Whether it's losing a few pounds, being more proactive at work, or sticking with a new productivity system or self-improvement ritual, most of us have a pretty good idea of what we need to do to better ourselves. The problem isn't the idea; it's the execution.

It's no revelation to most adults that good intentions can fall by the wayside when we're exhausted, stressed, or pressed for time. But exactly what goes on in our heads in those moments when we trade our lofty ambitions and determination to improve our lives for a couple more minutes of sleep, a cupcake, or an afternoon spent googling cat pictures instead of making essential phone calls? When it comes to achieving the life you dream of versus the life inertia leads you to, this is where the rubber meets the road, after all.

Look at this fascinating moment where we cave and make dumb decision, author Gretchen Rubin contends, and you'll usually find a "loophole." Currently at work on a new book about habit formation, Rubin explains on her blog that "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."

So if defeating loopholes is a case of "know thy enemy," what specific stupid excuses do we most commonly use on ourselves before we junk our best intentions? Rubin offers an extensive list in her post, including:

  • Moral licensing -- "I've been so good, it's OK for me to do this."
  • Tomorrow loophole --"It's OK to skip today, because I'm going to do this tomorrow."
  • "This doesn't count" -- "I'm on vacation," "I'm sick," "It's the weekend."
  • Concern for others -- "I can't do this because it might make other people uncomfortable."
  • Fake self-actualization -- "You only live once! Embrace the moment!"

Humans are ingenious creatures (sometimes too ingenious when it comes to finding ways to weasel out of doing the things we should), so there are lots of other possibilities out there, Rubin points out.

Which loopholes do you most commonly use?

Published on: Sep 16, 2014