21 Phrases People Who Resist Taking Action Use

This train's on Indian time. What's your excuse mate?

Ahhh…you’re back for more, eh?

What’s happened since we last spoke about delay and resistance? Did you start that blog? Kick off that business? Fire your stockbroker? Un-friend the deadbeat “friends” on Facebook?

To those of you who simply say, “screw it, I’m just not going to do it right now no matter what my attorney or Vishnu says”, you’ve embraced resistance and procrastination in your life. The bigger problem is for everyone else who’s in denial about resistance.

The language of resistance.

Resistance is putting things off in your life which you need to be doing but are not, for some strong underlying reason. It’s why you don’t take the garbage out until 4:59 a.m. (1 minute before pick-up time), why you never go to your in-laws house for dinner and why you keep library books with you until you receive an ‘intent to sue’ letter from the library. It’s why you don’t go to the dentist, why you stopped going to church and why you’ll never go on a diet.

The problem with resisting action is that it’s easy to overlook the language we use to delay. We can be incredibly creative in putting off tasks. Language is one cue that can help show us how clever we are when resisting action.

While the examples I share below may be over the top, the 21 trigger phrases I suggest (they’re italicized and underlined) are phrases we may be using regularly to resist action.

Which of these phrases have you said to yourself lately?

1. I really should become an A-list actor and do a movie with Brad Pitt. (My friend, Amy, just wrote about why you need to stop ‘should-ing’ your life away.)

2. I need to give up my Wall Street job and save children in Sudan.

3. If I had enough time, I would start a business that would allow people to post photos of their faces online and then create a social media platform where they can connect with each other based on shared likes and interests.

4. If I was a millionaire, I’d hire Tim Brownson to move into my guest house and be my life coach and spiritual advisor.

5. If I only could wake up in the mornings meditate, I could find inner peace and reach enlightenment by the end of the year.

6. I could run a triathlon if I really wanted; I’d do 3 a year and probably set some world records.

7. I’d like to travel to France, climb the Eiffel tower, walk over to the Pierce Brosnan-looking businessman staring out into the streets of Paris and tell him that we were destined to be with each other.

8. If God had wanted it, I’d have a house golf-course side in Palm Springs too.

9. When I meet the right agent, publisher and editor, I should be able to start writing my New York Times best seller.

10. If I had gone to school for that, I would have probably dropped out of Harvard and started Microsoft in a garage.

11. Once the housing market rebounds, I’m going to save up a little bit of money to buy a couple rental properties in the Florida Keys.

12. I need to stop working until 9 p.m every night and see my 2 year-old twins a couple nights a week.

13. One day, I’m going to start eating vegetables, lose 100 pounds and audition to be the guy who replaces Jared on those Subway commercials.

14. I love the idea of going into work at the post office, telling my boss to ‘stuff it’ and start that around the world overnight delivery service I’ve always dreamed of. (Actually, I know a blogger who did just that, with some slight variations of course). Milo said goodbye to the civil service, gave them plenty of notice about his departure and now is a full-time freelance copywriter. He didn’t just love the idea but he made it happen!)

15. I must forgive my third grade teacher for beating me in class every week when I was growing up and I must stop casting spells on her via this voodoo doll I had shipped over from the Caribbean islands.

16. I’m going to stop partying every week night til 2 a.m. at the clubs, spending my hard-earned money on booze and late night Denny’s runs.

17. When the new year rolls around, I’m going to stop smoking, turn vegan, drink organic water, cut out carbs, move out of my Mom’s basement, go up and see my Mom weekly and get a job!

18. If I knew people, I’d be in the U.S. Senate too and would have been Vice President by now instead of that Joe Biden guy.

19. My dream is to quit this waitressing gig in my hometown of Otis, Kansas and perform those country western songs I sing around the campfire to a live audience. (What if your dream was to quit your job, move to Japan and become a ninja? Yeah, I know someone who did that.)

20. Once the kids are grown, I’m going to give up my career as a trucker and really get serious about raising goats and selling them.

21. I would like to travel the world and teach people languages when I retire in 20 years. (One globe-trotter who didn’t wait 20 years and is teaching languages while she travels is my friend, Maria. If you want to learn Spanish online, she’s a Skype call away.)

We can’t knock out resistance in our lives unless we learn to identify the language we use to resist. That was my stab at common resistance phrases I’m familiar with and hell, may have even used at different points in my life.

Did I miss any? What words or phrases do you use to resist taking action in your own life? Let me know in the comments below. 

By the way, do you love goats? If you do, check out what rush hour looks like on the Costa Rican farm that I’m living at, Morning Rush Hour on the Farm. Also, check out a recent guest post I did on Bjorn’s blog, Culture Mutt.

* Photo by Passetti




  1. Yo Vishnu,

    I could choose about 8 different phrases to respond to. I’m going to pick the one that really fires me up 🙂

    “If God had wanted it…”

    I have a lot of religious friends who often say “I have to pray on it…” But then they don’t ever do anything about it. I don’t think there is anything wrong with praying but when it gets utilized as a crutch there is something wrong with it.

