Three Minute Refutations

Three Minute Refutations (TMR) involve a powerful exercise to change your thinking. It serves as a supplement to the Three Minute Exercise (TME).

While the Three Minute Exercise (in my book, see pp. 9,18, 32, 40, etc.) helps you dispute your demands--your "musts" and "shoulds"-- Three Minute Refutations targets your rationalizations or excuses, which arise from your demands.

For example, if you have a craving for a cigarette and find it uncomfortable to avoid lighting up, you may tell yourself you "must" avoid that discomfort. Or if you have the urge to eat chocolate when eating it is prohibited on your diet, you may think you "must" satisfy this urge. These "musts" lead to self-defeating behaviors. The Three Minute Exercise is ideal for targeting the "musts."

However, the "musts" may encourage you to make excuses or rationalizations for smoking the cigarette, excuses such as, "I worked hard today so I deserve it" or "I'll have only one piece of chocolate, then I'll stop."

Irrational Belief: "I absolutely MUST satisfy my urge for a smoke right now. I can't stand feeling frustrated."

Excuse or rationalization: "I'll have only one cigarette, then I'll stop."

This is where Three Minute Refutations comes in. It targets these excuses and rationalizations. Along with the TMEs, it mounts a two-pronged attack on your addiction. The TMEs target your demands, while the TMRs target your excuses.

TMRs prove effective for behavioral difficulties including procrastination and addictions. It consists of two elements: excuses and refuting the excuses. Let's begin with excuses.

Excuses are statements we make to ourselves that make smoking, procrastinating, overeating, or overdrinking seem reasonable, when in reality they're destructive because they block, interfere, or sabotage our goals.

Refutations put the lie to the excuses and state how they're false or self-destructive.

Here's an example of a completed TMR: Excuse: "It's ok to smoke a cigarette right now because it'll be the last time."

  1. I've used this excuse hundreds of times. It hasn't worked before and it won't work now. It always has led to the next time.

  2. This "last time" could mean losing my job and ruining my career.

  3. How many days is this one going to last?

  4. I don't HAVE TO indulge this "last time."

  5. This "last time" could destroy my relationship.

  6. I'm lying to myself, pure and simple.

  7. I can change this statement to: "No more times!"

  8. I'll be better off now, better off tomorrow, and better off for the rest of my life with: "No more smoking, drugs or alcohol!"

  9. Since I choose to smoke, I can choose not to smoke.

  10. If I choose not to smoke, the discomfort I'll feel will be temporary, not forever.


  1. Read these refutations five times a day until you've memorized them. Then repeat them by memory five times a day.

  2. Whenever you have the urge for a cigarette, alcohol or drugs, identify the thoughts that make using seem reasonable. Then refute these excuses.

  3. If the excuses seem to be gaining the upper hand, externalize the debate by writing down the dialogue or saying it out loud.