Within the whirl of activity (which can totally feel like a storm): meetings, flights to get to meetings (including hurdling trash cans to make these flights and overnight airport stays when you miss them), errands, lunch on the go, the 5-page to-do list, and racing to kids’ soccer practice…I have been longing for a mooring of calm, an anchor in the chaos. I’ve been thinking a lot about this word, anchor, and the ways in which I use it. Within presentations, for example, I often reference and ask questions about what anchors us in our work, parenting, etc.

Let’s look at a definition of anchor from Merriam-Webster:


1. a device usually of metal attached to a ship or boat by a cable and cast overboard to hold it in a particular place by means of a fluke that digs into the bottom

2.  a reliable or principal support

3. something that serves to hold an object firmly


1.  to hold in place in the water by an anchor

2. to secure firmly 

3. to act or serve as an anchor for

Anchor feels like a big word–weighty in its literal and figurative sense–doesn’t it?

What has me thinking more about this concept? I’m leaning toward my word of the year, grounded, as part of my answer. However, I’ve wondered about anchors well before 2019.

Sometimes in consultations, I talk with frustrated and overwhelmed teachers about remembering a time when things did not feel as difficult in a particular routine or with a particular child. This reminds of me anchors. Using memories as an anchor to help take us back to moments where we felt successful, confident, joy, in a flow, etc., we’re often able to approach tougher moments and challenges with a fresh and hopeful perspective.

Classroom and household expectations can be anchors, too. “Be safe,” “Be kind,” “Be Respectful” – all anchors. These expectations can help define how people will be together in a particular environment and guide behavior. Teachers, for example, can use anchors to support learning and engagement based on classroom expectations, particularly during periods of transition when children often attempt to gain control and/or feel safe.

Shared goals and action plans can act as anchors in coaching and help maintain focus on the work to meet a goal. A coach and teacher, for example, working together can co-create an action plan which acts as a roadmap and helps focus energy and actions on a specific goal. This action plan provides purpose and direction for what they do next together. It starts with identifying where a teacher wants to go in her use of a teaching practice (the goal), for example, and also identifying how this is different from where she currently is in using that practice. The goal within the action plan offers a shared and understood place and the action steps specify the work that will take place to meet the goal.

Our sensory experiences can act as anchors and help bring us to levels of awareness, focus, and feeling regulated. Fire in a fireplace, the sound of the ocean, or the scent of lavender are examples of possible anchors. They can link us to an emotional state. The anchor acts as a reminder or a trigger that leads us to a state of being (both positive and negative). A tennis player can use the visual image of winning the point to regain the necessary focus or stamina needed to “get back into the zone,” for example.

Acting as an emotional anchor for someone is another example. Teachers and parents can be emotional anchors for children – reliable, regulated, consistent and predictable, confident, stable and secure. A coach or mental health consultant can also be an emotional anchor for a teacher. A mental health consultant, for example, helps build the capacity of adults and programs to promote young children’s mental health with the idea that supporting young children’s mental health is everyone’s business and a shared responsibility–nobody is meant to do this work alone. The mental health consultant emphasizes reflective practice and consistently reflects on what they are hearing and seeing, which can send the messages of, “I see you” and “You’re not alone” to a teacher.

This brings me to other questions.

  • How do we become and act as anchors for others?  What are we bringing to interactions and experiences?
  • When do we call upon our anchors most often?
  • How is being an anchor for someone or searching for an anchor different from the idea of being rescued?

During stressful moments, we may stretch for and desire a closer connection to our anchors; we often invest in a search for safety, comfort, and the familiar. I think about the idea of a safe base and ways healthy children venture out in exploration and check back in with their safe base as they go.  Is my parent still there? Is my teacher still watching me? Am I safe? Am I loved (lovable)?

Hmmmm…do I have the answer to my own question? Have I been thinking more and more about the word anchor because I’ve lost sight of some of my own anchors and chosen to complete the to-do list, for example, over taking time strengthening an anchor or two? Have I been thinking more about how to build a better boat as opposed to strengthening anchors for days of high winds and waves?

Peace can come from our anchors. The to-do lists can seem less demanding. Projects become gifts again rather than added stress. Perspectives can shift.

What is one anchor I can make more time for today?

Are you are feeling pressure from the culmination of professional demands, relational conflicts, and parenting to-do’s? Are you so far adrift that you can’t imagine finding your way back to an anchor?

All of us can find ourselves feeling pulled in a million different directions with no clear idea of where to go next. I am here to help you clarify your values and strengthen them by taking consistent, manageable steps with intention. Contact me to learn more about the types of support by emailing kristin@kristintenneyblackwell.org.