    To me, faith is about taking action. If all I do is sit around and pray, this doesn’t show any faith or trust in God at all. It merely shows I know how to sit in a house and pray. But when I take action this is showing faith, as I am trusting God to work with me in my life.

    1. hey Izzy, I hear you on the “pray on it” or I”ll let God decide phrase. Faith is absolutely about taking action. God can only help you if you do something!

      I think moving to Japan to train to become a ninja is taking action! I’m praying for you. Actually, I’m praying that we will not have any encounters whatsoever and I will live a peaceful life without encountering ninjas.

      Thanks for dropping by!

  2. Thanks for the mention Vishnu. It’s early days yet in terms of proclaiming myself a successful full time copywriter, but things are going pretty well so far.

    Oh, and I think I’ve used all 21 of those excuses at one point or another..

    1. Milo, you are almost there. And you took massive action to get there, no? You’re not saying it sounds like a good idea…you’re actively working towards your goals.

      I hope you used all 21 excuses for different projects or life events, not the same one. lol

      1. I have the record of most excuses ever given to Tim Brownson in a single lifecoaching session. If you think you’ve heard him swear before you should have heard him on that call!

  3. Hi Vishnu,

    Our self-talk can affect us on so many levels. And when it comes to procrastinating, we may even justify our actions without even realizing it.

    I think you have compiled a great list of excuses that people use to resist taking action.

    I really should is a phrase I use often. Like I really should stop playing my grand strategy games and get some work done like 2 hours ago haha! Or I really should stop watching so much cartoons. Don’t think I will be able to stop watching cartoons or anime though. 😛

    Thank you for sharing this lovely article!

    Irving the Vizier

    1. hi Vizier – we’ve heard these excuses or various forms of them throughout our lives. We each use a lot of them too and even more phrases to avoid taking action. Resistance comes in many forms, especially in the language we use.

      Should is one of those words – whenever anyone says the word should, they’re not going to get to it for awhile. But in your case, cartoons and anime are vital for life. So you should continue to watch them:)

  4. Great way to identify resistance! I know at times I’ve not seen my own resistance – I’d see something in the way, but not recognize it as resistance and something I could move through.

    When it’s written this clearly, it’s easier to see the words one might say – and from there, change can happen 🙂

    1. Thanks Aileen. These are just a handful of phrases – there’s so many others we come up with to delay taking action.. But you’re completely right – acknowledging the resistance is the first step to changing our behavior. And you know what else? We need courage sometimes (or a lot of times) to overcome the resistance in our lives because we may be fearing taking action:)

    1. Hey Wendy – i actually cannot believe that? Any recommendations of where to buy voodoo dolls from? lol

  5. “I wish….”
    “If only….”

    He he he. There was a time I used to say laziness was my excuse, but truth is, I am not lazy at all. I love pressure because I generate it from within. I love my overflowing to do list.

    My unintentional resistance is ….sigh….. I do want to finish my book. I wrote the draft in thirty days. And now I am sitting on it. Not literally.

    🙂 Love the post!

    1. Thanks Vidya – forgot about those 2. I can probably create a list of 50 excuses I think with these ideas I’m getting from everyone:)

      I think I tend to resist certain actions for many other reasons, not just laziness. Maybe a follow up post on why we actually resist taking action sometimes.

      Please finish your book – the world is waiting to receive it!!

  6. Hey Vishnu,

    Great post and I have to admit I have used most of the above 🙁

    The one I have used most has to be “I can’t do that until …”

    Trying to overplan everything and get it perfect is another resistance mechanism I use leading to “when I have all the details sorted I will …”

    But on a very positive note I have actually started setting up my blog and expect to publish my first ever article within the next 3 weeks. I have spent all the money now so no excuses. Previously I would not have splashed the cash because everything wasn’t ready so I am quite proud of myself, lol. Slowly breaking the resistance 😉

  7. Keith, thanks so much for visiting and your comments! We’ve all used these excuses and more. You just gave me another one to add for a future post of excuses:)

    I’m so glad to hear you’ll be blogging soon. Can’t wait to see your blog. Spending money or having made commitments to a project (and even telling the public about it like you have now) can help hold us accountable and help us break through the resistance.

    You said 3 weeks right? I’ll mark the calendar:)

  8. Thank you for an amusing and enlightening post. I have become aware of most of these traps of resistance, and I am careful not to use them in talking to myself most of the time. You had a few in your list that I had not thought of before.

    I find that it is a fine line between not resisting or being hard on myself and staying motivated, persistent, and focused. It is always a precarious balancing act for me.

  9. Hi Vishnu,

    It is interesting to wonder what is behind all of our resistance to life. I can procrastinate and resist and find a deadline helps me get moving. I just find I work better under pressure, even if it is internal pressure. If we write down our goals and plan, it seems to be easier to see them come true. Letting go of our fear helps as well.. Thanks for another great post!

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