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How to Create the Life You Want Using Anchors

“Put your future in good hands—your own.” ~Unknown

They say that in life, we are never given more than we can handle.

But sometimes it’s a matter of not accepting more than we can handle. Putting your foot down. Proclaiming, “That’s enough!”

Recently, a number of stressors confronted me simultaneously. This jolted me out of my comfort zone and forced me to take action toward transforming my life.

On one fateful Tuesday, I felt so much pressure from the culmination of professional demands, relational conflicts, parenting duties, and financial stressors that I found myself at a familiar crossroads. I felt pulled in a million different directions, with no clear idea of where to go next.

I was tired of feeling like I was at the mercy of so many external influences.

The familiar situation always presented me with the following options: find a temporary fix for all of these issues and continue reliving a veritable “Groundhog’s Day” of an existence, or commit to a plan of change and take action.

This time, I chose action.

I proclaimed, “That’s enough!”

Thus commenced “The Anchor Project.”

“The Anchor Project” is a way of clarifying the primary values for your life, and strengthening them by taking consistent, manageable steps to focus on the life you want and minimize the impact of external factors.

I began to list the things I wanted in life. I removed all extraneous or superficial goals from this list, and decided to stick with the core values that I considered to be essential.

I realized that many “goals” were distracting me from obtaining the things I really wanted out of life. So things like, “Run a 5K in under 27 minutes” did not make the cut.

I didn’t need more on my “to-do” list. I needed transformation.

I found that there were four primary focus areas that I wanted to improve. These are the non-negotiables in my life, the things that keep me grounded and fulfilled.

I call them “anchors” because anchors provide stability and security, even in rough seas.

Once I identified what my anchors were, I began to build on them and fortify them by listing all activities or experiences that might constitute each one.

For example, my four anchors are:

  • A harmonious home
  • Writing progress
  • Financial freedom
  • Holistic wellness

These are the things that are important to me. I explored what each anchor may be comprised of, and identified that, for example, holistic wellness includes physical activity, nutritious foods, self-care, relationships, and so on.

Then I brainstormed all possible ways to take action toward fortifying each anchor, even those that did not seem feasible. For financial freedom I listed everything from “get a new job” or “get a second job” to “cut coupons” and “save gas.”

I began taking steps to build on each anchor every single day, while staying flexible and trusting the process. Within just a few weeks, change occurred across each area.

Some things happened as a direct result of my efforts (for example, I wrote more because I reserved the time to write more), but some things happened seemingly-magically (for example, out of the blue, I got financial assistance for my son to attend a new daycare).

I find that as I continue to build on each anchor, to the exclusion of other things that could divert my energy, these changes are snowballing. I am happier, healthier, and more energetic— so I’m able to apply more focus on the areas of my life that make me happier, healthier, and more energetic!

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Do you think you’re ready to try “The Anchor Project”?  Follow these steps to begin your personal life transformation:

1. Eliminate excuses and stay flexible.

This is the key to this whole process. I did not say to myself, “I can’t have the life I want because I am a single mother and sole provider, and my son needs a lot, and the job market is bad, and I don’t have the resources I need to achieve these things.”

Well, I did say all of that in the past, but “The Anchor Project” forced me to drop those excuses. Look at your excuses. Take action on the ones that can be changed. Make a Plan B for managing the ones that won’t budge. If you can’t move the obstacle, find a way around it, over it, or through it.

2. Examine and define your values.

Really. What do you want for your life? How do you want to feel? What sort of life will allow you to feel at peace at the end of your lifetime? How would you live if you lived with no regrets?

This is not a task-oriented “Bucket List.” This is a way to have the sort of life you want, to identify what grounds you and guides you. Once that’s in place, fill it however you like.

3. Refine.

Define your vision for your life by organizing it into 3–5 “anchors.” What values ground you and guide you? The possibilities are endless. Pick the ones that mean the most to you.

4. Create a plan.

Reserve some time for yourself over the course of a few days for this process. Start with one anchor. Brainstorm ways in which your vision could be realized, and start listing steps you may need to take to strengthen that area. Stay open minded and include all possibilities that occur to you. Repeat with each anchor.

5. Focus and apply.

Each day, take steps toward your ultimate vision for each Anchor. Every single day.

Notice distractions that tempt you to procrastinate. Bring your attention back to your original outlines, and focus on what you want. Another helpful technique is to make a list of things you could do for each anchor when you have ten minutes to spare, thirty minutes to spare, or an hour to spare.

When you find yourself with free time, use it toward creating your dream life.

If it’s feeling like too much work, re-evaluate the anchors you defined. You may find that they don’t accurately reflect your true values. Pay attention to the influences in your life, past and present, and how they may have shaped what you thought you wanted.

When you know what you really want in life, working toward it will feel exciting and energizing, rather than draining.

It’s very easy to let circumstances dictate the sort of life you live, to feel tossed around in the world. But it’s not the only way to live. There is an alternative. Clarify what you really want, create a plan, focus, and take consistent action.

