by Kathie England

Better Than Before – The Planned Exception Safeguard

Occasionally we need to allow ourselves to break a good habit without losing the good habit completely. Rubin has named this safeguard the planned exception. One advantage of this terminology is that it makes the distinction between an impulsive decision and a planned decision. As an adult we can mindfully make an exception to a usual habit by planning the exception in advance.
I realize this was the strategy I employed when I started blogging about Better Than Before (committing to a minimum of 30 days in a row) and realizing the impact that upcoming travel would have on my opportunities to blog. I hadn’t gotten to this point in the book, so I didn’t realize that Rubin actually had developed a name for the strategy I was employing.
Rubin suggests that the planned exception works best when it’s made for something memorable. The two short trips I took met this criterion – one was a weekend trip to the beach with girlfriends to celebrate our birthdays (a couple of them were milestone birthdays) and the trip to the ACO Conference in Phoenix (ACO stands for ADHD Coaches Organization). The latter is a conference I have wanted to attend but the timing wasn’t conducive in the past. Both were memorable experiences. I had a third trip over the Memorial Day weekend to visit my niece and her then 6-week-old baby boy (definitely memorable). I didn’t realize the impact all this travel would have on my regular routines.
An interesting question that Rubin invites is to ask yourself, “How will I feel about the exception later?” My answer to all three trips and the break in my blogging is that I am totally delighted with the choices I made.
Rubin points out that planned exceptions work best when they are limited or they have a built-in cutoff point. Her example is that it’s OK to skip a visit to the gym to have extra time to prepare for an annual retreat, but not OK to skip because you’re preparing for the weekly staff meeting.
I think it’s important to emphasize the planned aspect of the exception vs. the impulsive decision made in the moment to avoid your habit.
I appreciate this perspective and invite the reader to think of planned exceptions to your habits vs. times when you just didn’t keep the commitment you had made to your habit.