7 Steps to Instant Motivation

Do you know the story of Pavlov’s dog? If not, very briefly it went like this. Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov would ring a bell and when his dog came bounding up to check it out, Pavlov would give him some meat to eat.

He did this for some time before noticing that weirdly, the pooch started salivating as soon as he heard the bell ring and before he’d even seen the meat.

Pavlov realized he had stumbled on to something we now know as a conditioned response or reflex. Or as it is also known in NLP (neurolinguistic programming) parlance, an anchor.

In this post, I’ll explain why the principle that made Pavlov’s dog salivate works and how you can use the same principle to find your motivation.


How Anchors Work

If you have ever been hit by a smell that has taken you back to your childhood or heard a noise that made you think about an event or person from years earlier then you have been subjected to the power of conditioned reflexes and anchors.

Other than when used deliberately by devious advertisers employing jingles, catch phrases and celebrities, anchors usually happen by chance and very randomly.

For example, if you are given really bad news while listening to a song on the radio, there is a very strong probability that you may hear the same song on the radio years later and immediately feel sad again without necessarily recognizing at a conscious level why.

It’s also the reason why sometimes when people get really sick on one particular type of alcoholic drink they literally cannot smell the offending beverage again without their brain recreating the negative effects and making them feeling extremely nauseous.

That’s the down side of anchors, but there is also a huge upside. What if you could set your own positive anchors and have them for whenever you want them, wouldn’t that be really cool?

Well you can, and I’m about to tell you how to do it.

For the purposes of this post and seeing as you are probably an entrepreneurial type I’m going to presume ‘enthusiasm’ is a state you would like to tap into at will.

I feel sure that there are days when working seems about as appealing as getting a root canal from a drunken blind donkey, and being able to flip the switch to pumped in an instant would be useful to you, right?

Cool, well park any skepticism you may have at the door because what I’m about to tell you works and it works every time, at least for Human Beings.

Step 1. Relax

To create an anchor that works when you want it to, you first have to accurately create the state you want to tap into. And to do that you have to chill out. So lie down, take a few slow, deep abdominal breaths and close your eyes (and keep them shut) knowing that all’s good in the world

Step 2. Visualize

Your unconscious mind is really cool and way more powerful than you probably imagine. However, it’s not that brilliant at separating what’s actually happening to you and what you’re simply imagining. Which is why you can get upset or angry thinking about a negative event that happened years ago, frightened watching a horror movie or hyper-excited viewing a NSFW website.

The good news however, is we can use that slight design flaw to our own advantage by employing visualization techniques.

Once you have got yourself chilled, I want you to think of an event in which you know you were super motivated. It doesn’t matter when it happened, I just want you to see what you saw at the time, hear what you heard and then allow the same feelings of enthusiasm to naturally arise.

Step 3. Intensify

Now I really want you to intensify those feelings by allowing them to build and build until you genuinely feel super motivated. Every now and then a client will tell me they can’t visualize clearly enough. If that’s you, just pretend you can, it doesn’t have to be real.

Step 4. Set the Anchor

When you know the feelings are almost as intense as they can be, set the anchor.

You can do this in a number of weird and wonderful ways. You can pull your earlobe, squeeze your knee or even grasp your arm. As long as you are able to replicate exactly whichever method you use each time you want to fire the anchor, that’s cool.

You must also choose an action that you don’t use on a regular basis because you don’t want to weaken the anchor by accidentally firing it when you don’t need it. Therefore, if you routinely play with your ear lobe whilst pondering what to write, don’t use your ear as the anchor.

Let’s presume you’re not an earlobe handler and have decided on using that appendage for your anchor. When you get to the stage when you just know the feeling it as intense as it’s going to get, pull your lobe and hold it for about three or four seconds, and then let go.

Step 5. Break Your State

If a 25-foot crocodile met a 25-foot Great White and both were hungry, who would win the ensuing battle for lunch?

