My current emphasis: how to make good habits and break bad ones (really)

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What Loopholes Do You Invoke at Work, in Relationships, at Home?

fruit_loops2I’ve written a lot about loopholes.

In my forthcoming habits book, I identify the multiple strategies we can use to shape our habits. I love every strategy and every chapter — habit-formation is an intensely interesting subject — but my favorite chapter is the one on the Strategy of Loophole-Spotting. Loopholes are just so funny.

Below, I’ve listed the ten categories of loopholes. I have a question for you: when do you invoke loopholes?

I have many examples  in the area of eating and exercise. When do you invoke loopholes at work; with your family and friends; in your spiritual life; with clutter; etc.? I would love to see more examples. I love loophole-spotting!

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 so well tomorrow”

4. Lack of control loophole — “I can’t help myself”

5. Planning to fail loophole — “How did I get here? Well, now that I’m here, I must indulge.”

6. “This doesn’t count” loophole – “I’m on vacation” “I’m sick” “It’s the weekend”

7. Questionable assumption loophole

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?”

When we catch ourselves invoking loopholes — which is easier said than done — we give ourselves the opportunity to reject the loophole. Often, they flit through our minds so quickly that we don’t even realize that we’re invoking them.

So how about you? I’m eager to hear more examples of loopholes — especially, as I mentioned, in non-eating and -drinking contexts. Battling clutter, getting work done, making time for spiritual pursuits, maintaining relationships with family and friends…

I’ve made this  study of loopholes as part of my research for my next book about habit-formation. If you want to be notified when this masterpiece is available for pre-order, sign up here.

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I'm just about finished writing my next book, Better Than Before, about how we can make and break our habits. If you’d like to hear when the book goes on sale, sign up here.

Video: For Habits, the Strategy of Self-Knowledge

This week’s video: I’m starting a series in which I discuss the various strategies that we can use for habit-formation.

Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life, and a significant element of happiness. If we have habits that work for us, we’re much more likely to be happy, healthy, productive, and creative. When I talk to people about their happiness challenges, they often point to hurdles related to a habit they want to make or break. My book describes the multiple strategies we can exploit to change our habits.

First up: Self-knowledge. Key! Crucial! Essential!

One aspect of Self-Knowledge is knowing where you fit in the framework of the Four Tendencies. I’ve talked about that so much recently that I decided to skip that for now, and come back to it. I remain obsessed, but it may not be of equal interest to everyone all the time.

 

But there are many important distinctions that can help us know ourselves better. To read more about the ones I mention…are you a:

-morning person or night person?

-marathoner or sprinter?

-simplicity-lover or abundance-lover?

-finisher or opener?

They say there are two types of people: those who love dividing the world into two types of people, and those who don’t. I love dividing the world into categories. I could keep going. Abstainers and moderators. Radiators and drains. Leopards and alchemists.  Under-buyers and over-buyers. Eeyores and Tiggers.

Do you find that thinking about these distinctions helps you understand yourself better? Of course, this exercise is meant to broaden self-understanding, not trap us into a single rigid identity.

Can’t see the video? Click here. Find the archives of videos here.  More than TWO MILLION views. Don’t forget to subscribe.

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The Danger of the Finish Line.

finishline2As I’ve mentioned many times before, I’m hard at work on a book about how we make and break habits. This masterpiece will hit the shelves in 2015 (sign up here to be notified when it’s available).

One thing that took me a long time to realize, in the study of habits: the danger of finish lines.

Setting a finish line does indeed help people reach a goal, but although it’s widely assumed to help habit-formation, the reward of hitting a specific goal actually can undermine habits.

A finish line marks a stopping point, and once we stop, we must start over, and starting over is harder than starting.

The more dramatic the goal, the more decisive the end—and the more effort required to start over. By providing a specific goal, a temporary motivation, and requiring a new “start” once reached, hitting a milestone may interfere with habit-formation.

Also, once we decide that we’ve achieved success, we tend to stop moving forward.

Even an intermediate finish line can interfere with good habits. In a letter, novelist Kurt Vonnegut advised his son Mark:

“I have seen a lot of writers stop writing or at least slow down after getting an advance. They have a feeling of completion after making a deal. That’s bad news creatively…I advise you to carry on without an advance, without that false feeling of completion.”

Have you ever found that hitting a finish line meant that you stopped do something, even though you’d been doing it successfully to that point? That you thought you’d been forging a habit, but it turned out not to be?

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“When We Can No Longer Find Any Amusement Ourselves, We Can Still Take Pleasure in Reading It to a Companion.”

AdamSmith“When we have read a book or poem so often that we can no longer find any amusement in reading it by ourselves, we can still take pleasure in reading it to a companion. To him it has all the graces of novelty…”

–Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments

This may explain some of the fun of being a parent. There are some things that we wouldn’t do, or enjoy, as adults, but we can heartily enjoy them when we do them with our children. I would never ride a merry-go-round, decorate Easter eggs, or pore over Richard Scarry books on my own, but I truly enjoy doing these activities with my daughters. I wouldn’t sit down to watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on my own, for the hundredth time (original version of course), but I enjoy it when I watch with my daughter.

Have you found pleasures that you can revivify by sharing them with someone else?

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Question for You: What Habits Most Affect Your Money?

moneycoinsbills As I’ve mentioned many times before, I’m hard at work on a book about how we make and break habits. This masterpiece will hit the shelves in 2015 (sign up here to be notified when it’s available).

When it comes to habits, most of us — well, perhaps not the Rebels — have habits that we’d like to add or drop,

A few weeks ago, I asked the question: What habits most affect your spiritual life and work life? The answers were fascinating.

Now I have a follow-up question: What habits most affect your financial life?

For instance, do you…

–use an automatic savings plan (what I call an “invisible habit”)

–use cash instead of credit cards Andy Warhol, who enjoyed the experience of spending, remarked on this distinction: “I don’t like charging. It feels more like buying if you pay with money.” For most people, using cash makes it harder to spend (in a good way).

–spend hours every day on online shopping

–shop only from a list, so you’re not tempted to make impulse purchases you’ll later regret

–keep a careful record of everything you spend

Those are some examples, to help prompt your thinking.

Some people need habits to help them not spend — I, as an under-buyer, need habits to help me spend. I remind myself, “If I need it, buy it now.” Otherwise I just keep putting off purchases, even when it causes me a lot of inconvenience.

How do habits–both good and bad–affect your financial situation?

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