The Gratitude Jog (or Using Ritual to Kick Yourself into Gear)
Photo courtesy of Sakeeb Sabakka.

The Gratitude Jog (or Using Ritual to Kick Yourself into Gear)

Written by Emilie

Topics: Productivity

Every morning I go out for a jog.

This jog takes between ten and twenty minutes. Sometimes it involves sprinting, but it’s usually just a slow jog or stroll.

I don’t do it for exercise. I do it to condition my mind, pump fresh air into my lungs and brain, and prepare myself to work. It’s my secret productivity weapon.

I’d recommend trying this ritual out for yourself, and modifying as necessary. After all, that’s pretty much how I came up with the gratitude jog idea in the first place. It’s a heavily modified version of Tony Robbins’ Hour of Power idea. (My jog involves a lot less breathing techniques and incantations though.) So yeah, modify as you like, but here’s my basic formula.

Gratitude + Visualization + Observation

I’ve played around with different exercises and these three seem to be most effective for me, and specifically in this order.

I spend 7-10 minutes in gratitude and then in visualization, and only go into observation in the last five minutes, but I have been experimenting with bringing observation in sooner. Play around with lengths, and see what works for you.

Part 1: Gratitude

As soon as I get outside, I start thinking about all the people that I’m grateful to have in my life, and why. For example, I think about how my mom has a really vibrant, enthusiastic energy and how my dad seems really comfortable being independent, and doing the things he loves on his own. I see both of these traits reflected in me, and I’m incredibly grateful to my parents for passing them along.

I think about the qualities I enjoy in my close friends back home, I give thanks for my new Portland pals, and I always give thanks for the work that I do, and for getting to work with amazing multipotentialites every day! :)

I also say thank you just for being alive, healthy, living in a beautiful city like Portland, and having a lot of positivity in my life.

Give Thanks for Your Personal Qualities Too

I give thanks for my own personal qualities, for the ability to be productive, for my intelligence and creativity. We often feel weird about praising ourselves, afraid of appearing vain. Well this isn’t about arrogance, or being better than anyone. It’s about feeling confident, and seeing the truth: that there are things about you that are awesome.

Simply take stock of the reasons that you rock, and give yourself a few moments to just be proud of who you are. Trust me, it’s healthy.

There’s Always Something to be Grateful For

During this time, try to think of everything you can possibly be grateful for. If you’re going through a rough time in your life, this is even more important. There is always something to be grateful for, even if it’s just being alive.

The specifics aren’t what’s important here. It’s more about feeling an overall sense of gratitude to the world and feeling like you already have everything you need.

Sometimes I will literally say (or whisper quietly to myself) “Thank you, thank you, thank you…” as I jog.

Part 2: Visualization

When it comes to putting in the hard work and being productive during your day, this part of the jog works wonders. It’s where you remind yourself of the 1-5 priority projects that you’re working towards right now.

One of the biggest problems for multipotentialites, is that we have so many projects on the go, that we lose track of them and forget to prioritize. Then we end up devoting too much time to exploring a new interest, and feel guilty for not focusing on the long term goals.

A good way to make sure you make some progress on your long term goals is by a) identifying your 1-5 priority projects, b) hanging reminders on your wall, and c) using ritual to inspire yourself before working. This third step is what we’re talking about here.

Think about each of your priority projects one at a time. Embody them as though you’ve already attained them. Really internalize how it would feel to have reached your goal. For example, if you have a goal to be healthier, imagine being in your ideal physical condition. How would you breath and move? How much energy would you have? Feel this now, and allow yourself to be filled with happiness and pride for achieving those goals. (This feels freaking awesome by the way.)

Part 3: Observation

For the last five minutes of the jog, try to quiet your mind and think only of the beauty around you.

Depending on where you live, this beauty might consist of wild life, flowers, rain, trees, the cat sitting on your neighbour’s porch, or maybe it means observing the architecture, or even just the grandness of sky. Observe how vibrant the colours are, or how the raindrops form little patterns as they hit the puddles, or the smell of the fresh air.

