Setting An Anchor With NLP

Presuming you have read the first part of this two part post you should now have an understanding of the power of anchors and the usefulness in teaching your clients how to set them. So let’s now look into how you do that.

Before i do though 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.

It’s Visualization – But Not As We Know It

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.

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.

When To Set an anchor and when not to bother

Let’s use the example of confidence for giving a presentation or doing a public speaking gig and from here on in and I’m going to talk to you as though you were a client.

You will often hear clients 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 a client tells you their nerves never dissipate or get worse the longer they are up on stage, then setting an anchor is of little to no value.

In such circumstances you need a much more complicated approach utilizing a number of different tools and techniques.

For now though you just want a jolt of confidence to get you buzzing, so here’s how you do it.

Setting An Anchor

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.

Note: Confidence is such a misunderstood word with too many people associating it with chest-beating testosterone fueled arrogance, when it doesn’t have to be anything like that.

I’m fairly sure the Dalai Lama is a confident guy but I have never heard about him telling the Chinese he’s going to kick their butts if they don’t hand Tibet back forthwith.

As such you may have clients tell you they never feel confident. If that does happen ask them what the color of their front door is, or any question that you know they will know the answer to.

Then question them by saying, “Are you sure?

They will respond of course and may even give you a strange look, but persist and question them again.

Do this about 3 times before declaring, “So you’re confident you know what color your front door is then?”

Then sit back looking all smug and hope they don’t punch you for proving that they do indeed have confidence.

Use As Many Senses as Possible

Ok so back to visualizing confidence.

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 or cook dinner without burning the house down.

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 opt NLP it got the nickname of squeesy knees because more of the early trainers taught anchoring by squeezing the knee.

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, you need to be able to replicate it EXACTLY each time, and 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 at you, “Look she’s firing an anchor!”

Having said that, go for whatever you like that won’t get you arrested and if you ever have an African elephant as a client don’t suggest the ear, they get very sensitive!

The Earlobe It Is

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.

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 as 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 other idle thought of your choice, test the anchor.

Pull on that earlobe in exactly the same manner and guess what happens?

Oh Dear It Doesn’t Work

Yeh probably nothing. If you’re paying attention and read the first part you know that a real anchor (i.e. not suggestions) takes a little 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 Setting Anchors

Common questions I get asked that I haven’t already answered in either this post or the previous one.

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 the set up previously discussed is so important.

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.

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.

Is all NLP this brilliant?

Nah, some of it’s complete bollocks, but there are elements that are awesome, especially when looking to help clients remove fears and phobias.

Also the language element of NLP is amazingly useful for coaches which is why I teach it in the Coach The Life Coach training (as well as the intervention elements that I think are most useful.

So what do you think? Are you convinced?

Let me know in the comments and also if you have any questions ask away and I’ll do my best to answer. I don’t know the name of Pavlov’s dog though, it probably wasn’t Roverski.


  1. This is quite interesting. I have used something similar that I learned from Silva on a client and she says it works great for her. I will try this one as well.



  2. Tim,

    Great post! I’ve just recently begun to learn about NLP and I find it fascinating. I really like your no BS approach to explaining this technique. I am unclear about how to set more than one anchor. Let’s say the client has troubles with anxiety and wants to calm down in social situations AND the client wants confidence when speaking in front of a group, can you use the earlobe for both of these or ??

    Also, since this topic does get into a bit of grey area as far as coaching purists are concerned, where do you recommend drawing the line when working with a client on “stuff” that could/should also be tackled by another professional (Phobias, anxiety etc)?


    • Sorry, I think I forgot to click the “notify me of follow up comments by email” so just popping back in to do so. Thanks.

    • Tim Brownson

      If you set two anchors in the same place you are effectively stacking them so you fire both at once. Ok in some cases, but not if they are way different emotions. In that case you’re better using somewhere else and having different ones.

      Phobias are actually not that tricky to remove in most cases, although you have to know what you’re doing.

      In general, here is my take on Life Coaching and the purists.

  3. Michael

    Great Breakdown of the *when* to use Anchors and a good estimate of the number of repetitions. In all the NLP reading I’ve done, I don’t think anyone’s really touched on that aspect.

    And for the insanely curious:
    Krasavietz, Beck Milkah, Ikar, Joy, Tungus, Arleekin, Rusian, Toi and Murashka are a few of the 40 sum odd dog names.
    None of those names seemed to ring a bell for me.

    • Tim Brownson

      Now you mention it I can’t remember either. And it’s really important as people could easily think once is enough and then poo-poo it as nonsense when it doesn’t work.