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Habit Hack: Top 10 Reasons Why You Failed To Keep Your Habits

Habit Hack: Top 10 Reasons Why You Failed To Keep Your Habits

We all know that habits have a huge influence on to our life. For example, if you want to lose weight permanently, it’s not about following the latest diet trend for a few months, but it’s about creating healthy habits that will become your lifestyle for life.

However, it is not easy to cultivate new habits. If you haven’t known it already, there’s a science behind how a habit is created. Understanding it is vital to change or to create new habits to improve your life.

When trying to create new habits, there are lots of excuses (or loopholes) we made. Gretchen Rubin classifies those excuses into ten categories. Learn more about these excuses so you can improve your habit.

1.   False choice loophole: “I can’t do this, because I’m so busy doing that”

This happens when you think that you need to choose between two activities in opposition, as though you have to choose either one of them (when in fact, you can do both together). For example you might think that if you join that yoga group, you won’t have any time with your daughters; or if you go to sleep earlier, you won’t have any time to yourself; or that you’re so busy, you’ll make those appointments once things calm down.

Remind yourself not to think “Can I have this or that?”, instead you should be thinking “Can I have this and that?”. You will be surprised by how often that’s possible.

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2. Moral licensing loophole: “I’ve been so good, it’s okay for me to do this”

In moral licensing we give ourselves permission to do something “bad” (eat potato chips, bust the budget) because we’ve been “good.” We reason that we’ve earned it or deserve it, or that some “good” behavior has offset something “bad.” Your might thing that after the day you had, you’ve earned a nice glass of wine; or that you’ve been losing weight steadily on this diet, so it will be okay for you to cut a few corners; or that after all you did for others, you’re entitled to a little treat for yourself.

In a particularly popular yet counter-productive variation of moral licensing, people who want to lose weight use exercise to justify eating or drinking. “I went running today, so I’ve earned junk food (such as French Fries or Soda).” Don’t fall into this trap, if you love French fries, you can find a healthier alternative that taste just as good.

3. Tomorrow loophole; “It’s okay to skip today, because I’m going to do this tomorrow”

This loophole depends on a “tomorrow logic.” Now doesn’t matter because we’re going to follow good habits tomorrow. You think that it doesn’t matter what you eat now, because you’re starting a diet tomorrow. (Research shows that people who plan to start dieting tomorrow tend to over-eat today); or that you’ll be really frugal in January so it doesn’t matter if you spend too much in December. 

Some people even fool themselves into thinking that extreme indulgence now will give them more self-control when the magic future day arrives. But eating a giant bowl of ice cream today doesn’t make it any easier to resist tomorrow, and spending an entire day watching TV doesn’t make a person feel more like working the next morning.

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

In this case, we argue that we don’t have control over the situation, and circumstances have forced us to break a habit. However, usually we have more control than we admit. Some of the examples are when you think you travel all the time, hence you cannot eat healthy (Yes you can, in the airport you can pick Subway over KFC); or that you have an injury; hence you cannot exercise at all (You can do light exercise, or exercise other body parts that are not injured); or  you’re addicted to burgers, pizza, and pasta and you just can’t help yourself (Well, you definitely need to learn how to fight food addiction here) 

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5. Planning to fail loophole: “I walked into this bakery to buy a bottle of water”

You will be surprised by how many people failed to plan their habits properly. For example they think: “I’ll buy some scotch to have in the house in case someone stops by.” Reality is: You don’t have guests that often, and you will end up drinking the scotch all by yourself. Or they reason: “My husband and I love to go on “all inclusive” cruise vacations, and I can’t resist the all-you-can-eat food.” You can simply plan a little ahead, buy the normal cruise package, and prevent overeating.

And as the saying goes, if you fail to plan then you are planning to fail. In terms of weight loss you need to set a specific goal on a certain time frame and use this awesome printable to monitor your weight loss. People who set a specific goal and monitor their weight loss tend to have a better success rate in losing weight.

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

We tell ourselves that for some reason, this circumstance doesn’t “count” but in fact, while we can always mindfully choose to make an exception to our habits, there are no magical freebies, no going off the grid, no get-out-of-jail-free cards, nothing that stays in Vegas.

A very popular example is when people don’t watch what they eat when they are on vacation. They end up overeating and justify themselves by saying “I’m on vacation, so this doesn’t count”. Well the truth is, every single thing counts.

7. Questionable assumption loophole: “The label says it’s healthy”

This is a very popular loophole. Consciously or unconsciously, we make assumptions that influence our habits and often, not for the better. They often become less convincing under close scrutiny. The examples are thinking that you need to eat a lot to get good value from this buffet; or that the label says it’s healthy. (In one study, when a cookie was described as an “oatmeal snack,” instead of a “gourmet cookie,” people ate thirty-five percent more); or that if you indulge now, you’ll get it out of my system.

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You need to identify these questionable assumptions and learn the truth behind them, so you can make a better decisions.

8. Concern for others loophole: “I can’t do this because it might make other people uncomfortable”

We often use the loophole of telling ourselves that we’re acting out of consideration for others and making generous, unselfish decisions. Or, more strategically, we decide we must do something in order to fit in to a social situation. Maybe we do and maybe we don’t. Here’s some of the examples: People think it would be so rude to go to a friend’s birthday party and not eat a piece of birthday cake; or at a business dinner, if everyone is drinking, it would seem weird if I didn’t drink. 

By identifying this loophole, you can identify possible solutions, such as: “Everyone else is drinking, so I’ll order a sparkling water, and no one will know what’s in my glass.” Or: “My grandmother gets upset if I don’t take seconds, so I’ll take a very small portion the first time, so she sees me go back for more.”

9. Fake self-actualization loophole: “You only live once! Embrace the moment!”

This loophole comes in the disguise as an embrace of life or an acceptance of one’s self, so that the failure to pursue a habit seems life affirming and almost spiritual. But for most of us, the real aim isn’t to enjoy a few pleasures right now, but to build habits that will make us happy over the long term. Sometimes, that means giving up something in the present, or demanding more from ourselves.

A good example is when a smoker who doesn’t want to give up smoking says: “I have to die of something anyway, so might as well be of something that I enjoy (smoking)”.

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Another good example is when people says that you only live once, and everybody needs to eat every day, so might as well be eating delicious food (even though it’s unhealthy junk food). Well, the truth is you can still eat delicious food that is healthier.

10. One-coin loophole: “What difference does it make if I break my habit this one time?”

There’s a study about two charities who are raising money: Charity A mentioned that even one coin (or a penny) can make a difference to a child’s life, while Charity B did not mention that. In the end, Charity A (that mentions “even one penny can make a difference”) raises more money because even though a penny looks small, it eventually adds up and become substantial.

It is very applicable in your life. How many times have you said: I will eat cupcakes just this time, to end up eating another one few days later?

So those are the ten categories of loopholes. Which loopholes can you relate to the most? How do you plan to tackle it? Let me know in the comment section.

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

Boundaries are limits

—they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

1. Self-Awareness Comes First

Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

  • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
  • When do you feel disrespected?
  • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
  • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
  • When do you want to be alone?
  • How much space do you need?

You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

2. Clear Communication Is Essential

Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

Sample language:

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  • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
  • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
  • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
  • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
  • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
  • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
  • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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Final Thoughts

Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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