Without adequate preparation, we can be caught in the most uncomfortable and nerve-racking circumstances. All of us can probably remember sitting at our desks at school, hoping and praying the teacher would not call on us. We meant to get our homework done. We had the best intentions. But a friend called. We got to listening to music and somehow, someway, the homework was not completed. So we find ourselves nervously watching the clock, hoping to be spared just this one time.
We might even wait out the hour bargaining with God, asking if He will somehow, someway make the teacher not call our name. You promise to be prepared every day until high school graduation.
Of course, being prepared is not just a problem for students. Even adults fail to finish reports by expected deadlines, forget the necessary ingredients for the evening meal, go out without the proper clothing for the weather, and do not allow themselves the time needed to drive to an important appointment.
Of course, when we are unprepared at home or at work, the excuses we offer are often most creative. Being a professor, I am entertained every week with excuses:
— “The dog ate my homework.” (A student actually brought me her dog-chewed homework one semester for proof.)
— “I lost my head. Was that really assigned?”
— “It will never happen again, not in a million, billion years. I’ve learned my lesson.”
— “My roommate got sick and I had to take care of her.”
— “Well, nobody’s perfect.”
— “I’ll never be any different; that’s just the way I am. I’m late with everything.”
— “I guess I’ll never get it right.”
— “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” An interesting comment from a 22-year-old!
Almost all excuses are motivated by fear — fear of not doing it perfectly, fear of looking foolish, fear of mistakes, fear of losing, fear of being let down, fear of facing unworthiness, fear of getting angry, fear of failure.
So we rationalize this fear away by telling ourselves, “I won’t do this now, I’m too tired. I’ll do it tomorrow when I can make a fresh start.”
When the next morning arrives there are new excuses. “I’m not in the mood. I’ll do it this afternoon.” Or, “I really need to do something else. That project can wait.”
Come afternoon, there is some other important activity. It’s postponed till evening, when friends just happen to stop over, and everything is put off until the following morning and cycle continues.
Of course, not all excuses are always negative in nature. Sometimes our lives are interrupted by the most wonderful, positive opportunities: a party, a trip, a dinner, friends, relationships, and so on. These distractions are an important part of living. They are often filled with unexpected surprises which are the spice of life.
But when distractions arise, it is still important to ask yourself, is this distraction more important than my overall goals. Sometimes the goal of finishing a report for school, saving money to buy a new car, helping to establish a new program at your church, or preparing a portfolio for work must outweigh the distractions of the moment.
Enough said. I’ve got to get this essay submitted to the paper. It’s been such a busy week. I’m lucky to even get this column written. I wish I had more time.