Do you make excuses? Do you justify and list a myriad of reasons why you should or shouldn’t do something? Gretchen Rubin, in her book “Better Than Before”, defines these excuses as “loopholes.” Not only does Rubin define and help you see the consequences of making loopholes, but she describes lots of ways we do it! Let’s take a look.
Rubin’s Most Common Loopholes
Justifying something to make it ok. A great example of this is when you justify splurging on food.
“I can do __ because I’ve been good/productive/etc.” “I’ve been so good, I can do this.”
The Tomorrow Loophole
You’ll have self-control/good habits/etc tomorrow.
“Now doesn’t matter, I’ll do good later.” “I can skip today because I’ll do it tomorrow.”
An either/or opposition, when there are actually more than two choices, which can lead to procrastination and avoidance.
“I can’t do that because I’m so busy doing this.”
Lack of Control
An illusion of control over things we can’t actually control.
“I can’t help myself.”
Arranging to Fail
Setting yourself up to fail.
“I’ll do my work here on this comfy couch” then snooze.
The This-Doesn’t-Count Loophole
“I’m on vacation.” “I’m sick.” “It’s the weekend.” “It’s just this season of life.”
Assumptions that influence our habits.
“I showered so I can’t workout.” “Unless I have a whole hour to __, then I can’t.” “I might need this one day.” “They’re gluten-free so they must be healthy.”
The Concern-For-Others Loophole
Acting out of consideration for others.
“It’s rude not to eat it.” “It will be awkward if I don’t drink.” “I don’t want to seem like a goody-two-shoes.”
FOMO, YOLO, Embracing life or acceptance of yourself- as an excuse.
“It’s just who I am.” “It’s too nice of a day.”
The One-Coin Loophole
Thinking that there’s no point. Adding one to one to one to one adds up over time.
“What’s this one gonna do?”
Can you identify which ones you use the most? Take some time and become aware of what loopholes you’re using in your life. Journaling is a great way to do this, but there may be another way that works for you. Be honest with yourself and if you’re still having trouble, ask a trusted friend or family member. Try to gain a new sense of awareness about how you justify the decisions you make. Once you’ve gained some insight into which loopholes you’re likely to use, learn how to stop making them. Here are some great ideas Rubin shares in her book.
What Comes Next?
You’ve read the blogs, tips, and posts with catchy ideas. You’re taking the steps and making progress, but you crave more. You want answers about why habits have formed in your life and how you can take steps to ensure they don’t take hold again.
15 Ways to Stop Making Excuses for Yourself
Make a decision to do something without debate, evaluation, or reward.
2. No Endings
Don’t give yourself end-dates, finish lines or a goal. Make it a lifestyle change, not a temporary solution. You want to eat right year-round not just up until you’re leaving for Mexico and then throw all that hard work and good habits out the window.
3. Treat Yourself
Create a list of healthy “treats” for yourself. Examples could be letting yourself go to bed early, a nap, a special cup of tea, shopping for a gift, pleasure reading, and so forth. The possibilities are endless. However, be aware of dangerous treats: food, shopping, and screens. We don’t want to trade one bad habit for another.
4. Favorite Pairings
Pair things together. My favorite pairing currently is the treadmill with a Netflix show. Some other ideas could be a nice walk outside with a great podcast or cleaning/tidying up during commercial breaks.
5. No Labels
Don’t get locked into your identity. “Well, I’m just the __ one.” You know what you tend to call yourself. Don’t justify a bad habit because that’s what you’ve tended to do in the past. You don’t have to be that person any longer.
Act the way you want to feel. Want to feel positive and optimistic about your life? Then act that way. One of the biggest roadblocks to our success isn’t always lack of awareness or not knowing what to do- it’s following through and acting on it.
7. Daily Do’s
Adopt the philosophy that “what I do every day matters, more than what I do every once in a while.” Taking a walk every day matters more than a long run once every six months. Memorize this affirmation and remind yourself of it daily.
8. Don’t Make It Worse
What you do to make yourself feel better shouldn’t make you feel worse. Rewarding yourself by going on a shopping spree after you stayed on a budget that month won’t make you feel better afterward. Binging on junk food after eating balanced meals all week won’t make you feel better either. Choose wise self-care strategies that are a win-win.
9. Be Detail-Oriented
Be specific in what you monitor and be able to count it. The more clear your plan, the more successful you’ll be. Instead of saying you’re going to eat low carb during the week, say that you’re not going to eat over 100 grams of carbs per day and use a food log to count what you eat. Decide to kiss your partner every night when you go to bed rather than planning to be more affectionate in general.
10. Check It Off
Schedule it. Put the habit you want to build on whatever calendar system you use. Have a set time in your day to do it and then mark it off (and feel good about yourself!) when you get it done.
11. Carve an Hour
Create a Power-Hour. Knock those pesky habits off the list in a designated hour time slot. Can’t find an hour? Then carve out a 30-minute slot into your day, or better yet, two 30-minute slots.
12. Just Don’t Do It
Resisting altogether can be easier than moderation. Buying a dozen donuts and planning to eat them in moderation may be too difficult. Decide not to buy them at all and choose a healthier alternative instead.
13. Extreme Difficulties
Make it inconvenient or hard to do. Put your candy in the attic. Make your bed uncomfortable. Put your screens in a padlock safe. Do whatever you’ve got to do to make that loophole difficult!
Anticipate it. Know what triggers you and then have a plan for it. Anticipate how hard it will be to say no to birthday cake at the party and pack some dark chocolate in your bag to curb the craving while you’re there.
15. No Shame In Your Game
Do not use guilt or shame. No matter what. It will not help. Give yourself grace. Believe in yourself and try again.
Kristi Schwegman is a psychotherapist specializing in helping couples develop healthy relationships, whether dating, engaged, or married. She also draws from her Christian-based approach to lead individuals in becoming aware of the limiting beliefs that can get them stuck.
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