The secret tool that will ensure your new year resolutions stick.


The best thing about this tool is that you already own it. You’ve just not been using it to its full potential. In fact, because I want to include myself in this so let me change that to ‘we have not been using it well.’

When you use this tool to its full potential, it will make a massive difference in your ability to stick to your goals, become more productive and reduce the time you spend procrastinating.

Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash

What is this ‘secret’ tool that will help business owners stick to their New Years resolutions?

It’s gratitude!

Before you jump to conclusions, please keep an open mind, stay with me till the end and try the ideas out. Once you’ve tried the ideas out, get in touch and let me know if I’m right or wrong.

By the end of this, you will also have some fantastic ideas of how to feel gratitude even if you can’t visualise.

When did I realise gratitude can help us stick to new year’s resolutions?

Let me tell you first how all this started because it started with searching for a way to increase productivity. Productivity is another area a lot of us look to improve in our New Years resolutions.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve been making a concerted effort to walk more. Instead of going to the gym I’ve been choosing my two feet, and this has resulted in some amazing things.

I was sat at my desk looking out the window and thinking about what I should be doing that day. Running through my goals for the day I was reviewing the daily task lists and prioritising items. At the same time, my little monkey brain was telling me how I hadn’t been the gym and I really should.

Photo by Paolo Nicolello on Unsplash

A regular internal battle started at this point, do I sacrifice my health for the task list. As usual, the conclusion was choosing one option over the other is not an option. I must find a way to improve my health, move the business forward and exceed my client’s expectations.



How can I find the right balance between health and work?

Over the years I’ve tried many different tactics and strategies to strike this delicate balance between looking after yourself and running your own business. Being a big believer in the Japanese philosophy of Kaizen (change for the better), I never settle on a static strategy for long. I believe there is always a way to improve something, even if it’s tiny.

I noticed two things while reflecting on my current approach to balancing work and health. The first thing I noticed was my balancing of health and work was sporadic and easily thrown off course. I would often sacrifice my health goals for work goals.

The second thing I noticed was when at the gym I worked out as hard as I could, and probably more than my body can comfortably handle. Working out too hard causes me to be tired and not be as productive afterwards.

Ask the right questions, and you’ll receive the right answers.

Our brains will answer ANY question we give it, even if it doesn’t have the right answer. In times like this, I look to craft an empowering question.

The question I asked myself on this occasion:

“How can I do gentle exercise that takes no time to prepare for, allows me some creative thinking time, makes me more productive and feels rewarding?”

What did my internal voice say? – Increase the amount of walking you do. Pack your laptop and walk to coffee shops that are at least a mile away from your current location.

Why was walking my perfect answer to increasing productivity?

Promise, I will get to the gratitude and New Year’s resolution part in a minute, just hold fire.

Walking is an excellent solution because it solves most if not all of the challenges I wanted to overcome. It is an exercise I can do instantly. Walking requires no change of clothes, you can start it, and there is no need for showers after. There is also no down in travelling to the gym and showering etc.

Photo by Volkan Olmez on Unsplash

When walking, I can listen to podcasts, inspirational music or even practice mindfulness by becoming conscious of the environment around me. Not to mention, I’m not looking at a screen.

How I came to remember the joy and incredible benefits of gratitude

So, the feet have been moving, and I’ve been leaving the car on the drive more and more. Considering traffic and the shortcuts you can take when walking, my journey times haven’t extended that much at all.

Last week I was walking to my parents, and the route took me along St Albans Road near to where my Mum and Dad live. As I walked along looking at the house’s memories started rushing back to me.

When I was young, I used to walk along this street a lot. I remember this one time as I walked down the street with my cassette player in my pocket and Duran Duran playing, I looked at the houses and started to dream about living in one.

Most of them are semi-detached houses with front gardens and drives. The front doors are just set back behind an open porch with white stone arches above. The front of the homes has large oak wooden beams across the outside. If you down the side of the houses you can see large gardens that back up on to football fields and a recreational park.

As a child, I thought they were so posh.

I dreamt of living in one of these homes, and if I did, then I had indeed made it in life.

A forgotten goal that had been achieved

That’s when the smile on my face started to grow, my steps got a little lighter, and a feeling of gratitude began to flow right through me. My eyes were probably open wider and brighter, and my physicality changed to a more confident me.

You see the big moment of gratitude had come because I realised, I do live in a house like this already and it’s in a nice area like this.

I had achieved a massive childhood dream and hadn’t even realised it. I’d also forgotten about this childhood dream.

I carried on walking, grinning like a Cheshire cat. Another choice stood before me; I could turn left and walk up the street or turn right and go through the park. Despite being the long way to my parents, I turned right to go through the park.

On the walk into the park there is a community hall, and as soon as I looked at it, I remembered playing in a summer club there. Behind the community hall was a football field and pictures of me playing football came back. It was like I was stepping back in time and the old grey matter was producing such vibrant, joyous memories.

