Excuses are nearly always given as a REASON for inaction. Complaints are just moans and groans; they rarely stop people getting on with things after they have had their moan.
There are other little ways of spotting an excuse, either in yourself or someone else; for example, key expressions often give away excuses. Expressions like:
• "If only ..."
• "It's all very well but..."
• "I could never do that."
• "It's all right for you..."
A person uses an excuse to justify why they HAVEN'T done something. If they just outline their problems without using it to justify their inaction, then it is probably not an excuse, just a moan.
For example: "This weather plays havoc with my arthritis," is just a moan, but: "What's the point in taking a holiday in this country when the weather is so awful!", is definitely an excuse.
There is an acid test of an excuse: If someone demolishes the excuse, is another one immediately offered in its place?
This is a cast iron test of excuse-itis, caused by lack of belief. For example, here is an imaginary conversation with ARTHUR:
ARTHUR: "I've always wanted to go to Disneyland, but I can't afford it."
ME: "That's amazing! Just this morning I was given an 'all expenses paid' holiday to Disneyland because I met my sales target. I'm booked up for a holiday already, so why don't you go in my place? I owe you a big favour anyway."
ARTHUR: "Really? Thanks a million. I'll go!"
In this example, Arthur was not using excuses to maintain a FALSE CEILING. He saw an opportunity and seized it. However, supposing the conversation had gone differently and he had responded to my offer as follows:
ARTHUR: "Wow! I'd love to go but I get really scared in aeroplanes; it's a real phobia."
ME: "It's your lucky day! This is a sea cruise taking in the sights of New York, then traveling by Greyhound bus to Disneyland."
ARTHUR: "A sea cruise? Hey, won't that mean that I have to be away for over a month? I couldn't do that!"
ME: "Sure you could! What's stopping you?"
ARTHUR: "What about work? I couldn't take all that time off."
ME: "I'm your boss. Take a month off, you've earned it."
ARTHUR: "Well you see I have this collection of rare snakes which have to be fed every day. I couldn't leave them."
ME: "Snakes? Hey, wow, I love snakes. Do you think I could feed them for you?"
ARTHUR: "But I'm expecting an offer any day from my agent, I'd hate to be out the country when that call came through."
ME: "O.k. Get him to call you at your hotel."
ME: "Him; her; what's the difference?"
ARTHUR: "It's a great offer. Look, I'll think it over and let you know tomorrow."