Tag Archives: Strategy of Loophole-Spotting

Want to Eat Healthier at the Thanksgiving Feast? Watch Out for These 10 Types of Loopholes.

As I was working on Better Than Before, I enjoyed writing every single chapter. In the book, I identify the 21 strategies we can use to make or break our habits, and each strategy is powerful and fascinating to study.

But I have to admit, I particularly enjoyed writing the chapter on the Strategy of Loophole-Spotting, because the loopholes are so ingenious and so funny. I loved spotting and collecting loopholes.

Now, why should we worry about loophole-spotting? Because when we try to form and keep habits, we often search for loopholes, to justify breaking a good habit.

However, if we spot these  loopholes, we can  reject them.

Holidays are a time when many of us face challenges to the good habits we want to maintain — and because holidays tend to involve lots of food and drink, those habits need special attention at that time.

To help you recognize loopholes you might be invoking, here’s a list of some popular ones that are often heard around Thanksgiving:

1. False choice loophole

“I can’t do this, because I’m so busy doing that.” “I can’t go for my usual 20 minute walk, because I have to get ready for guests.”

2. Moral licensing loophole 

“I’ve been so good, it’s okay for me to do this.” “I’ve been eating so healthfully, it’s okay for me to eat anything I want today.” Or conversely…

3. Tomorrow loophole

“It’s okay to skip today, because I’m going to do this tomorrow.” “It’s okay for me to drink as much as I want today, because starting tomorrow, I’m not going to drink for six months.”

4. Lack of control loophole

“I can’t help myself.” “A considerate host wouldn’t have served something so tempting.”

5. Planning to fail loophole

“I’ll just stand here right next to the dessert table, because the other room is so crowded.”

6. “This doesn’t count” loophole

“It’s Thanksgiving!” “We’re out of town!”

7. Questionable assumption loophole

“These cookies are healthy. Look, they’re gluten-free.”

8. Concern for others loophole

“If I don’t drink wine with dinner, other people will feel uncomfortable.” “I have to eat seconds and thirds of everything, or my host will feel insulted.”

9. Fake self-actualization loophole

“You only live once!” “I have to do this now, or miss out forever.”

10. One-coin loophole

“What difference will one meal make, over the course of a lifetime?”

Of course, sometimes we do want to break a habit—say, as part of a celebration. A very effective safeguard for that situation is the planned exception, which protects us against impulsive decisions. We decide in advance how we want to behave.

We’re adults, we make the rules for ourselves, and we can mindfully choose to make an exception to a usual habit by planning that exception in advance. That’s different from saying, “Yay, this loophole means that I can break my habit, I’m off the hook.” We’re never off the hook. Everything counts.

One good question is to ask yourself, “How will I feel about this later? Will I think, ‘I’m really glad I had a piece of my grandmother’s famous pie. I only get that once a year, and I’d hate to miss it.’ Or will I think, ‘Shoot, I’d been on such a roll at cutting out sugar, and I blew it to eat a piece of my grandmother’s pie, which I don’t even like.’”

What are some of your favorite loopholes?

#1 is my personal favorite. Have you found any good ways to avoid invoking them?

Better Than Before includes many more examples of loopholes, and how to avoid using them. Gosh they’re funny. To learn more about Better Than Before, you can…

Podcast 56: Schedule Time to Worry, Beware of Loopholes, and Dealing with a Troublesome Writers’ Accountability Group.

It’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

Update: Elizabeth is with me in the studio, because she’s in New York City shooting a TV pilot. So glamorous! But she’s so busy, I hardly get to see her.

In less exciting news, Jamie and I have a new duvet cover. (Note, when I took this photo, we were one decorative pillowcase short, now we’ve fixed that, too. Victory.) If you missed the kerfuffle related to the duvet cover, listen to episode 52.
duvetcover

Try This at Home: Schedule time to worry.  See above for Johnny Cash’s to-do list.

Strategy for Habit Change: We discuss the hilarious Strategy of Loophole-Spotting. I love all ten hilarious, popular categories of loopholes. We also mention the Evil Donut-Bringer. Which is your favorite loophole?

Listener Question: “I’m an Obliger, and I started a writing group. But some people stopped turning in their pages, and now others have stopped submitting.” If you want a starter kit for launching an accountability group, it’s here. We’re talking about Obligers, which is one of the Four Tendencies.

Gretchen’s Demerit: I narrowly missed getting a demerit for not observing Leap Day — but in the end, I did make a festive plan for my daughters and me. To read about our last Leap Day, which was more elaborate, read here.

Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Elizabeth’s iPad Pro is changing her life. Any suggestions for the perfect tote bag?

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1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #56

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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.

Video: “You Only Live Once,” “Life’s Too Short to Skip the Brownie,” and the Fake Self-Actualization 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 (more…)

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?