There is strength in applied action, and there is freedom in saying “no” to the things that don’t fit your vision for your own life.

With strong anchors, you will be able to weather any storm.

Photo by Bo47

About Angela Marchesani

Angela Marchesani is a psychotherapist and Holistic Health Coach practicing in Wayne, Pennslyvania. Her website is www.spokesholistic.com.

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  • Cindy Black, L.Ac.

    I am familiar with these crossroads!  Each time I find myself there, I have to find another way out, or through.  Your anchor project is such an inspiring manifestation to come out of this a challenging place.  Taking action when I feel so constricted hardly ever makes sense – but what you have offered here is a way of taking action that seems so productive on every level – thank you for putting it together so clearly.

    One thing I attempt to do at those times is to challenge myself with the question,  “How can this all be OK, and fit together somehow?” The answer is always beyond my understanding, which moves me more deeply into my faith of Unknown.

  • Cindy,

    When you’re stuck, the next step doesn’t always seem to “make sense,” I agree… It doesn’t feel good to feel like you are “spinning your wheels.”

    So if you define your basic values and each and every action is in support of those values, you can’t go wrong!

    Even if that question (“How can this all fit together?”) remains unanswered, you know you are moving in the direction of an authentic and meaningful life for yourself- no more spinning wheels!
     🙂

    Thanks for reading!

    -Angela

  • Sugandha

    “How would you live if you lived with no regrets?” That’s my favorite line from this article. 🙂 Very inspiring! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  • Thank you, Sugandha! Easier said than done, for sure, but worth considering! I appreciate your feedback.

  • Hghplus

    Thoroughly enjoyed this post. I find so much value in things I can read at 1pm and apply at 1:01pm. This certainly fits the bill. Thank you very much.

    David Orman
    http://www.hghplus.net

  • Tinarose29

    amazing!!!

  • I’ve been wearing an achor charm for the last month or so. Everytime I feel overwhelmed, or pulled in too many directions, I reach for my anchor and remember to stay grounded, focused and keep on course. The line that struck a chord with me was “With strong anchors, you will be able to weather any storm.” Thank you for this article… it hits home with so many of us living these busy lives.

  • Kristen- What a perfect touchstone! Yes, it seems like often we feel “adrift int he sea of life.”

    Anchors are helpful! 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Tinarose29- I am glad you enjoyed it!

  • David- Thank you for that feedback, and I am glad you find it applicable to your life. Enjoy the process!

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  • Elliott

    I found this article very helpful and I will start now to put down my anchors. But there is one question I have regarding no 3. REFINE – when it says “What values ground you and guide you?” What do you mean with values? could you give an example? Is it values in life (general)?

  • Nodoubter1023

    My goodness.  Yesterday I was precisely at my breaking point.  In tears at my desk, ready to buckle.  And then today, I randomly discover your article.  Thank you.  🙂

  •  What a beautiful system for living mindfully and meaningfully each day. Thank you for this. I feel like you’ve planted the seed of a solution to a lot of my daily frustrations — most notably not having the time to do everything I want.

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  • Elliott, “Values” are the things that you feel are most important and meaningful in your life. What is “valuable” to you? It’s easier to clarify if you envision yourself at the end of your lifespan looking back: What would you like to be able to say about your life? It was full of connection, honesty, impacting others’ lives, creativity, family, nature… Anything that feels most important to you. Have fun with it!

  • Nodoubter1023, I am glad for the synchronicity! The good thing about breaking points is that they force you to do SOMETHING different. I hope this is a useful activity for you. Best wishes!

  • Summer, The time crunch is such a  motivator for this activity. We all have limited time, so if you can use your time toward the things you most value, there’s less of a feeling of stress or loss when it doesn’t all fit. I hope this is helpful for you! Thanks for the feedback.

  • Cynthia

    Angela,

    Just last weekend I found myself feeling adrift in my life with a lot of uncertainty as to how to move forward.    When I read this post what spoke to me in particular was:

    “I realized that many “goals” were distracting me from obtaining the things I really wanted out of life. So things like, “Run a 5K in under 27 minutes” did not make the cut.  I didn’t need more on my “to-do” list. I needed transformation.”

    I am great at setting goals and adding things to that list of “to-do’s”.  Your suggestions will be extremely helpful in trying to figure out what is next for me and structuring a life of fulfillment.  Thank you!

    Cynthia

  • Cynthia,

    I find that a prolonged “to-do” list often takes me off my intended course. And sometimes the items on it actually conflict with my ultimate values (the 5K goal, for example, at this time in my life would mean less time with my son, money spent on registration, more pressure on myself to “achieve,” and so on). 

    I hope this is helpful for you to sort of scale back your list and attend to the most meaningful items. 🙂 Enjoy! 

