The Beauty of Anchors

The Beauty of Anchors

Do you sometimes feel busy, overwhelmed, or scattered?

Could your time and attention could be better aligned with your priorities?

If you’re thinking, “Hell, what even ARE my priorities?!,” you’re not alone! Please read on. ;) 

Have some of the habits that serve you well fallen to the wayside?

Or, let’s face it, maybe they’ve never been established in the first place?! ;)

Are you ready to feel more centred and ‘in charge’ of your day-to-day life?

It might be time for you to create some anchors.

What the heck are anchors - and what can they do for you?

(My clients are LOVING them - and I think they are kinda magic!

Anchors are steadying, orienting practices that provide us a level of structure to (gently) nourish our sense of personal agency amidst the inherent unpredictability and chaos of life.

So often we operate reactively when we’re overwhelmed, stressed, or beaten down by decision-making fatigue. (Yup, that’s a real thing. Basically, our brains get fried when we make too many decisions in a short period of time: even insignificant, micro-level decisions like what we’re going to eat for lunch cumulate and contribute to cognitive fatigue).

When we create anchors as deliberate, thoughtful habits in our lives - and especially when we put them into routine, recurring, ‘auto-pilot’ mode - we can reduce our stress levels, get ourselves into a ‘proactive’ state of being, and enhance our general wellbeing.

Creating rituals to rhythmically punctuate our days, weeks - even months and years - can help us clarify our priorities and nourish a stable mind and our physical, emotional, and/or spiritual health.

Whether your life at the moment feels best characterized as a ship on an ocean full of heaving capitulation; one that faces shifting and unpredictable winds; or is currently traversing serene waves with a forecast for clear skies ahead, one thing is certain: there is something powerful about knowing we’ve got an anchor available to toss over the railing of our vessel; that we can find and connect to the ground if we want to.

It gives us peace of mind to know that we have the capacity to slow down our journey; pause and orient; create a bit of respite from non-stop movement. 

In our lives, anchors are a calming force, a tool we can employ to experience agency and control amidst conditions that are larger than us - and that can be unsettling and even terrifying.

So, why are consistent, predictable routines like anchors? 

Because our brains are wired for oscillation between the novel and the predictable.

To thrive in life, we need: 

  • the richness of new stimulation and expanding ourselves to meet unprecedented challenges AND soothing familiarity, accompanied by confidence in our capacities.

  • stretching and reacting to the unknown and unexpected AND resting and ‘grounding’ in the anticipated, understood, and known.

(Here is a fantastic podcast that goes into depth on how are wired for both sameness and difference).

Building anchors into our lives nurtures the predictable and ‘controlled’ side of the above dynamic dance.

To be clear, when we weave anchors into our lives, we’re not aiming for anxiety-fuelled rigidity or attempts to hyper-control life. Why? Because those attempts are: (a) not fun, and b) futile. 

While I love me some control in life, that’s NOT the point or the goal I’m suggesting.

Neither do I wish you to go through your life in unconscious, zombie-like auto-pilot mode.

Rather, thoughtful, well-implemented anchors can function as flexible and healthy structures that settle us (in mind and nervous system) and nourish - rather than restrict or ‘over-direct’ - our creativity, freedom, and capacity to respond resiliently and joyfully to life’s flux.

Maybe you already have some anchors in your life or know people who employ them beautifully:

  • Wow. My aunt gets to the gym like clockwork at 6:30am every weekday morning - right, that’s an anchor for her.

  • My highly successful creative friend has a remarkably disciplined work approach. She fiercely protects her creative time in committed ways: her habits function as anchors.

  • I never managed to budget until my partner and I started a regular money date to track our finances over pizza and wine every Thursday evening. Once we got that established, we’ve really stuck to the process. Never thought of it that way, but that’s an anchor!

To create impactful anchors, a few things have to happen:

Firstly: we have to give thought to where we’ve currently got pain points in our day to day lives: experiences in our personal or professional lives where things consistently don’t work smoothly; priority tasks keep getting put off or dropped; or processes are inefficient (or non-existent!).

  • In your business, maybe you’re constantly scrambling when it comes to creating content for your podcast. Even if you know about ‘batching’ (creating many episodes at once) or the ideal of having a shipe-shape ‘content calendar’ (content planned out well in advance), you’re not walking your talk and your last minute status quo is stressful.

  • At work, you may be getting hooked in busy work (safe, routine stuff) at the expense of important work (the meaningful things that would have greatest impact and move the dial forward - that are often also new, challenging, or evoke anxiety in you). 

  • You might be constantly flying by the seat of your pants, with little to no self care, rest, or play built into your days. You’re not having that much fun, you’re stretched thin, and you can sense that you’re on your way to - or already in - the land of burnout.

