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WHIN Monthly Bulletin

Anchoring: Resourceful State Management

Dr. Angus I. McLeod

We all have different moods and most of these are the results of external factors; good news, bad news, spotting someone we like or someone we do not want to talk to. These emotional and physical changes invariably form over time, until they are instant reactions and just feel like ‘part of what I experience in life, me’.

A similar process, but one where we are in complete control, is anchoring. With anchored ‘states’ we can easily create powerful, fast and resourceful ‘states’ to be triggered immediately when we want them. These might include calm-confidence before important meetings or presenting; a way of counteracting a dysfunctional mindset that effects your ability to perform well in your sport; a means to express yourself more in meetings where you have previously been reticent to speak-up, as examples.

I’ll begin by illustrating how, as a coach-leader, I help to install an anchor in someone who needs a desired, resourceful anchored ‘state’, whenever they desire to have it, fast and powerfully. After that, I’ll relate how you can manage to create your own anchor in a private space and test it for effective use later.

There are two parts to the anchoring process; installing the anchor and testing the anchor. Let’s look at the installation phase first.


Installing an Anchor

The figure shows the process of installation using a physical pressure that is never likely to happen by accident; for example, the second finger of the right hand curled back to an exact spot at the base of the right-thumb[1]. You will ONLY make this touch (green line), when the resourceful ‘state’ (RS, maroon curve) is improving or steady.

As soon as the RS reduces (deliberately or due to an external event like a phone ringing), you will stop the touch (red line) instantly. The figure below shows how this is used, on multiple repeats, to link the touch to the RS. With repetition, the RS state happens faster and faster (maybe starting at 1-2 minutes to reach a peak on the first attempt but taking under a second after six of seven repeats, more or less). The intensity, or perfection, of the RS also increases as shown by the height of the curve.

Graph displaying anchor state effects

The installation depends on perfectly making (green) and stopping (red) the cue touch and also on having a short break between each period of RS; in this short break, you want to come back into your room completely by noticing things in the room, your physical comfort, breathing, the time etc.

The reason for these breaks is to create a very wide difference between your ‘room state’ and the RS as you install the anchor and cue. This bigger difference in the two ‘states’, ‘room state’ and RS., help the installation happen more quickly.

When you are experiencing very fast change into your RS and the intensity feels near perfect (say 9 out of ten perfect or more), then you are ready for testing! We will return to this later.


My Boss is Embarrassing Me: Coached Example

Rosie came to see me privately. She worked in HR consultancy, successfully selling a personality-profiling instrument. She had been in her present company for just three months and already was turning large amounts of business. She was on a revenue percentage and earning more than the established partners. She came to our session straight from work, carefully groomed and with pages of hastily written notes detailing incidents and dialogue that had upset her. Rosie appeared to be dressed for the evening rather than for work, sheer stocking, high-heels and a smart skirt.

She complained of not being able to sleep, of feeling stressed and being very anxious. She hated going into work but felt compelled to keep striving, in spite of the negative environment. Most of the problems involved her main boss, Robert. He was negatively judgmental about some of her language and phrases when she had been speaking to customers on the telephone. He would even complain about her in front of other staff to make an example of how not to relate with customers, in his view. In fact, Rosie was already ahead of anyone else that month in signing new business. Additionally, most of her signing was made without seeing clients; her ability to inspire confidence and establish friendly rapport on the phone was obviously exceptional.

During the course of this first session, Rosie started to deal with her insomnia. She committed to establishing a pattern of behaviors before going to bed. Evidently, she had no pattern before that and had a history of sleeplessness. Due to the stress and anxiety, this was worse and she was waking in the early hours. The idea was that her new pattern would settle her down to a relaxed and familiar state before going to bed. This included things that she used to do when younger: warm bath, hot drink, reading something easy for ten minutes. I knew that the experience of forming a regular pattern and enjoying the results would be helpful for Rosie when considering the installation of an anchor. Later, we also looked for a resourceful state that she could anchor and then use when feeling anxious or stressed. She would then have a mental state, an anchored state, that is positive and can be accessed at will.

Anchored State

It is useful to access resourceful states at will. In order to do this the coachee is asked to think of a resourceful experience, or an invented one, that is positive, easily entered into and easily repeated. To anchor this resourceful state, we typically link to a cue or ‘trigger’.

Sometimes this cue is a physical touch, imagined image or sound. By carefully anchoring the state with this cue and repeating this several times, the two events become linked. When this is properly done, the cue will automatically trigger the state. Jill Dann[2] suggests that when introducing positive anchored states for the first time, that it is first useful to explore negative anchored states that are already part of the coachee’s response to events around them. These might include highly negative behaviors triggered by certain people or their views. Having realized that they already have anchors, the coachee may be more willing to explore anchoring as a positive tool for changing negative patterns of response.

Angus:             “Rosie, can you recall a really good feeling when you have been with work colleagues?”

Rosie could. If she had not been able to, then I would have asked for a situation outside the work context.

