In every career there are moments when you absolutely must be at your best. However, what if, just when that moment comes, you're feeling at your worst?

Affirmations, positive thinking and exercise, can change your attitude and mental state but when you're "on the spot" you may not have time to do them.

Fortunately, neuroscience has discovered a way that allows you to instantly pop yourself from "out of it" to "in the zone." It's called "anchoring":

1. Create a unique "anchor."

In this context, an anchor is a physical movement that you don't normally make. For convenience select an action that's unobtrusive, so that you can do it anytime or anywhere.

For example, the anchor I created is turning my wedding ring around my finger, all 360 degrees. I had never fiddled with my ring, so that's an unusual (but not obvious) physical movement for me, personally.

Other anchors might be tugging your ear, or crossing your ring finger with your pinky. It doesn't matter what action you select as long as it's something that you don't do normally.

2. Connect the anchor to your peak states.

Once you've established your anchor, look for events and situations at work and play when you truly feel at your best and at your peak.

You might feel that way because your home team won the big game or it might be something more subtle, like noticing that, for some reason, you're at your best and "in the zone" at work.

Regardless of when or where you feel yourself in that peak state, do your anchoring move.

This causes your brain to inextricably connect your anchor to the mental state that you're in at that moment. This is called a "conditioned reflex" and scientists have known about it for over a century.

3. When you must be at your best, execute your anchor.

Once you've repeatedly trained your brain to associate your anchor with your peak state, you can now use the anchor to immediately and automatically put yourself into a peak state. All you need do is to execute the anchor.

For example, suppose I get a surprise call from a big client but I'm in a "less than resourceful" state of mind. I immediately use my anchor to jolt me into a positive, upbeat, "I can handle anything" mental state.

Warning: Use your anchor sparingly. It takes about five peak states to "store" enough "oomph" to overcome an "out of it" state.  Follow that rule and this technique works like magic, even though it's just plain old neuroscience.

BTW, I learned this technique from Tony Robbins, but he was drawing on earlier studies, the most famous being the neuroscientist Pavlov's discovery of conditioned reflex.