When things go off the rails, get back on track fast with this simple reset routine.

RESET Get back on track fast by Cathy Jacob at CathyJacob.com

Are you struggling to get traction? Do you feel like your engine keeps revving but just can’t slip into gear?

Or maybe you’ve just gotten off to a bad start.

If you’re not performing at your best, it may be time to stop struggling and reset.

A simple and repeatable reset routine can be an efficient form of recovery and a precursor to great performance.

If you watch professional sports, you see elite athletes do this. When things aren’t going well – a false start in running, a fault in tennis, an unexpected distraction in golf – the player will step back and perform a well-rehearsed reset routine.

You don’t have to be a professional athlete to experience the physiological and psychological benefits of a conscious and intentional reset routine.

Sometimes called a pre-shot or set-up routine, the reset is a form of high-performance shorthand.

Resets act like a psychological pattern break. They stop you from working against yourself and help you recenter and focus.

Resets signal to your mind and body that you are ready to perform. They provide a way of settle yourself and feel grounded.

Make it yours.

Effective reset routines are as unique as the people who perform them.

If you want to see a range of quirky and elaborate reset routines, you need look no further than Major League Baseball pitchers. From deep squats, to mean stare-downs, to elaborate kicks – before they throw a pitch, they perform the same pattern of movements every time. Their routine is choreographed to set them up for success.

The specifics of your reset ritual are not as important as ensuring it is meaningful to you, it’s repeatable and it gets you moving.

While you can customize the details, a good rule of thumb is to use a structure you probably learned as a child – ready, set, go!

Ready: Get present and intentional.

Begin by stopping. Take a moment to pause and get present.

Notice where you are. What is the energy or state you are bringing to this situation and what do you want to bring?

When you take a moment to pause and check in with yourself, you offer up a measure of choice and control. It’s like performing an internal systems check, similar to a flight check before take-off.

Get clear about your intention. It’s helpful to articulate your intention in a word or phrase that is compelling and meaningful to you. It might describe a specific goal or the energy or mindset you wish to bring to the challenge. For example, ‘finish this blog post’ is my intention for today, but I might express it as ‘finish strong’ to remind myself of the determination I want to bring to the effort.

Set: Anchor

While the ready phase is conscious and intentional, anchoring is more subconscious. It is the series of actions you take to signal to your mind and body that it’s go-time.

An anchoring routine can be as elaborate as a 60-minute morning ritual or as simple and quick as three bounces of a ball at the free throw line or three deep breaths before stepping up to the podium.

The key is performing the same simple action or set of actions in the same way every time. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or lengthy.

For example, I have a simple anchoring ritual to begin a period of writing. You could describe it as “brew, sit, power up.” I brew a cup of coffee or tea, I sit in my writing chair, I power up my laptop. While I wait for it to power up, I take a sip.

There is something about performing that little routine that puts me in writing mode every time..

Go: Take the smallest first step.

Lift off can be the most challenging step because it takes the most effort.

Think about the energy and thrust it takes to get a plane in the air and how much smoother and easier it all feels when it finally gets airborne.

Humans are no different.

A lot of research has been done into peak performance and “flow states,” those creative and generative states that you experience when everything seems effortless, time stands still, and you are performing at your best.

One of the characteristics of flow states is that they tend to follow periods of struggle. The problem is, some of us find the struggle stage so unpleasant that we either abandon the effort before we get lift off or we try to avoid it altogether.

Now is the time to think small.

Before you begin your reset routine, commit to the very first and smallest step you will take. This will get you past the urge to avoid or procrastinate.

There is nothing more daunting than a blank screen, a meeting with no agenda or an undefined project. In fact, no matter what the challenge, there are few things that will create more anxiety and self-doubt than trying to create from nothing.

How to avoid the ‘don’t know where to start’ feeling.

Legend has it that Ernest Hemmingway used to finish a day of writing in mid-sentence so that the next day he always knew where to start.

You don’t have to be a writer to benefit from this practice. Take a few moments when you finish your work for the day to create ‘starter’ for the next day.

If you’ve ever made sourdough bread, you know what I mean by starter. A sourdough starter is a leavening agent composed of fermented flour and water. It is a living culture that you keep alive and growing in your kitchen ready to use whenever you make a new loaf.

Here are some ways to ensure you always have starter to begin your day. The day before, write notes with instructions to your future self about where to begin. Find and gather files, research materials or other supports you will need. Write a few sentences or paragraphs  to remind you of where you left off.

Make that first ‘go moment’ as automatic, seamless, and easy as you can.

What do you do to get back on track?

Looking for more? Subscribe to The Slow Sip, my free monthly newsletter packed with articles, podcast episodes, practices and practical recommendations to help you transform your relationship to work and life.

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    Cathy Jacob

    I'm Cathy Jacob. I am a writer, coach and co-founder of Fire Inside Leadership. After two decades of coaching leaders on how to inspire while navigating the challenges of demanding careers and lives, I’ve created this site to share the best of what I’ve learned from my courageous clients and leaders in the fields of psychology, leadership, philosophy and neuroscience on what it takes to live an inspired life.


    1. Heather McDonald on October 3, 2022 at 12:51 am

      I really appreciated this blog tonight. I have been feeling very overwhelmed lately ( actually for quite a while) . I’m going to try to do my own Re-set!

      • Cathy Jacob on October 3, 2022 at 7:20 pm

        Thank you for sharing, Heather. So glad you found this useful. Love the feedback and let me know how your reset goes.

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