The Four Anchors

The Four Anchors

      We have previously discussed and made reference to “The Four Anchors.” I have long believed in and worked on my anchors. Only recently, with more reading and studying, have I learned that these anchors have more of a scientific, physiological, and psychological basis that I realized.

Ironman #18

Cindy + 3 Kids = 4 Anchors!

       This article will attempt to briefly follow up and further identify each of the anchors. My four anchors that we have frequently discussed on this site are family (also social), spiritual, physical and professional (also work). I have used these anchors as a foundation for direction, decision making, and lifestyle.


       With the help of my friend, Dr. Joseph Maroon, in his book The Longevity Factor, which I referenced last week, I have been led to further readings and discussions regarding the four anchors. In Joe’s book he called the four anchors a four-square life. Other writers and researchers call it balance. Most all religions, and including Eastern philosophies, include these same concepts in describing a balanced life.

       Below we will focus on each of the four anchors, and then will work on balancing and integrating them into our lives. These four anchors become the ongoing foundation for everything we do and how we pursue life. We need to study and learn them in a way that they become part of everything we do.


       The finding, reviewing, and pursuing life through the four anchors makes everything fit together better, and gives us much more meaning. Further, using the anchors as a template for goals and decision making makes life much easier. I look forward to learning and growing more as we discuss each of the anchors and how they fit into our lives.

      Always pursuing the anchors . . .

The Spiritual Anchor  

      The spiritual anchor has an enormous impact on getting balance in your life. To fully discuss the impact of spirituality as part of having a fulfilling and satisfying life could fill an entire book, or even a library.

A New Dawn

The Spiritual Anchor

       Most of the great philosophers through the ages have included spirituality as an essential component in their beliefs and writings. Dr. Joe Maroon in his book The Longevity Factor goes so far as to modify his foursquare life to a triangle with spirituality in the center. This spiritual interconnection helps the other three anchors integrate more successfully.

       Although I am confident in my Christian beliefs, and loyal to my denomination and Church, in discussing fulfillment and satisfaction, at least here on earth, the practice of which particular religion does not seem determinant. The common themes of most mainstream religions of worshiping a higher being and caring for and loving others provides the positive spiritual backdrop for integrating and balancing life.

       Further, the spiritual anchor is not a conclusory result, but rather the process of searching can be productive as long as the search continues. Just like maintaining and continuing fitness is essential for a fitness lifestyle, the process of spirituality must continue, and is never a completed task.

       Spirituality includes the need to belong, which helps enhance the social anchor which we will discuss later. A spiritual environment should provide an atmosphere of acceptance, approval, worthiness, and unconditional favor. We will see a continuing theme of integrating anchors. Previously, we discussed integrating the spiritual and the physical in Going to the Cathedral.

       The spiritual anchor even proves positive mathematically! The average churchgoing person lives approximately one year, or 8,760 hours, longer than the average non-churchgoing person. So, even if you go to church for one hour a week for your entire life you still gain hours on Earth.

      Practicing, exploring, and sharing the spiritual aspects of life help us integrate the other three anchors and are the first big step toward the balance that leads to a fulfilling and satisfying life.

      The spiritual road continues . . .

The Professional Anchor  

      Our next of our four anchors is the professional, or work, anchor. Our work in many ways defines us, but also at the same time draws many of us out of balance.


The Professional Anchor

      Maximizing and integrating our professional anchor into our lives is not necessarily an area for career counseling, rather it is effectively working on this part of our lives. Work gives us a powerful sense of identity. Further, this identity can be enhanced when we realize that our work should assist our other anchors. None of the anchors work independently, but rather in balance and in conjunction with the others.

      Most of us Type A iron-people have plenty of work ethic. In fact this is where most us tend to get the most out of balance. Therefore, the issue usually isn’t how to work more; but, rather to do better, more effective work while limiting the intrusion on the other anchors.

      We may use work as too big of a source of personal identity. The truth is that while we need work for economic reasons, most of us need work and the resulting economics more to define ourselves. We need to modify our thinking, through balance, to overall satisfaction and fulfillment.

       Most of us spend 40 hours or more per week at our avocation. Moms spend much more! As a side note, watching moms integrate the various anchors in their lives can be very instructive. These 40 hours need to add to our total makeup as opposed to intruding as an obstacle to life.

       Combining our professional life with service to others enhances this anchor and takes it to a higher level. Our Daggett Shuler team tries to make this part of our professional culture through our Safe Sober Prom Night Program.

       Part of the challenge in balancing the work ethic is being able to align talents with the other anchors and your lifestyle. When these various aspects are aligned, then work can be most satisfying and fulfilling.

      Professionally speaking . . .

The Family Anchor  

       Our third and possibly most important of the four anchors is the family anchor. According to numerous studies, including a study out of Yale University, a good family life contributes more to positive satisfaction and fulfillment than anything else.


