What On Earth Is 'Anchoring'?

How would you feel if you knew you could change your emotional state in a few minutes? Confident? In control of your life? Certainly. Well it's quite achievable with a subtle little NLP technique called anchoring.

NLP Anchoring techniques are easy to learn but very effective in changing behavior. To explain how it works, I'd like to share this story with you:

My partner and I were standing in a line outside the hostel in Earl's Court, waiting to learn if there were any beds available for the night. We'd arrived in London that morning to find that the best bed and breakfast places were beyond our budget and most of the hostels were full of summer travelers. It was 5 PM, we were tired and grumpy, and fearful of spending the night in the nearest train station.

A tall, good-looking man in his mid-twenties sauntered down the street and stopped to ask us why there was such a long line. When we explained, he asked what country we were from and stayed to chat about the joys (and trials) of traveling.

Suddenly he said, "Why don't you stay at my place for a few days? I'm just down the road and I've got a spare room you can use."

We accepted gratefully, and as soon as we arrived at his very spacious flat he made us a pot of Earl Grey tea. It was the first time we'd tried it and I've never appreciated a cup of tea more.

To this day, Earl Grey is my favorite tea. Whenever I'm feeling stressed or overwhelmed by a task, I take time out to make a cup of Earl Grey. The aroma and the taste bring on a state of relaxation and gently remind me that everything's going to work out just fine.

So what is anchoring?

Anchoring, the NLP technique, is about creating an association between two separate elements where none existed before.

Anchoring, the phenomenon, occurs naturally in human beings. Here are some examples:

  • You walk into a house where someone is baking an apple pie. The smell immediately transports you back to visiting your grandmother's house when you were a small child.

  • You sob your way through a family member's funeral and many people come by and put an arm around your shoulders as a show of sympathy. Years later, whenever someone puts an arm around your shoulders in a very similar way, you experience an inexplicable wave of sadness.

  • You and your teenage boyfriend have a top ten hit that you label 'our song'. Many years later when you hear the song on a 'golden oldies' station, you instantly remember the smell of his aftershave as he held you close while you danced to the song.

  • You loved chocolate milkshakes as a child but you haven't had one in years. On a whim, you order one at the local cafe and the minute you take your first sip, you recall hanging out with your friends at the old snack bar, guzzling milkshakes in your school uniforms.

  • You stand on a hillside and watch the waves below pound against the beach. Suddenly you're back on another beach decades earlier where you sat on a similar hilltop and gazed at a similar combination of surf, grass and clouds.

An anchor can be defined as an association between events. The list of examples above is of anchors associated to the past. The Earl Grey story is about the creation of an anchor in the present moment.

The term 'anchoring' - as used by NLP practitioners - refers to the internal process by which the brain forms the connection. As you can see, these random associations happen constantly throughout a lifetime. And they can have powerful ramifications.

Are you limited by your unconscious associations?
Imagine you're the middle child in a large family and your parents have little time to give you much attention. You discover that when you refuse to eat your food you become the center of attention at the dinner table. If this is your only time in the spotlight, you'll tend to keep up this behavior throughout your childhood, and will most likely set up a pattern of lifelong eating disorders.

Or perhaps your parents argued constantly. The only way you could get some sleep was to hold a pillow against your ears. For the rest of your life, you can't fall asleep any other way, even though you realize it's irrational.
Anchors are subtle but powerful, especially when they are attached to a strong emotion. The stronger the emotion, the stronger the anchor. Is there a way to harness this natural ability of your mind to create associations?

Of course.

Any desirable state you've experienced at any time in your life can be deliberately linked to a distinctive gesture, action, item of clothing, smell and so on. The process of creating an anchor is very simple and you can learn it in 15 minutes.

You can also create new anchors by automatically anchoring any great feeling that you experience spontaneously. The trick is to remember to anchor it despite being caught up in the present moment, rather than having to wait until the same set of triggers recur by chance.

The benefits of both types of anchoring are that you can recreate any feeling you've anchored AT WILL.

How useful would that be?

If all you did before every situation in your life was to anchor the most useful state you might need, you'd be living the life of your dreams in a very short period of time.
  • You could choose to be happy most of the time, except for those circumstances where other emotions are called for.

  • Your attitude would spill over into all your dealings with other people, causing them to respond to you positively in turn. The only caution you might apply is to make sure you're not flaunting your happiness in the face of another's despondency, but rather taking the time to make them feel good as well.

  • You wouldn't need to wait to be rich and/or famous to feel good (or happy, excited, fulfilled and so on). You could experience those feelings right now.

  • You'd enjoy the journey to success, whatever that might be for you, instead of thinking that your life will change only when you 'make it'.
So how can you begin to live that way?

Here's a very simple demonstration of anchoring by Tad James. Tad is linking a specific emotionally charged event to touching the subject's knuckle. Notice how easily he can have each person relive the emotion by repeating the touch:

Your Next Step:
  1. One starting point is to make a resources list, which is a list of all the emotions or states you'd love to have at your fingertips. You can use our list as a guide or make up your own. You probably need only 3-5 key states to accomplish anything you want in your life.

  2. Then you can learn how to anchor.

And in case you think anchoring sounds too simple to be effective, consider this:

When he was starting out on his journey to become the world's number one success coach, Anthony Robbins used anchoring to prepare himself to take action.

Anchoring works.

Disclaimer: This site is purely educational and we make no claims or guarantees with regard to the information presented. Please consult a certified NLP practitioner for individual coaching in the use of NLP techniques. We strongly advise consulting a financial industry professional before embarking on a wealth creation journey.

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