For the past two weeks, I’ve been posting about loopholes. I’ve made a study of loopholes as part of my research for my next book, Better Than Before, about habit-formation.
I identify twenty-one strategies of habit-formation, and one is the Strategy of Loophole-Rejecting (I just changed the name from “Loophole-Spotting,” because I realized that the point of using this strategy is to identify and reject loopholes. Or do you like the original name better?)
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.
I’ve posted about each of the ten categories, but I thought it would be useful to have a wrap-up post, which include all ten and provides links to each. If you want easily to scroll through them all, start at #10, because each post includes a link to the previous day.
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”
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?”
Loophole #5 has sparked the most comments. Which one is most popular, do you think? 1, 2, and 3 are very popular. Also 4. 5 is more common that I first thought. Also 6, 7 of course, 8 comes up a lot, 9, and also 10. Look at that. They’re all popular!
As Benjamin Franklin wryly commented in his Autobiography, “So convenient a thing is it to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do.” We can almost always find a reason, a loophole, that excuses us from following a habit. But when we spot the loophole, we can perhaps reject the desire to let ourselves off the hook.
What loophole do you invoke most often, to get yourself out of a habit that you’re trying to keep?