How to use Anchors in NLP

NLP provides you with a set of tools which will help you to create positive states on demand. We refer to these tools as anchoring techniques. This analogy derives from the ships anchor which provides it with stability in open waters. However in NLP we use the word anchor to describe an external stimulus that sets off a particular internal state.

An example of anchor is the way that the smell of fried chicken may make your mouth water. Or to take another example the green light which lets us know it’s time to go. One of the most famous examples of anchoring is Pavlov’s dogs. Pavlov trained the dogs by ringing a bell when dinner was presented to them. After a while even if the dinner was removed. The dog’s mouths would start to water at the sound of the bell.

Using NLP anchors will help you to find ways to use your positive experiences to help you deal with more trying situations.

How to Set an Anchor

Step One: You need to first get clear about the positive state that you want to get into. When you describe this state you want to be very specific about what it will be like.

Step Two: Remember a time in the past when you were in that state. Even if the situation might be different to the one you are in now, as long as it is a comparable state you can use it.

Step Three: You want to re-experience that time in as much detail as you possibly can. You want to be totally absorbed in the experience. Remember the sights, the sounds, the tastes and what you were thinking and feeling inside.

If you have followed these steps you should be in a high positive state. This is when you want to set an anchor for yourself. A good physical anchor is using your hands. Look at your hands and see they are doing as you remember the experience. Make a special movement with your hands such as a clenched fist. You do not have to do a physical anchor like this instead you could create a mental image to use as your anchor or any other anchor associated with one of your senses.

In the future when you want to get back into a powerful, resourceful state simply fire the anchor. In the example I used before I suggested a clenched fist. If you have set this anchor then in the future when you want to trigger your resourceful state then clench your fist.


The anchor you use should have certain features. Firstly it should be unique and distinctive. It should be an action that you would not use every day or a sound that is not commonplace and it should be an action that is unique to you. The timing of setting the anchor is also important. You should set the anchor when you are at your peak state. You also need to repeat the action as anchoring needs to be reinforced if it’s to be effective.

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