Creating an anchor on purpose

A purposefully created anchor is a ‘handle’ that enables you to capture, stabilise and reproduce a particular state in yourself or in others. Given our understanding of how anchors occur naturally, we can design a process to create an anchor and describe some conditions that must be met for the process to be successful.

An outline of the process

This is the basic process used to ‘set an anchor’ on a person (it’s described in much more detail in Setting an anchor).

  1. Choose the state you want to anchor.
  2. Have the person recall a past vivid experience in order to access the chosen state.
  3. Apply a specific and repeatable stimulus while the person is in the state.
  4. In order to then test the success of the process, you need to change the state of the person to something else (in other words, you need to rapidly break them away from their focus of attention on the past experience – and hence their mood).
  5. Now test the anchor by applying the stimulus. Notice what happens to the state of the person. If the anchor has worked, the person’s state will change to the one you chose to link to the anchor.

This sounds simple, and it is. What you will find is that practice and skill in ensuring the following conditions are met will improve your success rate.

Conditions for success

These are the keys to setting a successful anchor: intensity, the right stimulus/trigger, timing and repetition.

  1. The state to be anchored must be as intense as possible. The more intense the state, the stronger the anchor. In order for a person to access an intense state, they need to be fully associated into a memory that typifies that state.
  2. You should choose a good stimulus to condition – in other words, the actual anchor or trigger to which you associate the desired state must be a sensible and usable choice. This means it must be unique and replicable. Unique in that it would not occur naturally or frequently. Replicable in that the same stimulus can be applied again at will. The fewer representation systems involved in the stimulus, the easier it is to reproduce it in the future. It must also be something that the person can do in public without embarrassment and, indeed, without other people noticing (no good, therefore, to link confidence in giving presentations to standing on one leg!).

An example of a good stimulus would be a gentle squeeze of an ear lobe or bringing your third finger and thumb together. These are unlikely to happen by accident; they are unmistakeable; they use just the kinaesthetic system; they can easily be replicated, and they’re unobtrusive.

  1. The timing of the application of the stimulus is important. A state will rise to a peak of intensity and then wane. The best time to apply the stimulus is as the state is just rising to its peak so you make the most of the intensity. If you apply the stimulus after the peak, you are anchoring a waning state and this is not what we want.
  2. Set the same anchor many times. Repetition will tend to strengthen the anchor so it is more durable and the response will be stronger.

Prior knowledge required: Sharpen your senses.

This is a full script for establishing a kinaesthetic anchor on another person. Go through this exercise with a friend and you will experience simple anchoring at first hand.

Setting an anchor

Stacking an anchor

The term ‘stacking an anchor’ refers to the process of setting the same anchor several times to improve its durability and the strength of the response. You could use the same memory each time to evoke the required state, or different memories to evoke the same state.

Creating a resource anchor

You can also stack different states onto the same anchor. In effect you are adding a variety of responses to the same conditioned stimulus. One common way to use this is to set up a resource anchor so that you can trigger yourself into a resourceful state to help deal with a situation such as an awkward meeting or an impromptu presentation.

You create a resource anchor by first establishing an anchor that triggers a useful state, such as confidence. Using the same anchor, you then add further states that would also be useful in a difficult situation. These might be ‘knowing what to do’, ‘being in control’, ‘being calm under pressure’, ‘standing tall’, ‘being totally motivated’ and/or any others that would work for you. Imagine you are cooking. What mixture of ingredients will create what you want?

Remember to use an anchor that is discreet, so it can be done in public at any time and so that it is truly portable. Maybe touch a point between two knuckles, or squeeze an earlobe, or imagine a specific symbol or play a few bars of a tune in your mind.

Setting your own resource anchor

You can easily set a resource anchor on your own. Every evening, recall each good experience you had during the day; relive it in your mind and crank up the intensity of the good state, then self-anchor. Doing this regularly will train your mind to seek out good experiences during the day and you will start to really notice what is working for you. Also, during the day, stack any useful states on the anchor when they occur.

Keep stacking all your good life experiences on one anchor so you have a powerful resource anchor. You may wish to establish separate anchors for energetic states and calm states.

Your personal anchor

You will find that when you trigger the anchor, you will get a wonderful mix of all these states and feel greatly empowered to deal with difficulties.

The key thing is to remember that you have this anchor available when the going gets tough. Once you have used it a few times in tough situations you will find that the situation itself will trigger the response; that is, the stimulus of a tough situation becomes conditioned in such a way that the response is now the states from the resource anchor. You will no longer need to use the original anchor on which you stacked those resources. You have now conditioned yourself to automatically shift up a gear when the going gets tough!

Using a resource anchor is a great way to bring all your capabilities into the present moment so you can handle what is happening right now. You won’t be left thinking afterwards, ‘I could have done better’.


Create a resource anchor.

There is no separate exercise script for this technique since it is simply a matter of using the same process as Setting an anchor over and over again, with different yet complementary states.

Circle of excellence

A resource anchor that is commonly taught is called the ‘circle of excellence’. This is simply stacking resources on a spatial anchor, and many people find this works really well for them. It is particularly useful for challenging situations that you know are coming up, such as a presentation, an interview or a tough meeting. Do the following exercise to create a circle of excellence for yourself and learn a few interesting ways to use it.


Prior knowledge required: Setting an anchor, Creating a resource anchor

This is the process for the Circle of excellence technique. It is not a full script as you will be using your experience from the other exercises.

Circle of excellence

Collapsing an anchor

As we go through life, we collect anchors that are not useful to us. Some can be quite restrictive, such as a phobic response to something as common as an elevator; others are no more than mere annoyances, such as that sinking feeling when you encounter a telephone answering system, or an impatient response when you encounter queues at the supermarket checkout.

There is a simple NLP technique to collapse or remove an unhelpful anchor of the type that does not produce a strong response and is mostly an annoyance. (Note that for anchors that evoke a really intense response, such as a phobia, the hatred of another person or a feeling of complete overwhelm, there are other techniques that should be used, and only then by someone who is skilled in their use.)

Collapsing anchors works on the simple principle that opposites will cancel each other out; if you have more positive than negative, the end result when you mix them will be positive. We know how this works from an early age. If we fell over and hurt our knee as a child, we went to get a hug which swamped the hurt, and somehow made the knee better.

The collapse anchor process is simple.

  1. Create an anchor to the unwanted state.
  2. Next, create an anchor for a stacked resource of positive states.
  3. Trigger both anchors together.

When you trigger both anchors, some form of integration takes place. There is a full script explaining how to do this in the following exercise.


Prior knowledge and practical experience required: Setting an anchor, Creating a resource anchor

This is the process for collapsing an anchor. It is not a full script, as you will be using your experience from the other exercises.

Collapsing an anchor

Anchoring examples

This topic only covers anchoring at its most basic level, but by now you will appreciate that anchoring is extremely pervasive and finds its way into every part of our lives. Fortunately, the NLP tools and techniques related to anchoring are very powerful, and empowering. There is much more to learn if you want to.

Here are a few examples to give you an idea of how some different ways anchoring could be useful in a business context.