Have you ever been working on your computer and notice it is sluggish and difficult to work with? And every time you try to do something, the spinning wheel (or your OS version of this) just pops up and says, "I'm thinking!" What do you do? You hit the restart button to reboot the operating system and start fresh.
Recently, I was watching a match between Coco Vandeweghe and Lucie Safarova at the BNP Paribas tennis tournament. Coco won the first set 6-4 and was up in the second set, appearing to be in position to claim her win. Suddenly, Lucie started stringing points together, Coco came unglued, and Lucie won the second set 6-4. Coco erupted in anger at letting the set slip away and started smashing her racquet against the ground as she stormed back to her chair. In the next set, Coco was unable to let go of her anger and frustration (a situation Lucie was happy to exploit) and she went on to lose the final set 6-1 and ultimately lose the match. I thought - she really needs a reset button.
Have you ever felt this way? Maybe it was a day at work where something got under your skin and you just couldn't shake it or something at home that you couldn't let go of and it ruined the rest of your evening. Having played a lot of tennis and golf, as well as having been under the influence of fatigue and travel at work, I know I have felt that way and wished I had a racquet to destroy. So what is the answer? The key in these situations is to have a reset strategy that reboots your brain so you can start fresh with a new perspective.
There are three critical steps to mastering this reboot:
1. Awareness - The first step is to be aware when you are starting to lose it. What do you feel when suddenly you can't change your perspective? Do you know on a 1-10 scale at what number you no longer can use your normal calming strategies to regain control? Do you recognize the precursors that set you up for this position of no control (fatigue, pain, frustration, hypoglycemia, busy schedule with no breaks, etc.)?
2. Stop Strategy - Once you have noticed that your wheel is spinning, indicating your self-control and ability to master your focus (purposeful placement of attention) are slipping away, you need to have a peaceful, non-aggressive (smashing racquets in the office or your kitchen are a bad idea) way to disconnect. This may be literally stepping outside and going for a short walk, it may be going to the bathroom and splashing cold water on your face, it may be stepping into a stairwell and sprinting up a flight of stairs, it may be taking a huge inhalation and then performing 10 forceful exhalations until all your air is gone, or it may be as simple as using an anchor like a rubber band on your wrist that you snap to quickly alert your brain that it is time to quickly reboot. The key is to have a couple of options that you can use in different settings.
3. Start Strategy - This is the most important step and the one that almost everyone misses. In this step, you need to have a very clear image of who you are, what you look like, and what you feel like when you are rebooted back to your best self. If you don't have this clear self-image, your brain will simply keep returning to where you just were. Remember, the brain doesn't do anything by mistake and, therefore, for some habitual reason it thought that melting down was the right answer.
Whether it's playing a game like golf or tennis, performing your best when your day is turning sideways, or making sure that you are not thrown off-track by a moody teenager at home, the key is to have a really good reboot plan and to practice it. If an anchor like the rubber band on your wrist or a special photo on your desk helps, you may want to use this. The key is, when you feel your wheel starting to spin, and you may be getting off-track, be sure to master your reboot.
As always, I would love to hear what you think.
By Scott Peltin
Founder/Chief Performance Officer