Restore Yourself to Your Factory Default Settings

My wireless connection to the internet had suddenly stopped working. At first I was frustrated — I had been in the middle of browsing some books on Amazon. But I quickly took it as a blessing. I had an article to write and the Amazon browsing was a distraction. I resisted the temptation to distract myself further by trying to fix it and got to work. I finished the article in record time.

That’s a lesson in itself. But it’s not the whole story.

Once I was done with the article, I needed to send it to my editor. What was previously a distraction — fixing my internet connection — was now essential.

So I put all my deep technological know-how to work: I yelled at it.

No change. So I yelled at it some more. When that didn’t work, I closed all the applications and rebooted the computer. It still didn’t work. So I opened the wireless router software and played with some of the settings. Still nothing. Finally, I turned the wireless router off and on several times but that didn’t do anything either.

I just sat there silently angry, staring at my computer equipment, ready to admit defeat. But then I remembered the solution that had worked for me before, when all else failed. I unplugged everything and waited one minute.

While everything was unplugged, I had nothing to do, so I just sat there.

It’s strange, because one minute is so little, but when the time was up, I felt noticeably different. I wasn’t angry or frustrated or annoyed. I wasn’t on the verge — as I was before — of throwing away all my electronics if this solution didn’t work. I felt oddly refreshed. My situation hadn’t changed, but my perspective had.

It turns out that when I unplugged my equipment, I unplugged myself at the same time. And when that short, barely noticeable minute had passed, I felt different. Renewed. Ready to speak softly and gently to my wireless router instead of yelling at it. Maybe even joke around with it a bit to lighten up the tension.

Which got me thinking: This unplug and stop everything for a minute strategy might be a pretty good solution for whenever things aren’t working in life.

That point was reinforced for me in a recent cell phone call I had with Eleanor, my wife, while she was traveling. We were having a difficult conversation and each of us had the feeling that the other one wasn’t listening. Then the call was dropped. We tried calling each other back but only got voicemail. So we sat there for a minute, each of us in our respective places. Unplugged.

When we eventually connected again, the tone of the conversation changed radically. We were softer with each other. More attentive. More forgiving and loving. Better at listening and rephrasing what we heard the other one saying. I never thought I’d say this but, for once, I was happy that my cellular network is unreliable. It gave us both a minute to breathe and get some perspective.

Unplugging and waiting for a minute is an unexpected strategy because it appears passive. You aren’t actively developing new strategies, arguments, or viewpoints. In fact, you aren’t actively doing anything.

When you unplug and wait for a minute, you restore yourself to your factory default settings, which for most of us tends to be generous, open-hearted, creative, connected, and hopeful. That makes us more likely to be effective when we plug back in.

In a meeting that’s going nowhere? Take a break. Making no headway on that proposal you need to write? Stand up and take a walk. Fighting with your kids? Give yourself a time-out. Unplug for a minute and breathe.

This is not a strategy that requires practice and skill building. All it requires is remembering to do it. Sometimes, life requires active, willful engagement. But sometimes, the smartest move is disengagement. That magic minute of not doing anything has the power to change just about everything.

Which is what happened with my great and wise teacher, my wireless router. Miracle of miracles, when I plugged it back in after that minute of waiting, my wireless internet starting working again. And so did I.


  1. Sherrill Leverich-Fries says:

    Hi Peter,

    I followed the link in Michael Bungay Stanier’s latest post on you, to find out who is this person speaking my language about overcoming bright, shiny objectitis, and landed on this post. Wow! A post that had my name on it!

    I am so looking forward to perusing your website and checking out the book […in the space of typing that last sentence, I just caught myself doing and not completing four different, non-related things…sigh.]!

    Happy Thanksgiving,

  2. Trish Foster says:

    I have to make myself take a minute break to read your blog. I shut my office door and just read what you have written. And in that minute or two, I find that I am able to become myself once more. Sometimes, when I know there is a difficult meeting or hectic schedule coming up, I keep your blog on reserve. Because I do know that it will help me regain my positive attitude and helpful spirit. Thanks so much. I love this blog. I needed today to restore my factory settings… and because of the stress, it took 2 minutes, but it worked! Thanks!

  3. Nilesh Roy says:


    Amazing write-up.

    Kept me hooked-on till the last fullstop.

    & Very aptly titled… Restore Yourself to Your Factory Default Settings…

    Thanks a ton for sharing :)

  4. Patricia Ford says:

    As I reflect back on this last year, personally, my business and about the world, I am reminded of something that I was taught many years, ago. BeThankful!

    What you focus on expands. If we focus on our lack of having, that is what we have in life. The more that we focus on what we receive and have, the more will have in our lives.

    BellyDanceShoppe the brick and mortar store closed the first of the year and I had even considered the possibility of closing the online store. However, after requests and some very beautiful letters and e-mails from customers like you, I restocked the BellyDanceShoppe website. I thank all of you who wrote telling me you would miss the store if gone, and those who said they would miss me and a special thanks to those who encouraged me to follow my heart. ( I am still working on exactly how that will manifest.)

    I thank each and every one of you, for accepting my emails, for reading them, if you do and for shopping at BellyDanceShoppe. I am grateful that I have gotten to know a little about many of you through email, phone conversations and in person.

    I am thankful for my bellydance students, a smaller but a wonderful, spirited caring group of ladies.

    I am grateful for Peter Bregman’s book ” 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction and Get the Right Things Done” for it has reminded me to take this minute to focus, regroup and for an email from author, Barbara Stanny for inspiring this letter.

    For many years, I wrote on each check, I wrote “Thanks and God Bless”, reminding myself that I received something for this payment, whether it was a product, electric to light and heat my home or even taxes that pay for streets, police, fire and more. Taking that moment, can change affect the receiver’s day, but most important it changes my perspective.

    Want more? Acknowledge and appreciate what you really have. Want more money? Appreciate the little or lot that you have. Want more friends? Take time to really appreciate a friend that you have. Make it a practice when you feel in need or lack, take a minute and realize what you already have.

    Remember, what you focus on expands. You may see a miracle. I know I have.

    Happy Thanksgiving

  5. Kim Marshall says:

    I found you through Michael Bungay Steiner as well, and love this post! It really does take just a moment – if we remember to take that moment – and a breath. Or six.

    What’s your thought on the default that we have learned over time, vs. factory default? Seems getting stuck in ‘learned default’, vs. ‘factory default’ is part of the challenge.

    I ordered your book… am having fun playing 6 boxes… and am referring coaching clients to your site. looking forward to what’s next from you. Your gutsy, free-flowing style in an inspiration!

    Kim M. (ps… VOBS 1984-97… but with a URL like i..c… no surprise, huh?)

    1. Peter Bregman says:

      Thanks Kim!

      Your question is a really good one and I’m not sure I have an easy pat answer. For me, it’s been (and continues to be) a process over time as I uncover layers of learned defaults, evaluate whether they are working for me, and, if not, try to strip them away.

      But it’s not easy figuring that out because our learned defaults are so well disguised as factory defaults.

      Thanks for your comment and question.



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