From Nervous To Confident In 5 Seconds With Anchoring

There is a technique used in NLP that can be so powerful in shifting your state that it should almost have a Government health warning attached to it.

Public speakers use it, athletes use it, sports people use it and millions of other ordinary people use it every day.

And that’s because it ’s fucking awesome!

If you would like to be able to go from nervous to confident in a few seconds and without the use of drugs, read on.

Pavlov And His Cute Puppy Dog

Let me take you back a century or so to the University of St Petersburg in Russia where esteemed Physiologist Ivan Pavlov had a cute puppy dog (he actually had more than one, but who cares?).

Pavlov was known worldwide for his work on classical conditioning and received a Nobel Prize for his work in 1904.

You probably know the crux of the Pavlov’s dog story.

He would alert his dog to dinnertime by ringing a bell. The hungry puppy would romp up to get his meal and all was good in the world.

Then one day Pavlov rang the bell and rather cruelly didn’t offer the dog any food.

He noticed something strange, though. Even though there wasn’t a moose burger or bear steak in sight, the hound still continued to salivate as though there were.

Pavlov had discovered the conditioned reflex or conditioned response.

And that’s how things stood for many decades. Yes, science now understood that one event can trigger another (with both humans and animals) when there is no physical connection, but nobody knew exactly why.

Modern technology supplied the answer with the arrival of fMRIs and PET Scans and the ability to start to get a much clearer understanding of how the brain works.

The Brain That Changes Itself

In his brilliant and highly recommended book The Brain That Changes Itself, (al) Norman Doidge used a term from neuroscience that had been around a little while but wasn’t wildly used outside the very tight confines of a very small area of academic research.

“Neurons That Fire Together, Wire Together.”

It’s one of those brilliant phrases that pretty much explains itself. If you do two separate things over and over again at the same time, then the neurons required for each task will fire over and over again at the same time.

Not only that, but eventually they will fuse together so that one of the neurons firing will stimulate the other one, too.

In NLP this is called an anchor and in Psychotherapy it’s often called a trigger.

You have dozens of anchors, some good, some bad. You may have a certain smell that immediately reminds you of a happy time during your childhood.

Equally, you may have a negative anchor such as a song that when you hear it makes you immediately sad before you have even had chance to think about it.

Maybe that song was on the radio when you heard bad news or you ran over your cat on the driveway?

The Evil Scotch Egg

In my teens I once got really ill after eating the hideous concoction that is a Scotch Egg (in case you want to know it’s a hardboiled egg surrounded by sausage meat and covered in bread crumbs).

You would think that would be enough to make anybody ill, but it actually had nothing to do with the egg. That was purely coincidental.

My brain didn’t believe that though, and the mere thought of eating a Scotch Egg for more than two decades made me feel nauseous.

I had developed a Pavlovian response, or what in NLP we call an anchor.

The really cool thing about anchors is that we can manufacture them for ourselves.

They don’t have to occur naturally, and as I said, they are widely used by people in sports, public speakers, and pretty much any arena where people want to be able to rapidly change their state.

Probably the most popular use for them is to create an anchor for confidence (hence why they are used by public speakers a lot) so that the person can move from a state of apprehension or nervousness to one of confidence.

Pretty cool stuff eh?

Before I explain how you set an anchor and the limitations they can have, I want to explain why I bothered telling you everything up until now.

I could have said, “Look these are dead cool and they work, just trust me,” and maybe you would have.

But maybe you would have thought I was talking out of my woo-woo arse without the help of neuroscience to support what I’m saying.

Setting Anchors

Before we get into how to set anchors a couple of words of warning:

Firstly, when setting an anchor, you are using your senses to create a state you want to be able to access at will at some future date.

I was going to say you use visualization, but actually I don’t like that word, because the best visualizers utilize as many senses as possible to enhance the experience and to fool their brain into thinking it’s real.

Therefore, you have to be careful that there isn’t a stronger underlying state or emotion that you are merely enhancing.

In other words do NOT set anchors if you’re not feeling well, in a terrible mood or have any other negative life experience at the forefront of your mind.

Also, this is designed to give a short, sharp shock to the system and move it from one state to another quickly.

And what I mean by that is, if you set an anchor for confidence, firing it can give you the sense of confidence you desire, but it’s not permanent, or even close for that matter.

