Martin Messier

May 3, 2023

The Difference Between Anchors And Triggers

I want to offer you a little distinction today about conditioning patterns. Specifically, the difference between "anchors" and "triggers."

Right off the bat, it's important to note that what I will offer you now is only a model (yeah, I know you're getting used to me saying this. I'll keep saying it until you're 100% aware of it all the time.). It has no bearing on the truth or the "right" way of explaining the way anchoring works.

I really got interested in the concept when reading Frogs Into Princes. I first understood anchoring to mean that I could control my state or someone else’s state with one specific trigger. Let’s explore its meaning in a bit more depth and distinguish anchors from triggers.


Anchors are stimuli that call forth thoughts and feelings.

Have you ever been at home and a car passes in the street with the windows down and stereo blazing a song you know and, all of a sudden, you go back all the way to your school years?

This can happen with a stimulus in any sensory modality (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, olfactory or gustatory). Has the smell of fresh bread ever taken you back to your childhood? Has a touch ever brought back memories ? These anchors work involuntarily and you may not even be aware of them.

Whenever you find yourself in an optimal state you wish to return to in the future, choose a unique stimulus (such as grabbing your little finger, or banging your foot twice on the ground) and trigger it repeatedly to really condition it. At a later time, after you’ve changed states, test your anchor and notice how you return to your anchored state.

Likewise, you can apply anchoring to others. Whenever you find someone in a specific state (for instance, laughing out loud), you can anchor it with a specific look or facial expression. Allow them to drift out of that state and then make that facial expression again. Notice what happens.


Triggers work similarly to anchors, with one simple difference: they call forth behaviors instead of thoughts or feelings.

For instance, hearing a particular commercial gets you to drive to a fast-food restaurant and eat your favorite meal. Or thinking of a particular situation causes you to bite your nails.

Just like anchors, triggers can be installed purposefully.

How to use them

You’ll hear frequently in NLP that “you cannot not anchor.” That’s how powerful anchoring is in your life. Everything and anything is an anchor.

Right now, reading this article is anchoring your curiosity to learn more about NLP to seeing your computer monitor. Just looking at our computer makes you intensely curious to learn more and master NLP. See your computer, think about NLP. See your computer, think about NLP.

Likewise, triggers are a part of your life and mine.

The real question is: do you know how to use them?

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