    -Angela

  • Saloniz

    ‘I didn’t need more on to-do list … i want transformation’ … is so much in synch with what i have been feeling for past couple of days … to -do list should be helping in or moving us towards the transformation or the change .. but sometimes we make them so tight compartments that the whole purpose gets defeated… i guess we need to be more flexible !”I realized that many “goals” were distracting me from obtaining the things I really wanted out of life.” … that is just so true … goals somehow become bigger then actual achievements … and in trying to achieve the goals we become totally ignorant of what is it that we had set out for … this also means that regular checking if our goals are still in synch with what we really want is very important 

    very nice insightful post … and as they say we find what we find when we really need it … thanks 

  • Madalina Perea

    Hmm… I will start doing this… I have to do it!! 

    Now i’m like a kid that his mom gave him all the toys and the sweets that he/she wanted… and now i have to play & taste each one of it!! I’ll tell you later how its working…for me!
    Thanks a mil!!

  • OhanaMama

    Madalina-

    I’m glad it interests you! That sounds like a great approach: experiment with the tips and see what it yields. Have fun!

    -Angela

  • OhanaMama

    Saloniz-

    I’m glad it was timely. Funny how that works!

    Our goal-setting should be a means to an end, I think (ex: “I will write a short story each week” as a way to work toward an Anchor of Creativity, for example). But often we regard them as the end itself, and when that happens, we can’t see the forest for the trees.

    I love your idea of regular check-ins. If you establish Anchors and refer back to them often, you’ll stay in the right direction for your life.

    Thanks for reading!

    -Angela

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for this post. Before reading it, I was feeling very lost and without an anchor. I’m glad I had the good sense to search for Finding an anchor life, and found your article. Now I have three.

  • Indie

    I like this article and it has inspired me to make my own short list of “touchstones.”  I call them touchstones because the image in my mind of an anchor feels like it will weigh me down and stop me in my tracks.  But touchstones I can keep checking in with, like some landmark I can revisit to make sure I am on my way.  I started with four, like you, though they might change.  Thank you.

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  • justin

    I love your “anchors” concept. I have recently found my anchor – opening my own translation business. I taught Spanish for nine years, for the most part to audiences who were largely disinterested. It’s no wonder – the majority of the American population feels like they will never need to speak a language other than English. After a particularly frustrating year, realizing that I was just banging my head against the wall trying to teach something that no one cared to learn anyway, I decided to anchor myself within myself. Meaning: I have always excelled at Spanish. I got all A’s in middle and high school in Spanish. In college, I majored in Spanish, and I graduated Summa Cum Laude from the #3-ranked Master’s Program in Spanish Literature in the US and was admitted to the #1-ranked PhD program in the WORLD for Spanish. I was one of 6 students admitted in 2007. Now, after years of teaching experience and a few business endeavors that did not work out, I am focusing all my energy on myself and my own talent, on mastering it even further and on sharing it with others in the form of helping businesses, organizations, governments, corporations, and individuals get the impeccable and high quality Spanish-English and English-Spanish translation services that they need. I feel at home and I feel centered. The people in my life see it as a logical choice for me. The amount of conflict around me has diminished to nearly zero. My world is no longer one of busy classrooms, 35 kids, noise, public speaking, management, etc. etc. My world is the quiet space of my home office, my laptop, a network of friends helping me to expand my business, and a supportive and loving wife who is standing by my efforts and pulling for our success. Talk about a true blessing. I am a fortunate man and I know how lucky I am to be in this position. I will do my best always to deliver the highest quality, most impeccable and authentic translations, not just of the literal meanings of words, but of concepts, ideas, thoughts, images, and all the other varied nuances that a language can represent. My anchor: earning money via working with a language I love.

  • Cila Warncke

    This article really spoke to me. I love that you share concrete, daily ways to make big, abstract dreams possible. I’m off to chart my anchor points… 🙂

  • Mona Ali
  • roknnagd

    VERY NICE ….

  • Pablo

    All I have to say is, “Yes, there is someone else who gets it.”. Life isn’t about making it to the next goal post. No matter how many of those goals you attain, there are always more after it. A never-ending succession of things that might bring temporary satisfaction but are ultimately meaningless. These “anchors” you speak of are exactly what makes life worth living.

  • DarkGyro

    Okay, then I have a critical question to ask here:

    How do I create a backbone/support system/life anchor after my parents passed away?

    Let me start with a brief backstory and details first. I am currently 27 and live at home with my mom, while my dad supports me financially for my basic needs, currently I am unemployed. For the past 10 months I have enrolled and undertaken graduate classes to get my Masters degree. Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful to have people that I can rely on while my focus is toward my school work; but after coming from my appointment with my school advisor today, to which gave me good news that I am just a few months away from finishing up, I just feel I had to be thoughtful for a moment to reflect on how I made it here to this point.

    And the answer I came to was, that I had a close human contact constantly(for example, living with my mom) to talk with that was the closer and available to me for comfort & support. Although the people in my life are my support and ultimately it was my decision to go for a masters and it was my efforts to making it this far, it was also the help of other people that had advise me and supported me along the way.

    So I guess, it just something I want to prepare for now in the event something happens and I need to rely on myself? But how do I do so(yes I know, I am the only person that can figure that out or seek out a life couch or something), am I just overthinking it and letting the anxiety get to me?