, we could give up, feel discouraged, or burn out.
Planned breaks can make the difference between success and failure.
Letting yourself off the hook
Anyone can talk about all of the things they are going to do (and many do) but it is the DOING that matters.
It’s taking action and seeing your goals through to completion that gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment. Letting yourself off the hook opens you up to self-doubt and criticism.
Achieving your goals and dreams makes you feel great, so roll your sleeves up and do the work.
If you enjoyed this post, please share it with your friends on social media. This post just might give someone the boost they need today! Make sure you check out the excellent range of online courses at CreativeLive.
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