Do you carry a lucky charm, listen to a particular song, or have a peculiar habit that gives you that extra boost when you need it? Often dismissed as superstition, these can in fact be very powerful mental anchors.
A mental anchor is anything you associate with a certain mental state. Although we all create many mental anchors without knowing it, they can also be forged consciously and used as potent stimulants. This is done by associating a desired feeling with a particular ritual through repetition. Ideally, you want to be able to bring out that desired attitude whenever you conduct the ritual.
Here’s an example to make things clearer. If you wanted to increase your self-confidence, you could use a bracelet as your mental anchor. Whenever you’re feeling nervous, switch the bracelet from one wrist to the other. At first, you’ll have to force yourself to act more confident whenever you switch the bracelet. However, over time, you’ll condition yourself to associate confidence with the act of switching the bracelet and it’ll be much easier to transition into that self-assured manner.
Although mental anchors won’t magically change your personality, they will pay dividends in the long run if you stick to it. There’s a common misconception that mental anchors are merely gimmicks to help reinforce positive behaviour, or starting points to get rid of bad habits. This is false because mental anchors provide a level of security that can be called upon in pressure situations, even if you’ve reached the stage where you no longer need them to enforce your mental states. Ten-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal is a prime example of someone who employs mental anchors. One of his infamous rituals is seen when he switches ends on the tennis court; he takes one sip out of his each of his two water bottles and lines them back up in exactly the same direction each and every time.
You don’t need to be a world-class athlete to benefit from mental anchors. Start one up today; it won’t take any time commitment and you don’t have anything to lose. I’m currently working a “concentration” anchor, which involves blowing on my left hand whenever I’m losing focus on an important task.