by Kathie England

Better Than Before – Loophole Spotting

Though Rubin’s title for this chapter is actually “Nothing Stays in Vegas,” I much prefer her tagline to the title, “Loophole Spotting.”
She says “Loopholes often flit through out minds, almost below the level of consciousness. If we recognize them, we can judge them and stop kidding ourselves. It’s when we deceive ourselves that our bad habits tyrannize us most.” Loopholes can be quite enticing, so she has provided a list of ten major categories as a guide to loophole spotting. I’ll explore the first five in this blog.
Moral Licensing Loophole – We give ourselves permission to do something “bad” because we’ve been good. This example is another one discussed in The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal. Our thinking seems to be that we’ve somehow earned or deserve whatever it is we want to do that is really “bad” for us. We indulge in something to eat that’s not very healthy,  but we tell ourselves we’ve done such a good job of sticking to our diet that we deserve this indulgence.
Tomorrow Loophole – We somehow think that we’ll feel more like doing something tomorrow rather than right now. This idea goes along with the perspective of the “future self,” another idea explored in The Willpower Instinct. Rubin says people even tend to fool themselves into thinking that an extreme indulgence on one day will give them greater self-control tomorrow.
False-Choice Loophole – This loophole is where we pose two activities in opposition to each other as though we have to make an either/or decision. But the two aren’t necessarily in conflict with each other so they are false choices. One of Rubin’s examples is: “I haven’t been exercising. Too busy writing.”
Lack of Control Loophole – This one is where we have the illusion that we have control over something we really don’t have any control over. And at the same time we deny control over things that we can control. She says we rationalize that circumstances force us to break a habit. Here are a few examples Rubin suggests: I travel all the time; it’s too hot; it’s too rainy; I’d had a few beers; I’ve never been able to resist this. You can fill in the blank for when someone might use one of these excuses.
Arranging to Fail Loophole – Rubin shares this one suggested by Professors Lee Beach and G. Alan Marlatt who coined the term “apparently irrelevant decisions.”  They define this loophole as “we make a chain of seemingly harmless decisions that allow us covertly to engineer the very circumstances that we’ll find irresistible.” Here’s a specific example: “I’ll check my email before I go to the meeting, and then make this one call…oh no, it’s so late, there’s no point in going to the meeting now.” I’d call this loophole the myth of doing just one more thing.
What loopholes can you spot in your thinking?