That may seem like a weird random question in the middle of a blog post on anchoring, but I guarantee it shifted your state and that’s what I want you to do now and in between every practice session.

Think of something completely unrelated to the anchoring process and get your mind elsewhere. The reason you need to do this is because it’s the only way you can accurately test your progress without any feelings spilling over from setting the anchor.

Step 6. Test the Anchor

This is the good bit because you get to check how well it’s worked. Well I say good bit, that may be a bit of an overstatement to begin with because it’s quite probable not much happens at all the first time. However, worry not, that is to be expected.

There is a term in neuroscience “Neurons that fire together, wire together” and that effectively describes what an anchor is because we are trying to get your neurons to wire together. That usually takes a bit of perseverance or a soldering iron and the former is much safer in my experience.

The first two or three times I actually encourage clients to fake the positive feelings. As I said above, your unconscious mind doesn’t really know the difference anyway and this just helps speed the process up. So if the response is weak or almost non-existent, just give it a gentle helping hand to ease it along its merry way.

Step 7. Rinse and Repeat

This is where the hard work comes in because you are going to have to do this process a number of times before it becomes truly effective and that effectiveness will be determined by how intense you make each attempt. It may take five times, it may take 50. I really have no idea.

I do know though that the end result will be worth it if you stick with it and you will have motivation on tap, or even on ear.

Your Turn

I have tried to demystify the process as much as I can and make it simple to follow, but if you have any questions regarding it please leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Share your tips for finding motivation.

Image by lululemon athletica

Comments

  1. says

    You’ve certainly explained the process clearly here. Anchoring has been one of the most effective ways to get myself into the right headspace before writing a piece. I got into the habit of keeping score when I play along with Jeopardy, and when I win a game I give myself a solid tap on the left shoulder to anchor that state. Later, when I’m about to begin writing, repeating the shoulder tap activates my confidence and enthusiasm.

    Anchoring is a valuable tool for all writers and freelance professionals; thanks for the reminder.

  2. says

    I accidentally came across a great anchor once when at an upscale boutique hotel. They are in the habit of putting large sticks of a particular type of incense in the bushes to give ambiance to their outdoor patio. The incense smelled so good to me, that I immediately wanted to go home and do something creative: paint, draw…anything, because I was so inspired by the scent. I finally found that incense online, bought a box, and now anytime I want to do something creative, or to be inspired, I burn a stick on my windowsill. Works like a charm!

  3. Gabriel says

    Could you please summarize the steps? I am a bit confused about when to do the “Break Your State” bit.

  4. says

    Super interesting…

    I’ve used music and whatnot to help me concentrate, but have regularly had to force my own motivation. I have never thought to create an artificial trigger to get myself motivated.

    I will definitely have to try this out :)

  5. says

    Hi Tim,
    Thank you for taking the time to explain the process and I laughed at the break state.

    Last year I created an anchor of sorts in a different way by changing my feelings of anxiety into excitement. It was before I was to travel to Europe (3 different countries and 3 different languages) by myself. I am aware that physical signs for some emotions are similar and I started experiencing feelings of anxiety when I thought about the trip. So whenever I noticed the physical signs of anxiety, I would tell myself how wonderful it was to feel so excited and what a wonderful time I would have (and I did!). Within a very short time, whenever I started thinking about the trip, I felt excited instead of anxious and after a few days it would happen without even trying.

    Claire

  6. Eryn says

    Love this, thank you so much. I had heard of the concept in pych classes before but never really had a good step by step for it. I’m using it for work. I work 12 hour shifts 4 days a week at a computer terminal with a group who has no interest in finding ways to “work smarter, not harder” as my Dad would say. They can be very demotivating, but now I just remind myself of the time my boss loved my idea and made the entire office implement it, while I pull my ear. Nice trick!

  7. says

    @ Javier – Like smells, music can be a very powerful anchor.

    @ Claire – well done you that’s super impressive!

    @ Eryn – Nice implementation ;-)

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