Your brain is your own worst enemy. You know you should be saving more or eating healthier, but your brain says that fudging it just this once won't be a big deal. Ignore that loophole. Coins image from Shutterstock
As personal finance site Creative Money points out, this type of thinking is known as the "one-coin loophole". Put simply, it's easy to think that one coin doesn't matter much. One coin isn't significant, right? However, saving each coin contributes to a growing heap of coins. Eventually, the heap is very significant. Except, you never get to the heap if you treat each coin as meaningless. In the same way, each instance of sticking to your daily habits feels insignificant, but they add up to something powerful:
Often, when we consider our actions, it's clear that any one instance of an action is almost meaningless, yet at the same time, a sum of those actions is very meaningful. Whether we focus on the single coin, or the growing heap, that focus will shape our behaviour. True, any one visit to the gym is inconsequential, but the habit of going to the gym is invaluable.
Pointing to the "one coin" is a way to deny a conflict between our values: we're not choosing between our desire for French fries and for healthy eating habits, because eating one bag of fries is an insignificant act. But when we consider the accumulated cost of the French fries, the conflict looks different.
In almost every daily habit you have, the individual event itself is not the point. You're not going to suddenly be healthy because you skipped a burger today. However, if you can get in the habit of eating something besides burgers, you can get more healthy over time. No matter what the habit is, focusing on the long-term goal will put each "coin" into perspective.
Financial Loopholes In Your Brain (and How to Close Them) [Creative Money via Rockstar Finance]