Have You Invoked Any of These Loopholes to Let Yourself Off the Hook?

I’m very happy: I’ve discovered a new novelist whose work I love. I just finished Stephen McCauley’s new book My Ex-Life, and I plan to work my way through all his novels. It’s such a treat to discover a new writer.

One of the many things that interested me in My Ex-Life was the depiction of the main character Julie’s thoughts about smoking marijuana.

Julie is getting a divorce from Henry, renting out rooms in her house on Airbnb, and the parent of a teenager. She smokes more pot than she should.

As part of my work for Better Than Before, my book on how we make or break habits, I became very interested in the Strategy of Loophole-Spottinghow do we spot the loopholes that we invoke to let ourselves off the hook, when we want to indulge in a habit that we know we shouldn’t?

Julie is a master of loopholes. Do any of these justifications sound familiar?

“She pulled out a joint. Anxiously awaiting for Henry to berate her wasn’t doing anyone any good, and since she’d stopped smoking pot, it mattered less if she occasionally got stoned. Her slips were meaningless, parenthetical.”

“Rain was predicted for tomorrow, so why not enjoy the lovely evening in a calm frame of mind? Weather was a useful excuse for so many things in life.”

“She sat in the chair next to him…and pulled out a joint. ‘Don’t judge me,’ she said. ‘I stopped smoking a while ago, but I keep a little around to prove to myself I don’t need it.'”

The tricky thing about loopholes is that we often invoke them without even realizing it—we let ourselves off the hook so fast and with such confidence that we don’t feel the pain of breaking our word to ourselves.

By contrast, when we consciously realize that we’re invoking a loophole, we’re more able to resist.

Eventually, Julie stops smoking pot.

There are ten categories of loopholes, and most of us have a few favorites that we deploy most frequently.

I most often invoke the false-choice loophole and the one-coin loophole. How about you?

Gretchen Rubin is the author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller The Happiness Project—an account of the year she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific studies, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier—and the recently released Happier at Home and Better Than Before. On her popular blog, The Happiness Project, she reports on her daily adventures in the pursuit of happiness. For more doses of happiness and other happenings, follow Gretchen on Facebook and Twitter.

Image courtesy of Wang Xi.

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How Our Thoughts Are like Nettle…

A long, long time ago there was a family. This family lost their mom and wife. The children, one sister and seven brothers welcomed their stepmother. But their stepmother was jealous of their fortune and abundance and put a spell on them. The children were sent from home and the boys all turned into swans.

The girl learned from an old wise woman that the only way to free her brothers was to make shirts for them from nettle all the while keeping silent.

So she did. She wasn’t allowed to wear gloves and the nettle burned her skin. But she kept going. This was in a day where women were seen as witches when being different. And the village became suspicious of this young woman plucking nettle and making shirts out of them. She didn’t answer their questions as to why she was doing this.

After a while, the village people became scared and sentenced her to burn as a witch. In prison, she kept her shirts and nettle and kept on working.

One morning she was brought to the stake but she kept on working. All of a sudden seven swans came down from the sky and landed next to the stake. The girl was able to put the shirts on all seven of them. As she wasn’t able to finish all the shirts on time the youngest brother turned into a boy with one arm still being a wing.

At the end the children were safe.

I had this story on my mind for quite some time now. Thinking about the relevance at this time.

There’s so much symbolism in this story but for now, I want to focus on one part of this story. Namely the nettle and the girl keeping silent.

I feel the nettle is symbolic for our thoughts. They are present and stinging and hurting us but they are also a portal to becoming our true selves (again). Our thoughts are not our own and are not true for who we really are. If we can see our thoughts as such, disidentify from them and only see them as a portal to becoming our true selves, then thoughts take on a whole different meaning.

The girl suffered plucking the nettle and making shirts out of them, but she never stopped as she knew this would save her brothers.

Our thoughts are the root cause of our suffering but they can also save us. The girl knew what she needed to do as she listened to the old wise woman and she did what needed to be done.

Why do we keep doing the same thing over and over again and not listen to our inner wisdom?

Our thoughts are our nettle. They sting and hurt us. But if we silently work with our thoughts we can see through the illusion. The veil will be lifted from our eyes just as the boys turned back into themselves again.

We are not our thoughts. It’s so easy to say and yet so difficult to embody. But we are not our thoughts. The hurt we feel when we believe what we think is our inner wisdom telling us we are on the wrong path.

We just have to listen. We need to become quiet and listen and do the work, meaning, discover what it is we’re thinking and work through our limiting beliefs.

This work will hurt, just as working with nettle. But not doing this work, not becoming disidentified with our thoughts, learning that we are not our thoughts, discerning our thoughts to our limiting beliefs, listening to our emotions as our guidance system, not doing all this will hurt us way more in the long run.

Do the work. Just as the girl did to save her brothers. Do the work to save yourself from conditioning and illusion and to become the best version of yourself.

Want more?

I would love it if you would become a member of the Conscious Living Community. You can do so by signing up to my email list.



Carmen Smallegange is a coach specialized in uncovering and transforming limiting beliefs. Using her own life lessons she shines a new and fresh light on negative experiences to empower others to do the same and to acknowledge and step into their own amazing potential. You can get her free workbook on how to transform your fears or follow her on Facebook.

Image courtesy of ActionVance.

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