No matter where you are, you can always find some beauty to observe. Just notice it, and marvel. If you like, you can say thanks for this beauty. But silent appreciation works too.

If you find thoughts about your day creeping into your head, gently let them float by, and return your focus to the world outside of yourself.

And that’s it. This whole jog takes me about twenty minutes, and I usually return to the house feeling happy, inspired, and with an absolute fire to get down to work.

What rituals do you use to put yourself in work mode?


  1. I love it Emilie! I remember listening to Tony Robbins describe the Hour of Power (years ago), and distinctly remember the desire that I had to put it into action and make it a part of my life. You are reminding me again of how much I want this to be something I make happen every day. It’s time to stop wanting it, and start doing it.

    Great post! Very inspirational. I’m really glad it’s working for you. I’ll let you know if I have success in building the habit, and what kind of effect it has. :)

    • Emilie says:

      Wonderful, Jason!

      And yeah, Tony’s whole routine was a little daunting for me, so I pieced it down into what I felt were the post potent elements. Sometimes simplification can make the difference between trying something new, and getting overwhelmed and not giving it a shot.

      Let me know how you enjoy it!

  2. jennifer says:

    Awesome post! I will definitely need to try this process. The exercise I use before starting work on my business is the “Alignment Exercise.” It’s from Trailblazer, and it allows me to set myself up to have the energy and focus I need to tackle my most important task. Every time I do it I am beyond amazed with the results! My writing is immensely better after doing this exercise.

  3. Colleen says:

    Love this practice. I don’t allow myself time in the morning to do this now, but I’m going to find some way to fit this in during my day. I think the three techniques (gratitude, visualization, observation) feed on one another, and provide more value than each would alone.

  4. Josh says:

    When I get up I have coffee and cereal while working on the computer, although if I’m feeling lazy sometimes I’ll go do the work/play social media thing for a while. A day’s to-do list really helps. Sometimes I clean my room for 5 minutes. After a while I eventually force myself to do a workout, which helps get me in state out of passive mode. If I’m feeling really lazy sometimes I’ll just ride my bike around town for little bit, because biking is fun and the easiest workout routine to get into. (I suppose your jogging tips can apply to biking as well.)

    I keep remembering what Tim Ferris said about avoiding the uncomfortable while busying myself. If I can resolve myself to do at least one slightly uncomfortable thing like work on a frustrating technical issue on the website, call a girl, post something public that I’m not used to, whatever.

    If worse comes to worse you can always pull out your Steven Pressfield!

    • Emilie says:

      Yeah, see I find that if I do chores or non-meaningful work as soon as I wake up, it’s much harder to get into a creative flow state. I try to push that stuff as far away as possible. No social media, no email. Just jog, breakfast, write.

      Once 90 or so minutes of work is done, I come out of flow state and go nuts with the social media, blog reading, etc.

    • I agree with the biking strategy Josh :) And the Steven Pressfield too!

  5. Adam Lasky says:

    Hi Emilie,

    I walk to the train station every morning specifically for this reason. It’s a 25 minute walk and I love using that time to think: future projects, website design issues, future posts. It’s great. There is truly something about walking that unleashes the creative juices in me. I would like to add the gratitude element into the walk. It’s important to keep me grounded and realize that I am not an island. Thanks for the formula!!!

  6. Great Post Emilie!
    This was very inspiring for me. I’ve known for a while that I need a morning ritual, but haven’t given myself the kick in the pants. I tend to jump right onto the computer. Not anymore. I’m going to try out your suggestion because I could really use a ritual that is also combined with gratitude. Great idea!

    • Emilie says:

      Nice! It also might help to remember that it takes 21 days to instill a new habit. So if you’re finding it hard to go out every morning, just tell yourself you’re trying it for 3 weeks. Often that is a lot less daunting than committing to something FOREVER! Heh… After 3 weeks, the momentum picks up and it because much easier (fun even).

