Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Tim Brownson.
Do you ever have those mornings when you don’t want to get out of bed and you’d rather just roll over and go back to sleep? Does being cocooned in your warm snugly duvet sound much more appealing than getting up?
If you dislike your job, or even if you love it, you occasionally experience these mornings because motivation ebbs and flows depending on all sorts of factors.
What if you could control that ebbing and flowing and shift your state in an instant? What if you could move from feeling lethargic and sleepy to enthused and pumped?
Let me show you how you can move your state rapidly from sleepy to pumped, from unenthusiastic to motivated, and from nervous to confident — and it doesn’t involve drugs or excessive caffeine!
Ever since the days of Pavlov and his famous dog-and-bell experiment, psychologists have known about the power of conditioned responses, also known as “anchors.”
A conditioned response occurs when one event or situation stimulates the same automatic response each time without any conscious intervention by the person involved.
For example, perhaps you once heard a specific song at the same time you received bad news. If your mood shifts instantly the next time you hear that song and you experience those negative feelings all over again, that song has become an anchor for you.
I tell a story in How To Be Rich and Happy about the time I got sick shortly after eating a Scotch egg (a disgusting concoction of a hard-boiled egg covered in sausage meat). My illness wasn’t in any way caused by the egg; it was entirely coincidental. Yet for 20 years afterward, the thought of eating a Scotch egg made me feel nauseated. That is also an anchor.
We all have dozens of anchors. The two mentioned above are negative examples, but you have positive ones, too. If the smell of coffee perks you up in the morning, that is a positive anchor. You can’t ingest caffeine through smell alone, so your body speeds the process up for you through a series of autonomic responses. It knows that smell = drink = stimulation and cuts out the middle man by kickstarting your morning. Cool, eh?
Although we’ve known about conditioned responses and anchoring for decades, it’s only relatively recently with the use of PET scans, fMRIs, and research into brain plasticity that we’ve started to understand how anchors are formed.*
The following exercise requires total concentration, so find 15 to 20 minutes when you can close your eyes and not be disturbed. Two good times for this exercise are just before you fall asleep at night and just after you wake up in the morning.
How to Set an Effective Anchor
1. Take a deep breath, exhale slowly, and allow your eyes to close and a wave of relaxation to flow down your body. Do this three or four times, with your eyes remaining closed, and allow yourself to become completely relaxed.
2. When you are fully relaxed, start re-creating the feelings you want to anchor. If it’s enthusiasm, think of a time when you were especially pumped up. Maybe you were going on vacation, starting a new job, or going on a hot date. To create the required state, see what you would have seen when you previously experienced it, hear what you would have heard, and feel what you felt. If there are any tastes or smells associated, allow them to be present, too. The more sensory information you include, the better this works.
The really cool thing about your brain is that it’s not very good at distinguishing between what is actually happening to you and what you are imagining. That’s why you can generate feelings from memories or from events that haven’t even happened.
3. When you start to feel that sense of motivation (or whatever emotion you are working on), let the feelings double and then double again.
4. When you get to a point when you know they are about to peak, set the anchor by touching a specific place on your body that you can touch easily at any time in the future. Try touching your forearm or your knuckles, pulling your ear lobe, or touching your index finger to your thumb. Try to avoid a motion that you already use regularly because you don’t want to fire this anchor by mistake and reduce its effectiveness.
Whatever you choose, be sure that you can replicate the touch exactly. If you use your fingers on your forearms, for example, you need to use the same number of fingers and the same amount of pressure each time.
5. Once you’ve set your anchor, break your state by thinking about something completely different for a few moments.
6. When your mind is elsewhere and the positive feeling has naturally subsided, fire the anchor by repeating whatever action you decided on. Allow the feelings to flow and do not fight them; just know they will be there.
7. If they are not as intense as you would like (and they almost certainly won’t be the first few times), no problem; do the process again. Keep doing it over and over until your brain associates your anchor with your required state.
I cannot reiterate strongly enough that this technique cannot fail if you genuinely create the required feelings when setting the anchor and then do it enough times to build up the neural connections.
Play with it and let me know in the comments how you get on.
*If you want to learn more about how your brain works, check out The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge and Your Brain At Work by David Rock. If you’d like to see a video demonstration of anchoring, click the link.