Red Carpets and Velvet Ropes for Forming Lasting Habits

Jake Moening
4 min readSep 23, 2019
Velvet ropes guiding you to victory

The Hardest Part About Habits

As I’ve discussed previously, kaizen is my preferred approach to making meaningful changes in my life. Unfortunately, just breaking problems down into smaller pieces often isn’t enough to make them into habits.

Sometimes you need to force yourself to succeed even on the small tasks each and every day. If your goal is to stop eating McDonalds on the way to work every day, then you have a nice small task, but you still might have trouble executing it. This is particularly true if you are trying to break a particularly addictive habit. Some folks are fine to just say, ”I’m not going to stop and eat there anymore” and that’s the end of it. They spend a month telling themselves that and soon they realize they don’t even need the reminder; habit formed.

For me, at least, that’s not the case. In my life it is pretty likely that I’m going to cheat or give up with that kind of temptation coming at me every day. This fella loves his food.

Velvet Ropes

This is where the idea of velvet ropes comes in. “Velvet ropes”, in this sense, are artificial barriers you create to make doing the bad things more difficult. Not impossible, but just inconvenient. Much like velvet ropes at a movie theater. You could easily go over/under/through them if you put in a tiny bit of effort, but there would be less effort expended to just go where the ropes lead you.

In the McDonalds scenario above, the addition of “velvet ropes” is often all that is needed to keep you to your plan. If you take a different route to work that doesn’t go past the McDonalds, then you are less tempted to go there because you have to drive out of the way. If that isn’t an option, perhaps putting your wallet in the trunk will work as you would have to stop and get out to find your wallet before entering the drive-through.

As you can see these are changes that really don’t stop you from getting to those sweet sweet McMuffins, but they are just enough of a barrier to make someone think twice about falling off the wagon.

There are tons of great examples of velvet ropes I’ve heard of and many that I’ve used myself:

Jake Moening

Married, software-developing, backpacking, photographing, cooking, father of three.