Winners Don’t Make Excuses

By Dr. Ben Lerner

If you’re not as healthy as you’d like, don’t blame the environment or other factors. Learn how to take responsibility for your own health by reading below.

Definition of Success: “Optimal well-being, satisfaction, and prosperity in the areas of relationships, finances, health, and congruency with purpose.”

In the cult classic movie Blues Brothers, John Belushi runs into a woman he left at the altar (Carrie Fisher/Princess Leia) who’s got a gun to his head and wants to shoot him for ruining her life.  His excuse, “It wasn’t my fault – I had a flat tire, there was a storm, a terrible flood, bees, and locust, IT WASN’T MY FAULT!”  The worst part- she buys it.

My freshmen year in high school I started on the wrestling team, but sadly lost my first few matches. Each time, I had a very, very good “reason” why I’d lost until finally, my best friend and the best wrestler on the team said, “Those are just a bunch of excuses!” My reply, of course, was, “Those aren’t excuses, they’re really what happened.”  He answered, “I know, that’s what an excuse is.”

Years later, I was late to a 7 am winter wrestling practice when I was going to college in Albany, NY.  The drifts were 6 feet high and had buried the car we were taking. When we walked into the wrestling room the coach told us we had to start doing stair sprints as punishment for being late. Defending myself I yelled, “But coach, it took us half an hour to unbury our car!” (everything after “But” is always an excuse by the way –although no one likes to hear that fact.) His reply, “Winners don’t make excuses. . .you should’ve gotten started earlier.”

Next to what I’ve learned in the Bible, these were the 2 greatest life lessons I ever received. The bottom line is, if you want to be a success, you’ve got to develop the ability to make it happen without excuses. Win or lose – it’s under your control.

I didn’t like this philosophy being shoved into my face at the time, but they were right. I’ve never met anyone with an easy, overnight success story. Nearly all of those that have accomplished the things we all want in life managed to make it happen in spite of, and not because of, the environment they experienced.  They all have had to deal with 10 foot swells, turbulence, hurricanes, high winds, parched ground, and 6 foot high snow drifts.

The fact is, age, physical limitations, cases of bad luck, genetic shortcomings, crazy kids, hectic schedules, tough classes, bad bosses, ex-spouses, impolite neighbors, injustice, snow, traffic, headaches, the U.S. President, and the economy are only excuses if you’ve ever used them to explain why you haven’t “succeeded” in some critical area of your life. In my clinic, I hear several times a day, “I couldn’t make my appointment because (insert reason here).  The truth is, when it comes to your health, you don’t have any other options. Disease accepts no excuses and health seeks only results! If you stay well or get sick it’s under your control. Only 2% of disease is due to a single-gene or “genetic” issue and the rest is lifestyle.

The people who get cancer and get well say things like;  “I’m taking responsibility for my future” or “I’m going to take control of my lifestyle.” or  “I’m going to live.” Again, do people like to hear this – NO!  Neither did I.  Someone will inevitably e-mail me today and angrily say that I’m wrong and don’t understand their situation or particular health problem–that, as John Belushi said, “It wasn’t my fault!”  I know it makes people think they feel better to be a victim, but life can only get better when you take responsibility…as hard as that sometimes is to swallow.

I recently found of out that a former patient who’s now in his fifties and dying of cancer in the hospital. I really, really liked him so I specifically remembered 9 years ago when he told me he no longer wanted to take the time for his health so he was discontinuing care. I doubt he’s blaming that decision on his situation. I’ve been told, he’s not putting up much of a fight.

Refuse to allow your environment to determine your outcomes and take full responsibility. If you want anything of substance to come into your life, you’ve got to decide at some point to never use outside circumstances as the “reason” or excuse for why something is or isn’t happening because winners never do this. Take responsibility, fight, and do what it takes to live and be a success.

One ship sails east and another sails west
With the self-same winds that blow.
Tis the set of the sail and not the gale
Which determines the way they go.
As the winds of the sea are the ways of fate
As we voyage along through life,
Tis the act of the soul that determines the goal,
And not the calm or the strife. – Ella Wheeler Wilcox