Where’s your mat?

by Alice Dommert
February 3, 2020

I’m sharing a bit more than I’m comfortable with today. Yet, it feels important because I’m always testing ideas and I want to share with you when an idea proves to be worthwhile.

This is a picture of my workspace. I wish it were neater, and maybe even a little bit bigger, but guess what? Somehow this current arrangement has helped me with a new habit that has tripped me up for years.

The Context of Good Habits

James Clear is one of the leading writers on habits. I like his work because he lets us know that will power, even in the best of us, is weak. You can desire an outcome and put it on your calendar and yet somehow it never happens. I wanted to practice yoga, even if just for 5 minutes, every day. And yet that habit was evading me. My yoga mat was neatly stored in the closet.

And therein was the problem— the closet. Clear writes about the power of context and environment to help support a desired habit.

Small changes in context can lead to large changes in behavior over time.

Every habit is initiated by a cue. We are more likely to notice cues that stand out.

Make the cue of good habits obvious in your environment.

Gradually, your habits become associated not with a single trigger but with the entire context surrounding the behavior.

The context becomes the cue.

A New Location for My Yoga Mat

Not only was my mat in my closet but I also got a new table so the previous space where my yoga mat used to go was no longer available. For a while, I put my yoga mat in my bedroom. Nice space there but rarely do I venture into the bedroom after I wake up in the morning. So not seeing the yoga mat, kept it out of my mind.

One day I pulled my mat out to this spot, right at my desk. I liked the spot and then as soon as I finished my practice I was up and on my computer. I left the mat there. And I walked over it all day long. At one point after a long call I decided if it was there why not lie down for a minute and see what happened. Ah, yoga every day.

You’ll note I do not have a sit-stand desk. Yes, they are good for you AND, I was not ready to invest the $$ for the one that I liked, AND I get up from my desk at least every 20 minutes. Not because I have a timer or a fancy app, but because, I need to move.

I get bored sitting still, no matter how engaging my work is. And I LOVE my work. If I was up and the mat was right there, literally under me already, then the context was the cue as Clear writes about.

More Than An Action Cue

Now, yes, I will say my yoga mat is collecting more dust. But there is another thing. I LOVE having my yoga mat under my feet as I walk back across it during the day, not for the mat itself but for what it symbolizes. I bought this mat about 21 years ago. Yes, it is the same black mat I spent a crazy $90 on in 1998. It has been many places with me, retreats at Kripalu, the beach at Cape Cod, and many, many yoga classes.  It has been my safe harbor upon which I have cultivated the courage to stretch and grow in so many ways. Having it right in my daily path, reminds me to practice and more importantly it reminds me of how far I have come.

And that is something I want to remember and be grateful for every day.

Maybe you and your yoga mat have a similar relationship?
Where does your mat live?
Could it, in some way, become a context cue reminder of something important for you?

Alice Dommert

Alice Dommert

Founder, Wholebeing Architect

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