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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 September 16, 2019

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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  • (1) Research
  • (2) Deciding the topic
  • (3) Creating the outline
  • (4) Drafting the content
  • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
  • (6) Revision
  • (7) etc.

Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

2. Change Your Environment

Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

6. Get a Buddy

Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

7. Tell Others About Your Goals

This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

Reality check:

I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

More About Procrastination

Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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