We all have what Gretchen Rubin calls “Decoy Habits” — habits that we say we’d like to develop, but never do. Often, she says, this is because the outside world expects something of us and we never stand up and say “no.” Rubin:

I first noticed this type of decoy when I sat next to a man at a dinner party.

“I really should exercise,” he said in an unconvincing tone. He certainly looked like a person who should exercise. He was at least forty pounds overweight, and he looked puffy and uncomfortable. I said, “Why don’t you exercise?”

“I don’t have time, and I travel so much. It’s really not feasible for me. Also my knee bothers me.”

“It sounds like you actually don’t want to exercise,” I pointed out.

“Oh, I do,” he answered. “I need to do it. Periodically my wife and kids sit me down. I’m going to get started.” But he didn’t sound as though he meant it.

These “habits” not only take up space in our mind, but they are a subtle recognition that we are allowing others to dictate our ambitions. If there’s some habit or behavior change you can’t seem to get around to, ask yourself the source of the desire. Is it something you want to do? Or is it your way of avoiding standing up to those around you?

Previously: Hacking Habits: How To Make New Behaviors Last For Good


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