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Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame

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Repositioning Your Anchor

Staying calm and focused during times of stress, challenge, and change.

People who have not spent much time on boats or ships are often surprised to learn that the boat’s anchor does not hold it in place. The anchor is not tied to the bottom of the ocean. The anchor is dropped and positioned, and the weight of the chain is what keeps the boat from drifting away.

Boat anchors are checked and repositioned when the tides, winds, and drifting causes the boat to move. Sometimes the anchor gets snagged on coral or debris, and when trying to pull up the anchor, it can get stuck. The boat must be repositioned to release the anchor from the unseen hazard. What is normally a tool of stability, and a valuable part of the ship becomes challenging, so the anchor gets repositioned.

Sometimes we need to evaluate our sense of stability and reposition where we are, like a boat repositioning its anchor.

Practicing repositioning allows us to decrease stress, increase focus, and ignore irritations.

Here are some ways to stay grounded and focused, regardless of the situation.

  1. Breathe!

During times of stress or irritation, it is natural to take breathes that are shallow. To anchor in the moment, pay attention to your breathing. Make a conscious effort to breathe in slowly and deeply, following the path of your breath with your mind. Feel the air move through your body. Then breathe out slowly and gently, again paying attention to the movement of your body as air passes through it. Concentrate on feeling a subtle energy shift of calm.

  1. Check in with your five senses

If you are finding it a little tricky to access your inner peace or you are distracted, try the five senses check-in. Make a conscious decision to disconnect from distractions and focus your awareness, one sense at a time, on what you can see, feel, hear, smell and taste in that moment. This grounds you in the present moment by becoming more aware of what is impacting your space. This can be especially helpful when you feel stressed or harried.

  1. Mind like water

Take every opportunity that comes your way to practice being calm, especially during a crisis, when others are feeling frantic. Being calm puts us in the space where we control our mental and physical reactions during challenges moments. Some people find it helpful to picture the surface of a calm body of water and think, “mind like water.”  Great times to practice this are where you might feel frustrated and impatient, like waiting in line or while you are stuck in traffic. Put a half-smile on your face and remind yourself that you are calm.

  1. Use repositioning techniques to create thinking space

No matter how busy you are, you can use repositioning techniques to build more space into your day. Before you send an email, take time to breathe, notice your breath, then decide if you want to send the email.

Choose to ignore or switch off your devices. Schedule 5-minute breaks to reposition between activities or projects. Practice being present around other people. Give other people your full attention and respect, and you will have a more meaningful and productive conversation.



  1. Bill Alexander

    What a great (and timely!) article! I really could have used this yesterday, when my laptop’s hard drive crashed as soon as I got into the office. I am thankful for having these tips now though, as I continue to deal with this challenge. The breathing tips really resonated with me – it’s always the first thing that changes when I hit a stressor. Thanks Mary!

    • Mary Kelly

      Oh that is a tough one! Technology is great until it gets cranky. I have to remind myself to breathe and smile when things don’t work out quite right. Thanks for your note!

  2. John Paganini

    Well said Mary. Appreciated – liked the “Repositioning Your Anchor” analogy. I am repositioning already.

    • Mary Kelly

      Thank you so much for the comment! I remember when we sailed and we would drop anchor for an afternoon or an overnight. “Anchor watch” is a very big deal. I’ve seen boats not even know that they were in trouble when it got snagged or drifted. It reminds me to be constantly checking the things I should check. :). Thanks for the note!


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