Video: “I Travel All the Time,” and the Lack-of-Control Loophole for Habits.

In my latest (bestselling) book, Better Than Before, I identify the twenty-one strategies of habit-formation, and one is the Strategy of Loophole-Spotting.

I’m doing a video series in which I discuss the ten categories of loopholes. I love studying loopholes, because they’re so funny. And ingenious! We’re such great advocates for ourselves — in any situation, we can always think of some loophole to invoke.

What is a “loophole?”

When we try to form and keep habits, we often search for loopholes, for justifications that will excuse us from keeping this particular habit in this particular situation. However, if we catch ourselves in the act of loophole-seeking, we can perhaps reject them.

In Better Than Before, I describe all ten categories of loopholes; in this video series. I’ll describe them, one by one.

Seventh of ten loopholes: Lack of Control loophole.

This is a very popular loophole. We argue that we don’t have control over the situation, and circumstances have forced us to break a habit. However, usually we have more control than we admit.


Lack of Control Loophole Examples

The dog ate my homework.

Alcoholics can quit drinking, and smokers can quit smoking, but I can’t quit eating. (I can’t quit eating, but I can quit eating sugar, or grains, or processed food.)

I’m too stressed to deal with this now.

I travel all the time.

The subway always makes me late.

This snack has been specially engineered by the food industry to be irresistible.

My favorite trainer quit.

My kids take up all my time.

The church’s annual Fathers’ Day Breakfast has always been all-you-can-eat.

We opened a bottle of wine, so we have to finish it.

Do you ever find yourself invoking the Lack of Control loophole? It’s super-sneaky, in my experience. Very easy to invoke without even realizing it.

Did you notice that in the video, my example of the “irresistible food” is Froot Loops? Get the joke?

  • Video looks very professional, thanks for sharing:)

  • Agnes

    It seems like you might want to think about the difference between making a habit, and keeping a resolution. Part of the idea with habits, as you’ve said, it that you don’t have to decide about them. By making them (semi)-automatic, you avoid having to make decisions, and then are less likely to rationalize doing what you’re trying not to do, or vice versa. But if you are in a very different situation than normal, by definition your actions can’t be habitual – you are deciding to do or not do them. If you get in the habit of going to the gym daily, then need to travel, you may still find a way to exercise – but it won’t be your habit, it will be a conscious decision. You have to find the hotel gym or know whether it’s safe to jog there, or whatever. You may keep your resolution to exercise, but it won’t be a habit.

    This is equally true for very mundane habits – if you forgot to pack your toothbrush and you get to the hotel at midnight and you don’t know the area well and the hotel doesn’t have those courtesy packs, brushing your teeth that night is NOT habitual. You may choose to do it or not, but it is not part of your habit.

    • MaggieRose59

      This is great! Wise words Agnes. Because I think most habits (at least the ones we find less pleasant) start out as resolutions and as we continue to make the decision in their favor they eventually become a habit. Then we don’t think about them any more.

  • What about the lack of control in relationship loopholes? Maybe it’s a good question for your podcast, Thanks Gretchen