Anchoring is a natural process that usually occurs without our awareness, and can have either a positive or negative impact. Simply put, anchoring is associating two ideas together, so that whenever you think of one, you immediately think of the other.

You may well have heard of a Russian physiologist called Ivan Pavlov. He famously conducted an experiment where he rung a bell every time he gave food to his dog. After doing this a number of times, all he had to do was ring the bell and the dog would immediately start to salivate.

This is a great example of the principle of anchoring, the dog had associated the ringing of the bell with being provided with food. The ringing of the bell was the anchor for the dog going into the psychological state of expecting food.

Just in case you’re thinking anchoring only applies to dogs, and people wouldn’t be so easily manipulated, take a minute to think about how often this technique is used in advertising: Beer commercials are notorious for showing women in bikinis so that you will associate beer with sex. Soft drink commercials show people enjoying the drinks whilst doing fun exciting activities with friends so you will associate the drink with having an exciting life and being popular. And fast food commercials show happy families eating their food, so you will associate their products with enjoying time with your family.

The truth is you have probably already been exposed to many attempts at anchoring an idea into your mind just today. Now not every attempt will work on you, the effectiveness depends on whether the values being shown in any given commercial match up with values you desire to have more of in your life, and on how well these values are actually conveyed by the commercial.

But now for the good news, with the knowledge of how anchoring works you can use it to get yourself into a particular mood or psychological state that you choose, whenever you choose. You just have to do a little bit of ground work first.

The Anchoring Technique

So lets say you know there are certain situations where you would love to feel more confident and in control:

1. Think of one time in your life when you felt really confident and in control. Now write this memory down. (One brief sentence will be enough)

2. Close your eyes and imagine that situation. Recall it in as much detail and as vividly as you possibly can. Imagine what you could see, what you could hear and most importantly how you felt at that time. Make it feel as real as possible so you get a real sense of that feeling of confidence and control again. Some people can do this fairly quickly but for others it can easily take 5 or 10 minutes the first time you do this.

3. At a point when you feel fully back in that moment, where the memory of feeling confident and in control is at its most intense, squeeze the thumb and middle finger on your dominant hand and say the word “Confidence!” to yourself. (You can say this in your head or out loud, either is fine)

4. Take a deep relaxing breath, and slowly open your eyes. Now take a short break, just go off and do something else for 5-10 minutes that will distract your mind.

5. Now repeat steps 1 to 4 another 2 times. Each time use a different memory, a different time where you felt confident and in control. And each time rally go back into that moment during step 2

And that’s all there is to it. Now you have that anchor installed in your mind, you can activate it again whenever you need it. The next time you are in a situation where you want to feel more confident and more in control, simply squeeze your thumb and middle finger together again and say “Confidence!” just like before. And in an instant you will start to feel more confident, just as easily as Pavolv’s dog became convinced food was on its way whenever it heard that bell.

Remember you don’t have to use the anchoring technique just for feelings of confidence, you can set up the anchor for whatever emotional or psychological state you want to be able to call up on demand.


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