Rosie:              “I have been given a citation at work. It’s two years ago. I sold more business in one month than anyone has done in the history of the company. My boss and the MD are there. I am standing and all the team are standing and clapping. My boss is showing the citation and is shaking, holding really, my hand. I do not think we have ever had physical contact before. I have a wave of heat across my chest and it is coming here.” <pointing and touching, just below her rib cage>.

Angus:             “Hold on to that experience of heat if you will. Try to repeat that touch of your finger at the point where that wave of heat has come. Maintain that touch as long as the heat is there.”

Linguistic Tip: If you will

Phrases like, ‘if you will’ and ‘in your own time’ reinforce the coachee’s experience that the coaching session and its direction is in their control. This is important. When the coachee has success, those successes will add to their self-confidence (if they truly feel that they did the work). 

Rosie continued in her resourceful state (RS) for some time. I invited her to remove her finger-pressure as the state diminished. Her attention came back into the room and she started to talk about it and ask about the finger contact. I gave her a brief explanation of anchoring and invited her to return to that resourceful state, then replacing her finger at the same spot, keeping it there and at the same pressure until the state diminished or until she chose to come out of that state. Our session had to end before we could fully establish the anchor, but she felt able to practice at home. 

By the time she returned three days later she was easily able to get into her resourceful state, and out of it again. I had explained that there would be further steps and she was keen to start. Having run through the same procedure of inducing the resourceful state and making the finger contact, we moved on: 

Angus:             “When you are ready, place you finger in the same place as before and see what happens?” 

Rosie immediately went back into her resourceful state as a result. The anchor was set. The resourceful state was triggered by the cue, the finger contact, instead of being experienced the other way round (RS and then linking the cue-finger repeatedly). I explained that she could get rid of the anchor by touching in the same way when holding onto a different state. Rosie practiced some more times to induce her RS by finger contact. I then asked her to consider making the finger contact mentally, rather than physically. She sought some more information before she was ready. I told her that I wanted her ‘to imagine’ that she was moving her finger to that same spot and with the same pressure, but without actually doing it physically. When Rosie tried this, she found that she could enter the RS fast, but the effect was not quite as profound. With practice, she was soon able to get back to the nine out of ten scores she had been getting when she had actual finger contact. Rosie now had a resourceful state that she could, even use in public, without needing to make any physical movement.

An anchor may be triggered by an installed cue/trigger that is not physical. I had a coachee called Emily who used a musical phrase from a Chopin piano concerto. Some coachees have visual anchors that they use to trigger resourceful states. In coaching I have had the privilege to hear many and these have included faces, a hot-air balloon, an album cover, a key, a wooded area, a dolphin and many more.

It is possible, where an anchor is required at work, to set it with contact between two opposing fingers, so that it can be done surreptitiously. Practitioners of Qi Gong have used this oriental technique for thousands of years before it was re-invented as a tool of NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming).


Phase #2: Testing the Cue/Trigger

As described in the coached example, above, the test is simply to surprise oneself by using, in that case, a finger touch. If the anchor is installed, then the RS will immediately happen. If it does not, return to phase #1 installation and repeat some more times before re-testing!

The figure below, shows the successful testing of an anchor diagrammatically. You may experience, as shown, that the speed of the RS and ‘perfection’ (height on the red curve) both increase on the second time of testing. This may likely improve even more with practice.



Installing & Testing on your Own

You just need a quiet and private space where you will not be interrupted; turn your phones off and ideally close/lock any door.

Think or a time when you experienced an emotional and physical psychological ‘state’ that would be almost perfect to have, in the situations where you want this desired ‘state’.

Decide what your cue (trigger) is going to be, but do not actually perform this movement[3].

Sit or stand as you like and to start with, perhaps close your eyes as you go into the RS for the first five to ten times, or until the response time and level of perfection in RS are around nine out of ten ‘perfect’.

As you go into the RS., make the touch in an exact place and pressure. As it increases or maintains steady, hold the touch and let go immediately the RS diminishes.

Look around the room, move if helpful, count things (windows, lamps, colors…) to get away from the RS and into the ‘room state’.

Repeat the installation method above and the centering back in the room multiple times until the RS comes within a second and its perfection is great!

Test the anchor as described above, making the trigger and seeing if the RS comes immediately.


Make the Anchor Stick

Most people will re-test the anchor deliberately over the next two or more weeks; maybe four or five times a day for a few days, reducing to once a day and so on. At some point, you may find that just thinking about making your trigger touch will cause the RS to come just as strongly! If it does not, and you wish to try, then deliberately think about making your trigger touch for just a second, no more. Mostly this will work but if not, leave it some more days and try again.



Anchors are simply an effective way of changing how we think and feel very fast when we wish. They are also a self-controlled way of changing how we choose to think and feel, rather than ‘experience’ external changes in the world that are negatively anchored experiences.

It is possible to install one or more anchors for different expected situations using the same methods of installation and testing followed by a program of using and experiencing these resourceful ‘states’.




[1] The ‘cur (or ‘trigger’) is also being installed and will likely not be necessary after some days or weeks; in deciding what to do, pick a movement, as described, that others are unlikely to notice.

[2] Dann, J. (January 2003). Private Communication

[3] The movement may of course be a specific phrase, image and background that you want link to the RS.