     For most of us, family is our basic social structure. However, realizing that family is defined differently for different people, in his book The Longevity Factor, Dr. Maroon expands the family anchor to family/social.

       A strong family and social structure allows us to fully enjoy our humanity and is the foundation of our humanity. For a life of fulfillment and satisfaction it takes our circle of others to fully see a reflection of ourselves.

       Our most basic emotional need includes self worth. Self worth comes from family and friends. The evidence is quite strong that the self worth that comes from family and friends is more important than money and possessions.

       In Sunday school class this weekend a close friend shared with me a rather famous quote that hangs in his aunt’s house. The quote “Live well. Love much. Laugh often.” is what we get when we focus on family and friends.

       We must focus on and nurture our family and social relationships. They make us better, happier, more satisfied, and even faster. Just like in athletics this aspect of our lives takes continual conditioning and training.

      For busy, motivated individuals balance can be difficult to achieve. However, when we focus on family first balance is much easier to achieve and lead us toward a very rich life.

      Family first . . .

The Physical Anchor  

       Our fourth and last in our series on the four anchors is the physical anchor. The physical anchor focuses on our physical health and well-being.


The Physical Anchor

      For the Ironman athlete in particular we need to remember that the goal is to balance our four anchors. Ironman training may actually be out of balance although we have previously discussed how to weave Ironman training into the other four anchors. Next week, we will further explore how to integrate the anchors.

       The main objective of the physical anchor is to develop a healthy and fitness lifestyle for you and your family. Physical activities need to be fun and enjoyable in order to make them part of our daily routine.

       Talk to any older person you know and you will find that they uniformly value their health above almost all else. Money and possessions don’t even get included in the conversation. Promoting a healthy lifestyle for your children and family is one of the best guarantees of success and happiness through life

       Positive physical health affects virtually every aspect of life in a positive manner. Even a small amount of daily exercise can be tremendously beneficial. In addition to making us feel better and giving us more energy, positive physical health correlates very directly to positive mental health. .

       Several of the aspects of the physical anchor include diet (nutrition) and exercise. Dr. Joe Maroon in his book The Longevity Factor identifies aerobic development, strengthening, flexibility, and balance as physical aspects for positive physical health. Accordingly, our physical efforts should be directed at developing these areas.

       Just like the other anchors, the physical anchor is always a work in progress. Moderation and consistency over time is the best method for keeping the physical anchor strong and secure. The trick is to learn how individually we can integrate our physical aspect into our daily lives on an ongoing basis.

       The growing rate of obesity in our society, particularly child obesity, is strong evidence that in the hustle and bustle of modern society our physical health gets largely ignored. Accordingly, if we do not consciously work to include physical activity in our daily lives we by default ignore this vital aspect.

       Our positive physical health and fitness can also positively affect the other aspects of our lives. Good health enhances our family and social relationships, professional achievements, and our spiritual connection.

      To your health . . .

Total Integration  

      We aren’t quite finished with the Four Anchors just yet! Remember that the goal is achieving balance for a life of fulfillment and satisfaction. I believe that this is best achieved by integrating the anchors as much as possible.

Total Integration

      Our friend and Ironman triathlete, Dr. Joseph Maroon, in his book The Longevity Factor, calls the four anchors a four-square life. He suggests that keeping the four sides approximately equal is the best recipe for a healthy lifestyle.

      I think most people have the four basic anchors in their life – their family life, spiritual life, professional life, and the physical aspect of their life. Where many folks get into trouble is when they pursue these aspects of life separately instead of integrating them. When you make the integration a way of life, it makes the critical element of balance much easier to achieve.

      We have previously discussed techniques for integration in Ironman Blueprint, Marathon Blueprint, and Training With Family. Integration can be easy if we look for daily opportunities to combine the various aspects of our lives. Further, the process of an integrated lifestyle can be a powerful positive influence on our families, children, colleagues, and others around us.

      Integration is more than just combining – it is making the inclusion of multiple anchors part of life. Like biking or running to or from a family event. Or, running with a colleague to work on a business issue. How about using business knowledge to assist at church on an issue that includes families, or volunteering at church for your children’s event. Once integration becomes part of our daily lives the opportunities to implement become easier to find.

       When integration becomes a habit it also adds to effectiveness and efficiency. Others around us will constantly wonder how we do so much and get so much done. Integration takes opportunities to make concurrent, as opposed to consecutive, use of our time and responsibilities. We are literally doing two, or more, things at a time that contribute to integration and the resulting balance.

       Further, integration allows us to go above and beyond in service, which allows comes back to us in a positive way.  Integration  is what allows me to continue our Safe Sober Prom Night program which led to winning the Ironman Everyday Hero Award. 

      This integration applies not just to us and our families, but also friends, church acquaintances, co-workers, and employees. It enhances the quality of life for us and for those around us.

Pursuing Total Integration,



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  10. Great article. Thanks for developing this piece.
    I especially enjoyed reading about The Four Anchors.
    What an inspiration you are….

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