How Powerful are Rationalizations?

articles Mar 25, 2020

Do you have a sink full of dishes or several piles of laundry? Do you have an excellent idea for a book but just can’t get started? Is there a big garden or house project that you have been meaning to do, but you “never have the time?”

More than likely, you’re using a combination of procrastination and rationalizations to avoid getting things done.

“But, I just don’t have the time!” “I have so much to do!” “You don’t know my life!”

Dear reader, I guarantee that you do have time. I promise that, even though you may have things to do, you hold some responsibility in your perceived lack of opportunities to be productive.

Worry not! We can overcome rationalization and procrastination, and we need to be able to identify what they are and put steps into place to help us stay out of our own way.

What Are Rationalizations?

When we are avoiding something, we tend to rationalize, meaning that we come up with excuses not to do something. We try to justify our behavior with logical or ethical reasoning that may or may not be truthful.

For example, two quarreling children may rationalize pushing each other because “he started it first!” or “she made me do it!” Coworkers may try to pass off blame to another by saying, “Well, I was just doing what I was told.” In some situations, yes, these things are real. You may genuinely not have a choice when it comes to following instructions at work, or perhaps your childhood friend did just decide to push you, and you were defending yourself.

However, we run into an issue when we are consistently excusing our behavior or pushing the blame on others or things that aren’t actually outside of our control. We may not even think that we are rationalizing anything; we may completely believe our little white lies. Our rationalizations don’t just stand in the way of our goals and responsibilities; they can even stand in the way of our own honesty.

Excuse vs Reason: What Is The Difference?

As stated before, sometimes there are things outside of your control. However, how do we tell the difference between a legitimate reason and an excuse/rationalization?

There are sometimes real, logical reasons why we can’t do anything. You can’t edit an article if it was never sent to you. You can’t check your email if the internet is down. You can’t finish dinner if your child just started throwing up. There are times in life where it is very little we can do to change our circumstances. However, rationalization, or making excuses, is entirely different and many times very sneaky.

Rationalizing usually pops up when we are feeling tired, outside of our comfort zone, or just plain old lazy. Our lizard brain says, “But I don’t wanna,” and then you listen to it and try to find ways to avoid doing “the thing.” We all do this from time to time, it is human nature, and I myself am not immune to the ever-seductive couch, chips, and Netflix binge. However, rationalization can get in the way of you doing the most important or most enjoyable things in your life. You could find yourself five years down the road, still on the couch, and not enjoying the fruit of your labors.

When you are making an excuse as to why you didn’t do or aren’t doing something, take a good, hard look at your logic. Then, identify flaws in your thought process and call yourself out or have a trusted, no-nonsense friend help you. Then, make a commitment to make a change. If there are things that were out of your control, take a look at how you could have acted differently, or create an action plan of how to avoid being in that situation again.

Calling Out Our Favorite Rationalizations

Let’s take a look at a few common rationalizations, shall we?

I can do it later.

Or you could do it now and then it will be done?

I need to do this thing—emails, laundry, dishes, etc.—first.

Perhaps, you don’t. Or, it would help if you also stopped procrastinating those things as well?

There isn’t enough time in the day.

How much time did you spend scrolling on your phone or watching Netflix? Yeah, you likely have time.

I am doing what I was told to do by someone else.

Did you challenge it? Did you see a different solution? If so, did you speak up? Are you just trying to throw someone else under the bus? Stop denying responsibility for your actions.

I’m too exhausted.

Self-care is essential, but if you had enough energy to mess around online or to do other non-essential things, you can muster up enough energy to do this.

It’s hard to get started and/or I don’t know-how.

Life is full of hard things, but if you start now, it will be even easier to continue tomorrow. If you don’t know-how, you can learn how; there are plenty of free online resources of which you can take advantage.

I will look stupid/I’m scared.

Sure, maybe you will mess up, but that is part of the learning process and you need to learn how to laugh at yourself. If you’re scared, take a small step forward day by day, and you will see that there really isn’t anything to be afraid of. YOU CAN DO IT!

Stop Denying Your Responsibility and Get to Work!

Changing your procrastination and rationalization habits will be difficult, especially if you’ve been doing it for a long while. The brain tends to try to stick to a routine and stay within its comfort zone. But we can take control of anxiety, fear, and procrastination. When we call ourselves out on our BS, practice better ethical reasoning, and avoid making those mistakes again, we can make actual and real changes.


You got this.

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