I love quotes like that. However, I think I've grown to realize that excuses aren't entirely useless. They do have another function. Excuses can be helpful in pointing out where you have blind spots, crusty attitudes, or inflexibility. If you'd like to figure out what might be a limiting factor in your thinking, take a good look at the knee-jerk reactions that pop into your brain (and probably out of your mouth) when someone hits you with a new idea or concept.
Let me give you an example.
Since my upcoming book, A Month of Italy: Rediscovering the Art of Vacation is coming out in just a few days, I've been communicating a lot recently about the concept of taking time off for the purpose of intentional renewal and restoration. I've shared statistics about how few North Americans actually take vacations, especially the types of vacations that involve truly unplugging from professional responsibilities and invasive electronics. When people are confronted with this type of information, some recoil and blurt excuses. "I can't afford to take time off work," or, "I don't have the time," or any number of similar, reflexive responses. I believe reactions such as these are helpful clues people can use to unlock their thinking and take it to a whole new level.
Let's start with the first one: "I can't afford it." If this is the automatic response then perhaps it indicates an out-of-control financial situation, incorrect financial thinking, materialism, or an overstressed condition. "Genius," you might say, "of course it means those things." But here's where this gets constructive. Now it's time to ask the question "Why?" How did things get this way and how can they be fixed? After all, financial difficulties are not a fatal disease, permanent condition, inevitable, or insurmountable. And proper time off to think or restore one's vigor (and to "think one's way out of difficulty") might go a long way toward breaking out of the financial doldrums. There is also the positive, productive tension that can be gained from dreaming about something beyond one's current financial reach (such as a "dream" vacation). So the very thing some people might think holds them back from proper breaks in their life may only be overcome with the strength to be gained from doing so in the first place. In effect, some people seem to say they need the medicine so badly they cannot take it.
The second one: "I don't have the time" is perhaps even more indicative of incorrect thinking. In effect, this mindset is proclaiming that one is too busy to become more effective. "My saw is so dull that I don't have time to stop and sharpen it!" However, I do understand legitimate external constraints placed on one's time by employers and clients, and in fact, wrenching the time out of one's calendar for proper breaks is the biggest challenge of all when it comes to this concept of "rediscovering the art of vacation." Therefore, let's slice this pie up into smaller pieces.
There are different types of restorative breaks. Restoration should be viewed as part of an overall strategy in which breaks of various sizes are scheduled into your life on an intentionally periodic basis. I like to classify these breaks into four sizes: Micro, Mini, Macro, and Radical.
Micro Break: This can be anything from a few hours to a whole day off.
Mini Break: This is from a weekend to a week or so.
Macro Break: This is somewhere between one to three weeks off at a time.
Radical Sabbatical: This is a break of at least four weeks and can last up to several months or even a year.
These random delineations are made here simply to convey the idea that all vacations are not created equal, and sometimes even the simplest "staycation" (in which the participant "stays" at home and doesn't go anywhere) can be effective. It doesn't take humongous sabbaticals to recharge one's batteries all the time, especially if different sized strategic breaks are being deployed in one's life on a regular basis. However, the lure and power of a true "radical sabbatical" should not be ignored. Just because it is out of reach financially or time-wise at the moment, doesn't mean it should not be placed on the horizon as a future goal.
So excuses can be instructive, and may even lead us to discover where we can grow and change. Check your responses to the concept of properly utilizing the "art of vacation" in your own life, and ask yourself if you've been offering up obstacles to yourself instead of opportunities. Turn your mind in the direction of "how can I" instead of "why I can't". This is true in all categories of life, not just vacations, but this particular illustration is just so fun. After all, who wouldn't want to learn how to be just as productive, if not more so, while having a greater amount of fun and being more rested at the same time? That's what the art of vacation is all about, and it's why your excuses should serve as pointers to possibilities instead of prohibitions on productivity.