Secondly: once we’re clear on where we’re struggling on the regular, we can brainstorm the ‘anchoring’ habits that might serve us well

For example, one of my clients recently shared that she carved out a half hour the Sunday prior to tie up loose threads from the week past and to consider her goals for the week ahead. She described how this thirty-minute experience got her feeling energized, motivated, empowered - in short, over the moon to start her week with a fresh clean slate.

We talked about how this ritual, if turned into a habitual practice, could become an anchor.

She was so enthused about her experience and results that she decided she wanted to add in something comparable at work. So, she’s going to run an experiment and book the first hour of every Monday to wrap up unfinished business and plan for achieving the week’s top priorities.

Personally, for years, I’ve been longing to get back into some kind of exercise routine. But the days have been such a blur of parenting and domestic demands and work and bits of friends and family squeezed in around the edges, that I didn’t make those workouts happen.

Last spring, my coach asked me what support I would need to accomplish some of my goals and I realized that exercise would be invaluable. I blocked in time for short runs at the start of every work day, and this has become a joyful anchor. Those 20-30 minutes are nourishing, non-negotiable, and absolutely on autopilot: I never have to think about when or how exercise will happen in my life. I get a health boost and decision-making respite: #anchorsforthewin!

So, what about you? 

What anchors could powerfully enhance your life?

  • A monthly date night with your partner?

  • A brief walk outside of the office every lunch hour?

  • Friday night take-out dinner with your family?

  • An hour booked every Friday that is pure ‘buffer time’ - ready to absorb the unexpected?!

Once you’ve identified your anchors, the Third Step is to create, commit and - wherever possible - turn your desired habits into rituals that happen like clockwork in your life. I mean it: book those anchors into your calendar (set em’ to ‘recurring’) and stick with them. 

Finally, please keep in mind:

Don’t expect to get your anchors going ‘perfectly’ - it’s an ever-iterating process!

Run experiments. Simply try one out for a bit.

You’ll tweak, pivot, and make changes as you go.

The seasons of your life will shift: the anchors you need will keep evolving, too.

When you establish and maintain anchors, you’re doing more than you think! You can use them to: 

  • simplify your life

  • better know and honor your priorities 

  • create opportunities to ground yourself

  • reduce decision-making fatigue and fuel focus, energy, and efficiency

  • build trust in yourself as you honor your commitments and intentions 

  • lessen the tendency to get scattered, reactive, and to drop important balls in your life

And hey - ships aren’t meant to be anchored all the time!

Likewise, I don’t believe our lives are intended to be hyper-scheduled, every last minute accounted for. 

(I mean, maybe some people live that way? Top CEO’s and high performance athletes? Monastics? Listen, maybe that works for some? Power to them!

But I do think there’s something to be said for the flow between the controlled and uncontrolled, the proactive and reactive, and the planned and spontaneous.

For most of us, I’d argue we’ll experience:

No anchors = too much flux.

All anchors = too much rigidity.

A few key anchors = sweet spot! :)

Now, peeps, I have not mastered this whole concept.

I’ve been meaning for ages to get back to using an empowering personal finance budget tool called YNAB (You Need a Budget). Time for me to create an anchor around this goal. 

It is so easy to feel defeated before I even start, part of me wants to throw my hands up and declare, “Honestly! There is no time. Where could I possibly fit this in?”

But I know that if it’s truly a priority, I’ll make the time to create the anchor. Period. 

I’ll let go of something else. Or come up with a solution to carve out the time. I’ll figure it out.

I also experience the temptation to get all my fantasy anchors going at once: right now, I also want to restart my morning routine. I’m pumped to get a bajillion work anchors established to get the back end of my business running like a well-oiled machine. But I also know the value and effectiveness of choosing to change just one small thing at a time.

So, please join me:

Experiment with starting one anchor... get it established… maintained… then layer in another.

Allrightee, commitment time. 

What anchor could make a big difference for you? 

What experiment are YOU willing to run?

I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below. :)


P.S. It’s that September time of year where change is in the air! Ready to feel stronger, more joyful, and DELIGHTED about transformation in your life by the end of this year? Hire me as your coach and nurture your ability to THRIVE. I have a couple of spots available to bring on new 1:1 clients in September - book a free trial coaching session with me here to see if I can help you amplify your dreams and GET MOVING in wise, inspired ways!


Nicola Holmes is a Life Coach who works with individuals and facilitates “The Expansion Circle,” a transformative group program for women. Nicola helps people who are feeling stuck or struggling to realize their goals; overwhelmed by life change; or determined to ‘level up’ & turn their dreams into reality. She’s also mama to two young and spirited kids, community-minded, a CBC-lover, voracious reader, and is currently obsessed with podcasts! Join Nicola’s Facebook community or join the email party to access inspiration and resources to fuel the changes you yearn for.