The Attitude-Behavior Gap: Sorting Excuses

No matter which good change we are currently resisting in our lives, we always have two types of excuses: the respectable excuses, and the real ones. Simply put, the respectable excuses are the ones we say out loud, and the real excuses are the ones we have trouble admitting even to ourselves.

For example, I have a very hard time self-motivating to exercise. I will allow whole weeks to go by without doing so much as a jumping jack. (Until recently anyway!) When I speak with friends who are great about regular exercise, I find myself saying things like “I would, but I just never have the time!” or “I will when the weather gets nicer.” or “My asthma is really sensitive, so I have to be careful not to overdue it.” All of these things may have truth to them, but they are all respectable excuses. They are the kind of excuses that get sympathetic passes from my nicer friends. Even worse, these excuses elicit comradeship and affirmation from my friends who use the same reasons not to work out themselves.

My real excuses required a lot of digging to unearth, and let me tell you, they were ugly. When I pushed past the canned reasons and began honestly asking myself why I don’t work out, this is what I found: I don’t value my life and well-being more than I value a little extra time on Facebook. Put another way, I’d rather die young and fat than make myself do yoga every day.

Ouch. Told you it wasn’t pretty.

The trick to change lies in sorting the legitimate excuses from the illegitimate ones. This process requires some very intense honesty, and a bit of perseverance. Here was my train of thought re: exercise:

Me: I should work out.

Me: Nope.

Me: I would be healthier if I worked out.

Me: I don’t have time.

Me: You’re on Tumblr. You have the time.

Me: It’s too cold to run outside.

Me: Work out indoors.

Me: I don’t know any good indoor workouts.

Me: You have a laptop. Google it.

Me: I don’t want to trigger my asthma and be miserable all night.

Me: Find something low-intensity.

Me: I don’t want to.

Me: You won’t be healthy if you don’t.

Me: I know.

Me: Your life expectancy will be short.

Me: Probably.

Me: So you’re okay with that?

Me: In theory, as long as I don’t have to get out of this chair, yes. I am okay with that.

Me: … Be an adult, you whiny brat.

Me: Okay, okay, that’s terrible. I’ll work out.

See? Like a well-oiled machine. 😉

Seriously though, we all know when our excuses won’t really hold water. Most of us see it coming and bury our heads in the sand to keep from having to deal with it. But real change will not occur until we can be honest with ourselves. As we explore the four major reasons for the attitude-behavior gap, keep this in mind: before we can change our behavior, we have to change our minds. For me, this requires the understanding that if I want to live long enough (and have the ability to) see and do everything I want to, I have to sacrifice 20 minutes of my precious sitting-around time to do it.

What about you? Have you ever found yourself resisting good change? If so, why? (no really, why?)


8 thoughts on “The Attitude-Behavior Gap: Sorting Excuses

  1. Spot on! A lot of us don’t dig deep enough of to find those real reasons for putting off something that we know we should be doing. Fortunately, all we need are 20 minutes and we’ll be on our way!

  2. This totally reminds me of something I read on The Minimalists a while back:

    Actually, now that I think about it they’re totally talking about the attitude-behavior gap as well! I definitely noticed I used to say “I don’t have time” a lot, but realistically if something is truly important, then you can make time. For example, my work offers free lunchtime yoga classes on Tuesday and Thursday, but I was always “too busy” to go. Lately however, I’ve rearranged my workdays to accommodate that one hour of mental and physical bliss and it’s benefited me in more ways than I thought possible.

    • Oh, I’ll check that out! I love those guys.
      I’m so glad you’ve overcome your excuses for not going to yoga. Isn’t it wonderful how, when we finally push ourselves to start positive change, we find the momentum carries itself? 🙂

  3. I resist a lot good things in my life for 2 reasons: lack of self-confidence and laziness. And the fact that i am conscious about these 2 silly reasons does not help much 🙂

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