You may now be wondering what all the fuss is about and what’s the point of going to all this trouble for so little return, so let me explain.

Let’s use the example of confidence for giving a presentation or doing a public speaking gig.

Many people will tell you that their nerves are by far the worst at the beginning, but that when they get into the flow they’re fine.

Anchoring is for them!

However, if your nerves never dissipate or get worse the longer you are up on stage, then setting an anchor is of little to no value.

In such circumstances you probably need to hire me.

Get Comfy


Find a comfortable chair or even a bed to lie on and take a few deep breaths and allow yourself to fully relax.

Now, I want you to think of a time when you were totally confident about something.

Whatever the scene is, and it could be something as mundane as being confident that you can talk to a work colleague on the phone without breaking your leg, or cook dinner without burning the house down.

Or it could be something more powerful like the time you beat Gary Kasparov at chess or had Manny Pacquiao in floods of tears because you were staring him down.

I only offer the first examples as some clients tell me that they never feel confident which simply isn’t true.

However the most intense example you can think of is the best to go with.

See what you would see and hear what you would hear in the situation. Then allow any relevant tastes or smells to be present too as you start to build that sense of confidence.

Take as long as you need for this. Some people are naturally brilliant at visualizing, with others it takes a bit longer, but it’s all good, we’re not in a hurry.

When you think your confidence is peaking set the anchor.

In the early days of NLP it got the nickname of squeezy-kneesy because many of the early trainers taught anchoring by squeezing the knee.

Let’s Be Sensible

I’m not sure of the practicality of that approach myself.

Imagine walking on stage, realizing you need a shot of confidence and frantically leaning over and furiously squeezing your knee, it would raise a few eyebrows.

The only provisos are that you need somewhere fleshy as there are more nerve endings to help set the anchor, and you need to be able to replicate it EXACTLY each time.

Also, it doesn’t want to be an action you do regularly anyway.

In other words if you often sit meditating with your thumb and forefinger locked together, then don’t set an anchor using your thumb and forefinger.

I like the earlobe because it’s nice and fleshy and it’s easy to do surreptitiously without people pointing and shouting out, “Look she’s firing an anchor!”

Having said that, go for whatever you like that won’t get you arrested.

I’ll presume you have opted for your earlobe and as such I want you to hold it for about 3 seconds and then let go just before you reach peak confidence state.

Now, we need to do a break state, so as you let go immediately think about something totally different.

This is crucial, because without it we can’t test the anchor because you will just carry your state from the visualization forward.

After 20 or 30 seconds of wondering who on earth decided owls were wise, or why bat shit is crazy and then test the anchor.

Pull on that earlobe in exactly the same manner as when you set the anchor and guess what happens?

Yep, probably nothing, it requires a tad more work than that.

I’m not that keen on the fake it until you make it approach for reasons I’ll not bore you with now. However, it can be a useful strategy under certain circumstances and this is one of them.

Therefore, when you test and there’s no confidence forthcoming, fake it! We want your brain to associate pulling your ear lobe with a confident state so give it as much help as possible.

Then do the process again. And again. And again.

Eventually you won’t need to fake it.

Common Questions On Anchoring

How long will it take?

I have no idea, because it depends largely on how intensely you create the state when setting it. The weaker the state, the longer it will take.

I have known people set great anchors in 15 to 20 attempts whereas others have taken more than 50.

Although to be honest most people give up if it gets that far and presume it doesn’t work, which is why I wanted you to understand the science behind it.

Is there a good time or place to set anchors?

Most closed eye exercises benefit from being in that half awake, half asleep state, so last thing at night or first thing after you wake up are good and also easy to do.

Anywhere you feel relaxed and aren’t likely to be disturbed is good.

Can I have more than one anchor?

Yes, you can, and you probably have a lot of unintentional anchors now anyway.

It is possible to do something called stacking anchors where you have two different anchors on top of each other for when you want to access two states simultaneously such as calm and confidence.

Or you can just set them in different places.

Do anchors wear off?

They certainly can and I’d advise reinforcing them every so often so that doesn’t happen.

How long do they last when you fire them?

Very tough to say, but think minutes rather than hours for what we’re talking about.

Are there any dangers involved?

None that I’m aware of or have ever read about, other than the risk of anchoring a negative state.

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