I was laughing as I read this piece from the satire magazine, The Onion: “Personal Trainer Impressed by Man’s Improved Excuses.”
It purports to be an interview with a personal trainer who’s impressed by one of his clients — a guy who has made amazing improvements in the sophistication of the excuses he’s giving for not working out.
“Acknowledging that the progress made in such a short time was remarkable…[the personal trainer said] he is very impressed by the improvement in both the strength and consistency of his client’s excuses…’A few months ago he had really weak pretenses for not sticking to a workout plan, but he’s put in a lot of effort and now he’s sporting much more robust and powerful justifications…After seeing how he struggled early on with a simple excuse about traffic, it’s gratifying to see him push himself and dig deep for rationalizations that more believably exonerate him…[like] tackling a long, grueling story about how construction in his neighborhood aggravated his dust mite allergies.'”
I love this piece, because I love loopholes. Loopholes are so funny. So imaginative, and so ingenious. We’re like cell phones searching for a signal — as we cast about for an appropriate loophole to let us off the hook.
As Benjamin Franklin wrote 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. ” When we want to find a loophole, we can always find a reason.
Note: with a loophole, we’re not mindfully making an exception, but looking for a justification that excuses us from sticking to a particular habit.
If we can spot loopholes, we can perhaps resist invoking them, and do a better job of keeping a good habit.
The ten — yes, ten — categories of loopholes are:
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”
7. Questionable assumption loophole — “the label says it’s healthy”
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?”
I love that the Onion article highlights the point that even if a person’s workouts aren’t improving, he might be improving his loophole-seeking.
What loophole do you invoke most often? I listed my own favorite as #1, the false choice loophole. But I think that others, such as #4 and #6, are more popular.