Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Ahoy There

This past week I got a chance to ride the rides on the Stratosphere in Las Vegas. The build-up to the rides is quite exhilarating. There is a count-down as you wait for the full effect of exactly how high you are to filter into your brain. What was so interesting to me is that the second time I went on the ride, before the ride even began I could feel the pressure in my body that the ride would create.

Even though it was totally unintentional, the build-up to the ride and the count-down worked together to create an anchor for what my body was going to feel! My brain essentially remembered what had happened and reproduced the physical reactions necessary to handle the high G force that it knew would follow.

Anchors are any inputs which induce or trigger responses. For example, when you smell coffee it might invoke memories, or feelings. If someone said the word chocolate, it might make your mouth water. Anchors can take any form of input and provide almost any form of response. Of course, some work better than others. Here are some examples to consider:
  • sight - what makes a "power tie" powerful? why do we like shiny things? how did red become the "danger" color?
  • sound - ever heard a voice that was just "sexy"? what about running water when you have to pee?
  • touch - do you enjoy a soggy handshake? what makes silk sheets so great?
  • taste - doesn't something sweet after dinner just seem right? is eggnog only for the holidays?
  • smell - how can you tell if a car is really new? where do you eat popcorn?
Those are just some simple everyday anchors that you may or may not share. In reality, we all have them and we actually rely on them all the time. We use them to remember the words to songs, what errands we have to run, even the details of important dates.

In Practice
The cool thing about anchors is that you can use them to bring out responses you are looking for in yourself and others. Here is a simple exercise you can try on yourself. First, you need to be at rest. So sit back and relax. Now think of a very postive, enjoyable, and pleasing experience. Envision what you were seeing at the time. Recall and listen to what you were hearing at the time. Allow yourself to feel the same experience again. As you immerse yourself in the experience and the intensity builds, squeeze your thumb and finger together gently for a moment. Then come out of the experience by thinking of something else. It can be any random thing, like work matters, what errands you have to run, etc. Then squeeze your thumb and finger together the same as before. You should feel the relaxed, pleasing state return. Because we are using a tactile anchor it might help to gently pulse the anchor if you want to maintain the experience. In this case, that would be squeeze gently, release, squeeze again, release, and repeat.

There are several factors that can improve the quality and intensity of the anchor. You should have a strong base experience to work from. The more inputs you can apply to the anchor, the easier it will be to set. Apply the anchor before the experience peaks. You need to be really precise in how you trigger the anchor, timing is essential. The application of anchors works best as a form of "positive reinforcement".

Any parent, pet-owner, comedian, or good project manager will tell you these techniques work. They use them every day, just maybe not so deliberately. If you find them hard to master, don't give up, just take more time to practice.

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