Video: For Habits, the Strategy of Loophole-Spotting.

I’m doing a video series in which I discuss the various strategies that we can use for habit-formation.

Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life, and a significant element of happiness. If we have habits that work for us, we’re much more likely to be happy, healthy, productive, and creative.

My forthcoming book, Better Than Before, describes the multiple strategies we can exploit to change our habits. To pre-order, click here. (Pre-orders give a real boost to a book, so if you’re inclined to buy the book, I’d really appreciate it if you pre-order it.)

Today, I’m talking about the Strategy of Loophole-Spotting.

I have to say, this was my favorite chapter. The loopholes are so funny.


If you want to read more about a particular category of loophole, look here:

1. False choice loophole “I can’t do this, because I’m so busy doing that” – this is one I often use, myself

2. Moral licensing loophole  — “I’ve been so good, it’s okay for me to do this”

3. Tomorrow loophole — “It’s okay to skip today, because I’m going to do this tomorrow”

4. Lack of control loophole — “I can’t help myself”

5. Planning to fail loophole, formerly known as the “Apparently irrelevant decision loophole”

6. “This doesn’t count” loophole – “I’m on vacation” “I’m sick” “It’s the weekend”

7. Questionable assumption loophole

8. Concern for others loophole — “I can’t do this because it might make other people uncomfortable”

9. Fake self-actualization loophole – “You only live once! Embrace the moment!”

10. One-coin loophole“What difference does it make if I break my habit this one time?”

If you’re curious about the book I mention, The Boy Castaways of Black Lake Island, I write about it here.

What’s your favorite loophole?

  • Carol White

    1. Can’t wait for the book!
    2. Can’t wait for the Llewyen’s Edge book. 2010 was before I “knew” you. What’s the update on us getting to share it with you?
    3. Yes, I’m a list-maker. 🙂

    • gretchenrubin


      Thanks so much for your interest…alas, that book won’t be published. Too bad!

  • SingleRose

    My BIGGEST excuse is exercising. Do I want to sleep in? Or do my morning workout? My mind keeps nagging me, get up! get up! But my body won’t budge. I work pretty late so the only time I can and prefer to workout is in the morning. Also, I like to relax when I wake up like checking my emails, watch the news, blogging, and reading The Happiness Project post of the day 🙂 I REALLY need to get back into my workout routine.

  • Megan

    Really enjoyed the extra long video today, Gretchen; especially one you seemed so enthusiatic about! Keep’em coming! 🙂

    I think I’m guilty of the Concerns for Other People Loophole. I’ve been on a very bad kick of making desserts “for my kids”, but then I end up eating 3/4 of whatever it is while they’re at school! If I’m honest with myself, I make the treats for me. I should make the treats on the weekend, when I’m more accountable for my nibbling. 🙂

  • My Peace Of Food

    I love the language of this, Gretchen. Calling it a loophole rather than an excuse. When you change the language you use, you can change the way you think about something and eliminate the guilt/negative emotions during those times when you’re tempted to cave, or you do cave. It’s a loophole. Almost sounds political. Let’s not get political! 😉

  • Sarah

    Gretchen, I LOVE that couch.

    Also, I have, embarrassingly, used ALL of these loopholes. I’m pretty good with some things, but one thing I seem to always use one or more of these for is healthy eating. I will eat healthy and use that excuse for eating a donut that a coworker brought for work or something. So it’s the moral licensing loophole.

  • Emily

    Hi Gretchen, Your one coin loophole made me think of this quote from Annie Dillard:
    “There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet. Who would call a day spent reading a good day? But a life spent reading — that is a good life.”
    I love your work – thank you!

  • Pingback: 5 Tips for Not Over-Spending — on Black Friday, or Any Other Time « Positively Positive()