When we think of an anchor, it’s usually as a massive piece of iron designed to hold a ship steady and prevent it from floating away. Keep that visual in mind while we consider the benefits of creating mental anchors.
Mental anchoring involves creating an association between an external stimulus and an internal experience to create a more favorable response, greater comfort and better learning. Mental anchors can be effectively used to reinforce confidence in any situation. This could be a job interview, a date, engaging in a difficult conversation, committing to healthier eating or exercise, or just about anything.
Let’s say you’d like to feel more confident. Follow these steps:
1) Recall a time when you did feel confident. Run a movie in your mind about that moment. Try to really see it, and remember how you felt at that time, making the memory as vivid as possible. If there is music or a smell you can associate with it—add that into your mental movie as well. Use Technicolor! Keep the imagery bright and vibrant. Go ahead and smile as you recall the wonderful moment.
2) Now that you’ve got the imagery going strong, choose a part of your body or an action that will serve as your physical “anchor” that you will use when you need some stability and strength to conquer what might be perceived as threatening waves. My favorite is making a small, tight fist that says, “Yeah!” (Like a fist-pump!) You can also do this with a mental image, visualizing yourself standing in the victory stance with your hands held over your head like the champion you are.
3) Next, get back to that happy moment movie and add your physical anchor to the memory.
4) Take a momentary break, then repeat this process to get used to the power of anchoring your memories with a physical gesture for greater recall when you need it. Remember to add all your senses to the picture while adding your physical action.
5) Drop your anchor regularly. Anytime you need positive reinforcement before a confrontation, situation, new meeting or a potential moment of insecurity, take a minute to recall and activate your anchor. Practice doing this enough times so that initiating the physical action triggers a positive emotional response and a flow of endorphins, which are your feel-good hormones.
6) Repeat until you can get this desirable feeling on demand. Anchors away!