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Are You Being Sabotaged with “Decoy Habits”?

Posted May 19, 2013 by Marcy Twete in Life After Five


She’s one of my favorite experts, and her new concept literally blew my mind! Gretchen Rubin from “The Happiness Project” is talking about what she calls “decoy habits,” and boy oh boy do we know there are a lot of women out there who need to hear this!

What is a Decoy Habit?

Gretchen Rubin says on her website:

A decoy habit is a habit that a person claims to want to adopt—but really doesn’t intend to do. Often, decoy habits reflect other people’s values or priorities. “I want to cook dinner every night.” “I want to finish my Ph.D. thesis by the end of the year.” “I want to give up coffee.” The decoy provides cover—we don’t have to acknowledge the habits that we actually follow, because there’s this other, better habit that we intend to adopt.

Traditional Decoy Habits You Might Be Doing

There are definitely some “traditional” decoy habits many of us are guilty of. Try some of these on for size:

  • Health & Fitness
    If you’ve ever said, “I’ll start on Monday,” you’ve got yourself a decoy habit! The same goes for anyone who has ever written out a “Couch to 5K” or a half marathon training plan but never actually strapped on the shoes and taken that first run. Perhaps you tell your spouse, “I’m going to start meal planning so we’re taking our lunches and eating better.” You’re talking about it, but you aren’t doing it. That’s a decoy.
  • Job Searching
    Especially if you’re in a job you hate, chances are you’ve threatened to leave at some point. “I swear, I’m going to quit” might have come out of your mouth or, “I’m going to spend this weekend applying for jobs.” When you say things like this, you create decoys that set you up for failure. You’re setting a decoy habit and therefore never getting through your decoy goal to your real one.
  • Relationships
    Perhaps it’s a bad relationship with a parent or sibling. You say something like, “The next time s/he says X to me, I’m going to finally say something.” Or you say, “I’m going to make more of an effort to create a better relationship.” Where is the action? Hidden in the decoy.

Gretchen is still developing her language around decoy habits, and so are we. But it’s so worth considering in your own life. Are you missing out on actually achieving goals and creating great habits because you’re filling your life with decoys? Ask the hard questions, and you might just find it’s time to get rid of the decoy and play in reality!

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."