Video: “What’s One Cupcake?” and the One-Coin Loophole.

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’ve described them, one by one.

The final loophole: The one-coin loophole. This is a very dangerous loophole, because it always applies, and it’s always true! Beware!


I haven’t worked on that project for such a long time, there’s no point in working on it this morning.


One beer won’t make a difference.


What difference does it make if I spend this afternoon at the library or at a video arcade?


Why work on my report today, when the deadline is so far away?


Why should I bother to wear my bike helmet today?

If you want to know why it’s called the “one-coin loophole,” I explain in the video. Here’s the book I mention: a footnote in Erasmus’s Praise of Folly.

Do you find yourself invoking this all-too-applicable loophole? In what context?

It’s dangerous because it’s true.

  • Dianne Ochiltree

    My ‘cupcake’ loophole right now is “just one quick look at my email and Face Book” before I get down to my writing work. Oh boy, that quick look quickly morphs into 30 minutes. ;o) So now I have a schedule of four times each day in which I am allowing myself to do these things. It’s necessary to stay in the loop but the loophole is pulling me into far less productive territory too often.

  • MaggieRose59

    Please get Barnaby to a groomer soon before it becomes his worst nightmare. No loopholes allowed! “Oh, but he’s just a baby, plenty of time for that”. “Oh, but he looks so cute all shaggy and unkempt.” “Oh, but we groom him at home”. In thirty years of grooming I’ve heard that one a lot. Usually right before I shave all their hair off because it’s too matted to brush out!

  • Morgan

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  • Kristina

    Hi Gretchen! I am currently finishing up my PhD thesis (well, should be) and this rang so true to me – I almost felt “caught” since you used the exact scenario that applies to me right now. Wow. Thank you! I am definitely working on it! Your concept of “power hour” and the “one-minute-rule” have already helped in so many small ways in my everyday life – thank you!

  • This is amazing. i just started to get off the couch and do life and the one coin idea has been my struggle. This was so inspiring and the slice of perspective I needed to keep my mojo. First time at your blog I love it and the especially the videos.!readus/chq7

  • Thank you Gretchen for this awesome piece. You are so on point. i love the use of the “one coin loophole because it makes it real. I know for me it is to focus on repetition. I keep telling myself that one more time each time will make me better or move me closer to my goal and it does. This is a great post. Thanks again