The Anchor Your Actions strategy is the most powerful technique I have uncovered to help you expand and climb out of your comfort zone. It has been the secret to overcoming the most terrifying moments of my life in The Vertical, business, and personal arenas. Without fail, every time, it has helped me find the courage to climb into the unknown.
This powerful tool came into my life in 2011. I was facing one of the most difficult decisions I would ever make—one that put my family in jeopardy of bankruptcy, introduced an enormous amount of stress, and exposed us to risk that I had worked hard for fifteen years to remove from our lives. I remember having what seemed like everything I logically needed in place to make a sound decision, yet fear of the unknown kept me from making the final commitment. I vacillated between options, called on friends and family for insight, and lost days and days of sleep over the decision.
I ran my dilemma by a close friend and climbing partner. After listening to my struggle and reasoning, on both sides of the options, he asked, “What’s your anchor look like?”
“Huh?” I responded, “what do you mean, my anchor?”
“You know, your anchor. Worst case, what will you do if you go for this option and it doesn’t work? What would you do?”
So I responded. He pressed for more details.
And then, the breakthrough technique was born. He asked me to write it down in great detail.
I pushed back: “I just told you what I would do, who I would call first, the next step, and so on. Everything I would do to recover and restart should my crazy idea not work. Why should I write it down?”
“Just do it. Trust me. Every detail, every step; write it all down and get it out of your head.”
When you put the pen to paper, fear separates from fact.
I don’t think either of us knew how powerful that key step would be. Reluctantly, that same day I carved out the time and put the pen to paper. The more I wrote, the more I slowly felt the stress of the unknown lose its power over me. We are such emotional creatures. Ideas that exist only in our heads can drown us in a sea of emotion; it’s a wonder any of them make it to see the light of reality.
When we get ideas out of our heads, emotion falls aside. I wrote nearly two pages, detailing every tactical and strategic step of my contingency plan, and then I read it back. On paper, only the facts remained and I was able to more accurately evaluate the practicality of my anchor. It was all reasonable, every step doable. The more I read it, the more I realized, I can do this!
Whatever you do, don’t skip actually writing out your worstcase anchor plan. The magic is in getting it out of your head. When I’ve had people do this exercise in a workshop or coaching session and they read it back, they are most often empowered to move forward. Even if they decide to not move forward, they usually feel liberated, knowing they have more fully explored what is possible outside the influence of their emotions.
Know that this exercise can be used for small acts of courage as well, such as asking an uncomfortable question in a meeting or having a conversation you’ve been avoiding.
To learn more about my 9 Vertical Lessons for Leading with Impact check out my new book Reaching Your Next Summit!
Your climb to excellence is never easy. The human drive within calls us to what is possible. The principles shared in this book will renew your commitment and inspire your quest for excellence. You will realize more of your potential as you sharpen your focus, act with courage, and generate momentum in reaching your next summit—and beyond.