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This is part of a series looking at microskills – changes that employees can make to help improve their health and life at work and at home, and employers can make to improve the workplace. The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell have created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and well-being of their employees first. Register your company now at

Each day suggests a new opportunity and a fresh start. Some employees believe this and others do not. Our experience in the workplace can be like Bill Murray's movie Ground Hog Day, when each day plays out exactly the same. This is fine when it's positive, but when it's not, it's stressful.

The reset button microskill facilitates shifting your mental state from negative to positive thoughts so that you can restart your day or ensure tomorrow is a new one. New, by definition, implies pure and good, which is the opposite of what Albert Einstein taught as being less desirable: "Insanity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

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What we focus on – whether positive or negative – can expand and can take over our thinking. This is why negative experiences and interactions can be all-consuming. One consequence when this type of thinking is not resolved quickly is unresolved conflict. For example, a peer doesn't invite you to a meeting. This upsets you and you decide it was rude and unfair. This starts a negative loop and influences your behaviour, and you might just avoiding interacting with that individual on any level.

This type of negative looping can have a further compounding effect because it can take over your mind and lead to distraction. This can lead to mistakes, delays and disruptions that can negatively affect your workplace experience and performance.

When something happens and you begin to notice distractive thinking and you know the root cause of your frustration is some minor incident, honestly consider whether the real issue is that you simply didn't get what you wanted. It's in these types of situations that we always have choice to continue our negative loop or press our reset button to change our focus. The old idiom – making mountains out of molehills – has taught for generations that there is little value in letting minor issues become bigger than they need to be.

Once you master this microskill it can help you create a mental shift on demand that can influence your attitude and outcomes in the workplace.


Training your reset button will take some practice. This micro skill leverages a skill from neurolinguistic programming called anchoring that can link a positive memory to a stimulus. To develop this anchor, find a quiet spot and think of something that has always been a wonderful and positive experience. Recall all the wonderful smells, sights and sounds. Once you have this vivid memory at its peak, set your kinesthetic trigger (for example, press your left thumbnail). This anchor can typically be developed within a few days. The more you practice, the stronger it will become. You will know it's working when you feel a minor frustration, trigger your anchor, and notice what you begin to think about and feel. (To learn more about this skill, watch Tony Robbins' video on YouTube.)

Press your reset button on demand

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Acknowledge that you are looping on a negative thought. When something minor happens and you begin to notice it's creating disruption, delays and distraction, decide that it's time to stop this loop. When you fire off your trigger, you change the negative loop to a positive one. Like a goldfish swimming around a tank, within one lap you're ready to leave the past and move forward. Only you can determine if you want to release your frustration and move on. When ready, trigger your positive anchor to help create a positive mental state that can help you move forward.

Determine what, if any, action is required. Evaluate your facts in a more positive state. Why did this event really bother you? What action, if any, do you think is required? Many times there is no need for action, just awareness that what's bothering you is some preference or insecurity that can be left behind through personal growth. Whether you decide to act by talking to a peer to resolve a concern or gain a personal insight, the goal is to move forward, thinking positively about your day.

Bill Howatt is the chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto. He is also the president of Howatt HR Consulting and founder of TalOp, in Kentville, N.S.

This series supports The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell's Employee Recommended Workplace Award.

This award recognizes employers who have the healthiest, most engaged and most productive employees. It promotes a two-way accountability model where an employer can support employees to have a positive workplace experience.

You can find all the stories in this series at this link:

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