      Keep me posted!

  7. Patty Tanji says:

    Wow Emily! This is awesome…My favorite is visualizing…acting as if I already have a thriving renaissance business. Yes it does feel awesome…I am so proud! I’ve got to hang up some signs around here too. Thanks for the tips and for the inspiration behind Next Step Follies!

    • Emilie says:

      Thanks Patty! For the first year of my business, I acted as if I had a thriving Renaissance Business too, and slowly it began to transform into reality. Now I push myself to envision even bigger things: published books and giving ted talks. These feel exciting, with a pinch of fear. But it’s that good kind of fear, the kind that tells you that something really matters to you.

  8. Erin OK says:

    Awesome, I will keep these things in mind as my own ritual develops. I have recently begun a meditation practice, and have been learning about manifesting, and incorporating gratitude and visualization into my practice. I love the idea of identifying my top 1-5 projects and focusing for a few minutes on each of them. I’ve been tending to choose one thing at a time, but of course I always get frustrated because I’m trying to do so much!

    • Emilie says:

      Hi Erin,

      I’m seriously impressed by anyone who meditates regularly. That’s one practice that I have tried to incorporate into my life in the past. I find it incredibly difficult!

      Gratitude and visualization changed my life, there’s no question. And doing it every day makes a big difference.

      Let me know how all this goes for you. :)

  9. Angie says:

    I read somewhere recently that when you make a little positive change in your life (like starting a work-out routine) other areas of your life are effected positively in some way. You can’t really do something awesome without that awesomeness being rubbed off every where else. That excites me and your post made me think of that. I plan on starting to jog when the weather warms up a little more and I will definitely try this.

  10. Sarah O says:

    Loving this idea! I finally got it together to do a 10-minute meditation each morning – and have stuck with it since early Jan. – yay! But then I get on the computer and the email sucks me in before I focus on what’s truly important. By the time I’ve glanced through that I’m feeling sluggish.
    I really like this idea of getting the blood pumping before sitting down to write. I used to go to the gym in early mornings for an hour workout, but that’s too time-consuming and I’m finding it’s better to do a big workout later in the day (some days) – as a break from sitting.
    A 10-minute gratitude jog after the meditation sounds like just the thing to fight computer chair sluggishness. Just have to brave those northern california rains.
    Now – the big challenge is to have the discipline to stay away from that email for the first hour or two on the computer!

  11. Hi Emilie!

    Thanks for writing this :) Ever since you mentioned your Gratitude Jog in our Productivity for Multipotentialites class I have been intrigued!

    I am trying this out on my non-podcast, non-music mornings, and find it is not as easy as I was maybe expecting! I do find the 3rd section paying attention to the surroundings easier, but trying to summon gratitude and envisioning the Aimed For Life are super patchy for me. I’ve had an unexpected side benefit though: at other times of day I find myself more in the habit of finding gratitude for small things – beautiful!

    Thanks for the cool idea, I will definitely keep practising! :)
    Love Meg x o

  12. megan says:

    I think this is one of my favorite articles of yours. Jogging such a great way for me to clear my head. I use it as my end of day clearing process. I try to incorporate Yoga, Meditation, and a 3 pages of writing into my morning wake-up routine. Meditation is a new addition to my morning practice. I only take 2 minutes to do it…but sometimes it seems like the longest 2 minutes ever. I always feel so clear afterwards.

    Thanks for this post :)

  13. Bruno says:

    Being a slasher I obviously don’t have one, but many rituals.
    The one I like the most is to pretend I’m a samurai, and I literally draw out and imaginary katana and assume combat position. I feel invincible after that.

    Other thing I do is to take advantage of the breaks between exercises on my gym routine and start scanning. Once I’m done with the exercise, the work mode is already on.

    And also a great one is when I simply don’t want to work, I know I have to, but I’m not in the mood. Then I go out and walk without purpose, usually within 15 minutes I’ll be heading back to the house with a brilliant idea I need to pursue.

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