I walked through the park and up a bit of a hill before turning left. Along the right-hand side of this path exists a few trees and shrubland. Not very big but it was big enough for my friends and me to play army in and build dens in.

There was this was one tree, it was the best tree ever. You could climb really high without much trouble. The tree often became headquarters in most of the army battles.

Photo by AZGAN MjESHTRI on Unsplash

All these memories were flooding back, and with each memory, my spirit lifted a little more.

A sense of gratitude got bigger and bigger.

When I arrived at my parents, I felt so energised and uplifted. Once I got home, that feeling stayed with me and my I had an amazingly productive afternoon.

I was in a flow state of work and absurd in what I was doing. I didn’t stop to think about why I was doing what I was doing, and I didn’t feel bored or tired. Feeling inspired by the past and energised for the future.

This one event had altered my state far more than willpower and motivation.

Using Gratitude not Willpower

Like a lot of us, I’m focused on my future goals, and while this pushes us all, it can highlight the gap between where you are now and where you want to be. Occasionally this leads to lower moods and procrastination.

This gap can sometimes cause feelings of disappointment which in turn holds you back. “I wish I were there…however, I’ve not achieved” it yet type of thing.

Some of you will be saying at this point; it’s this gap that drives you towards the goal. It’s the gap that then causes you to muster up willpower. The gap motivates you to create an action plan, and in turn, you get excitement by moving towards the goal.

Yes, you are right, and there is so much more we could discuss here on goal setting. I’m not saying any of that is rubbish; I’m just adding in a potent tool that we don’t use enough.

Gratitude is like the sun; it’s always on. Yes, sometimes we cover it with clouds, but it’s still there.

As a lot of studies and articlesshow willpower is like petrol in a car and it can run out, I’m not saying we don’t use willpower. I’m just trying to show that gratitude is a more sustainable source of energy.

How to feel gratitude when you can’t use visualisation?

Often when someone talks about gratitude, the person will say close your eyes and remember a time you are really grateful for.

To most this means visual, and many people struggle with visualisation. I want to point out that if you can’t visualise you can get a sense of memory and that will help you to feel gratitude, it’s potentially not as powerful as it could be.

Another point in this area (soapbox warning), if you’ve been told either by someone else or yourself you’re not a visual person – You can still practice it, and practice will improve your visualisation skills!

Other methods of feeling gratitude include writing a journal. Many people swear by journals as a way of feeling gratitude and getting into a state of gratitude.

My discovery was visiting a place can evoke the emotions of gratitude so strongly it can have a profound effect. Memories you’ve not thought of for a long time can come back powerfully and positively.

What if you combine visiting with visualisation and journaling?

Visit a place that holds special, cherished memories. While you are at this particular place take the time to remember what it was like and what happened. Then take a moment to realise how far you’ve come since then.

Next, tell someone about the event and the experience.

The last stage close your eyes and think back to the journey you’ve just had. Now write it down in a journal.

What impact do you think this exercise in gratitude will have?

How does gratitude help with sticking to New Year Resolutions?

Can we agree that when you feel great, you do great things?

If not, then gratitude will not help you stick to your New Year’s resolutions.

If yes, then you probably already know the answer and have realised like me that when we choose to feel gratitude, we choose to feel inspired.

When you’re inspired, you don’t need short-term motivation or willpower. Feeling inspired allows you to get on and do the doing.

A state of gratitude will focus your mind away from the feeling of sacrifice, overwhelm and boredom.

By not focusing on what you might have given up or the extra work you are doing, you get more done, and you change your focus. In other words, work doesn’t feel like work, and you don’t give up on the goals.

Without thinking about it, you stick to your New Year’s resolutions.

My challenge to your New Year Resolutions

I believe that we shouldn’t need the 1st of January each year to make new goals and new plans. Setting goals are something that we should be doing on a regular basis.

Despite this believe I know a lot of us still use this time of year to make goals and plans for the future. If this is you, I challenge you to follow this plan:

  1. List your new goals and plans
  2. Visit a past location that holds treasured memories
  3. Connect with what you have achieved and allow yourself to feel that gratitude
  4. Tell someone about what you’ve experienced
  5. Write a journal to anchor in those feelings of gratitude and inspiration
  6. Allow that state of gratitude and inspiration to drive you every day
  7. Resort to willpower and motivation only when needed and not as the norm
  8. Let me know how you get on

I’d like to thank David Desteno for inspiring this episode.

So as 2018 commences, take more time to cultivate these emotions. Reflect on what you’re grateful to have been given. Allow your mind to step into the shoes of those in need and feel for them. Take pride in the small achievements on the path to your goals. Doing so will help ensure that every future New Year’s Eve will have more to celebrate than to regret.

David DeSteno, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University, is the author of the forthcoming book “Emotional Success: The Power of Gratitude, Compassion, and Pride.”


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