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“Do You Break Your Good Habits? Avoid These Loopholes.”

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“Do You Break Your Good Habits? Avoid These Loopholes.”


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1. False Choice Loophole “I can’t do this, because I’m so busy doing that.” (This is one I often use, myself). I pose two activities in opposition, as though I have to make an either/or decision, when in fact, the two aren’t necessarily in conflict. I remind myself that whenever I’m inclined to think “Can I have this or that?” I should stop and ask, “Can I have this and that?” It’s surprising how often that’s possible. Is the habit that I want to foster really in conflict with my other values? Usually, if I’m honest with myself, it’s not.


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2. Moral Licensing Loophole  We give ourselves permission to do something “bad” (eat potato chips, bust the budget) because we’ve been “good.” We reason that we’ve earned it or deserve it, or that some “good” behavior has offset something “bad.”


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3. Tomorrow Loophole This loophole depends on “tomorrow logic.” Now doesn’t matter much, because we’re going to follow good habits tomorrow. Tomorrow logic undermines good habits by making it easy to deny that our actions clash with our intentions. TODAY TOMORROW


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4. Lack of Control Loophole “I can’t help myself.” This is a very 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.


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5. Planning to Fail Loophole It’s odd. When it comes to keeping our good habits, instead of fleeing temptation, we often arrange to succumb. In what Dr. Alan Marlatt  dubbed “apparently irrelevant decisions,” we make a chain of seemingly insignificant decisions that allow us covertly to engineer the very circumstances that we’ll find irresistible.


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6. “This Doesn’t Count” Loophole  “I’m on vacation,” “I’m sick,” “It’s the weekend.” We tell ourselves that for some reason, this circumstance doesn’t “count” — but in fact, while we can always mindfully choose to make an exception to our habits, there are no magical freebies, no going off the grid, no get-out-of-jail-free cards, nothing that stays in Vegas.


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7. Questionable Assumption Loophole A very popular loophole! Consciously or unconsciously, we make assumptions that influence our habits— and often, not for the better. They often become less convincing under close scrutiny. 


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8. Concern for Others Loophole “I can’t do this because it might make other people uncomfortable.” We often use the loophole of telling ourselves that we’re acting out of consideration for others and making generous, unselfish decisions. Or, more strategically, we decide we must do something in order to fit in to a social situation. Maybe we do -- and maybe we don’t.


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9. Fake Self-Actualization Loophole  “You only live once! Embrace the moment!” This loophole  comes in the disguise as an embrace of life or an acceptance of self, so that the failure to pursue a habit seems life-affirming—almost spiritual. But for most of us, the real aim isn’t to enjoy a few pleasures right now, but to build habits that will make us happy over the long term. Sometimes, that means giving up something in the present, or demanding more from ourselves.


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10. One-Coin Loophole “What difference does it make if I break my habit this one time?” This is the most insidious of loopholes -- insidious because it’s absolutely true. This loophole gets its name from “the argument of the growing heap,” which I learned about in Erasmus’s Praise of Folly.  According to a footnote, the argument of the growing heap is: “If ten coins are not enough to make a man rich, what if you add one coin? What if you add another? Finally, you will have to say that no one can be rich unless one coin can make him so.”


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What loophole do you invoke most often, to get yourself out of a habit that you’re trying to keep?


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