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Anchoring is a core technique used in neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) that uses a triggering stimulus (the anchor) to move experiences around in time and space. In other words, an anchor is set to trigger a strong positive emotion or behaviour. It is possible to anchor a resourceful state that can be accessed instantly whenever you need/want it by simply triggering the anchor itself.

An anchor can be from any of the senses and is often a specific sound, a particular smell or taste, or even a certain type of movement or spatial location. The most common form of anchor is a kinaesthetic anchor which relies on the sense of touch and is triggered by a specific movement. Many top athletes and presenters use this type of anchor to create a sense of calm, get 'in the zone' and ultimately enhance their performance.

There is a standard process to set up an anchor initially:


  • It should be linked to a state that is clearly experienced and as intense as possible - the person should be re-living an experience that is as vivid and immersive as possible to recreate the positive emotions they felt at the time and which will be chained to the anchor.

  • It should be timed to trigger just as the state is reaching its peak - the anchor needs to be 'set' just at the right time as the intensity of the emotion is starting to build - it should also be released just as the emotion reaches its peak and before the state starts to diminish.

  • It should be unique and easily replicated - the action that will act as the anchor trigger needs to be something that is easy to do but is not something that happens all the time (otherwise the anchor would continually fire and overwhelm the person's emotional balance).

  • The person setting the anchor needs to be fully associated in the experience (state) when they set the anchor for the first time - you should only need to set an anchor once so it is important to get it right that first time.

The short video demonstrates how to set a kinaesthetic anchor and, in this example, I am using the state of confidence as the experience that will be generated each time the anchor is triggered.

Anchoring is a very powerful technique and must be used with caution. 
Never anchor a negative state and never anchor more than one state using the same trigger. You can layer an anchor by setting the same state multiple times on the same trigger - in theory this will increase the intensity of the emotion you experience but, in practice, this is quite difficult to do successfully.

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