There’s a difference between excuses and choices and it’s in where the responsibility lands. An excuse explains to someone why the person is acting or not acting the way they are and places the responsibility on someone or something else.  A choice explains to someone why they made a decision to act one way or another and acknowledges that there are other options that were available although it may or may not explain why those other options were not selected. An excuse usually works to arrange the facts so that it seems as if there are/were no other choices available and the person was simply doing the only thing possible.

The details of a situation can remain completely the same, but the explanation for the actions and outcome tell you whether someone is making a choice or an excuse.  An excuse may be actions that are completely rational, logical, and in the end the best case scenario based on the facts of the situation, but making them into an excuse removes the responsibility from the actor and places it elsewhere.  The person making the excuse wants things to seem as if they are inevitable like gravity, that they are simply doing what is completely necessary and that their actions are obvious and also should go unquestioned, if possible.  A choice may include the exact same actions, but instead of placing the responsibility on the situation, the other people involved, or on cultural factors or any other piece of the puzzle, it admits to and welcomes the responsibility for the short/medium/long term effects and ramifications of the actions taken.

One example is in how to quit a job.  The facts of the situation may be that there is a difficult work environment.  Raises are low or non-existent, the work is stressful, management and coworkers are not respectful, the workplace is “substandard” (sleazy with broken furniture, old equipment, wires dangling from the walls, and bathrooms so abused they can never really be clean again without being gutted), all of which make working difficult for regular employees and so an employee quits.  These are the facts.  They are the same whether or not the employee has chosen to quit or makes an excuse for quitting.  The difference is in where the employee chooses to place the responsibility.  They can excuse why they quit by pointing to all the negatives of the job.  It’s doubtful that anyone would fault them because, ewwww.  But the excuse places all the responsibility on the job and makes things seem as if quitting was inevitable and just something the person had to do.  It makes it seem as if the company was responsible for the person’s actions when they were not.  On the other hand they can explain why they chose to quit, citing all the facts, which are true, but being responsible for their actions.  Maybe they quit because they found a better workplace.  Maybe they quit because they valued their mental health more than the wage and are going to do something else entirely.  Maybe they found an alternative to working by talking with their significant other or family or friends and so taking their life in a more positive direction.  Both of these responses are based on the facts.

Are there opportunities in your life for you to choose rather than excuse?  Can you feel the difference?