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The Logical Levels of Change Work

If you've been interested in personal development for long, you know that there are thousands of growth tools out there and a million different opinions on how to use those tools.

Usually when people try to make a change in their life, they focus on the externals: Their behaviors and their

Different coaches recommend different things to help you get these changes. This could include belief change processes, habit formation tricks, finding the right mentors, brute force, self-love. The list goes on.

But how would you know which tool to pick, and for what purpose?

These Logical Levels of Change can help you determine which area needs focus, and then you can select a tool that targets that level.

Notice that only the 2 of the 7 levels, Environment and Behavior (and to some degree Purpose) are actually visible to an outside observer. Everything else is happening on the inside.


Environment is the easiest level to operate on and should always be considered first when you begin making a change. This is because the environment is usually under your control and making a change there is quick and permanent.

Examples of changes to your environment could be putting up a motivational quote that you see first thing in the morning. Or it could be wearing new clothes. Or it could be making new friends.

Anything external to you or your client falls into this category.

If your environment is not supportive of the growth you are aiming for, then change will be much more difficult. If you can change your environment to be supportive and reinforcing of your growth, then you've built an external structure that will last and help you make change at the other levels.


Behavior is the level that most people think of when they start thinking about making a change. They say they want to go to the gym, or they want to eat healthier.

Maybe they want a new romantic partner (environment) so they know they need to change their habits to get out more and meet people (behavior).

While this may seem simple (Just do it, right?) the behavior level is actually the most difficult to impact directly. You're much better off targeting a higher level and watching the benefit trickle down to the behavior layer.

Skills and Capabilities

Sometimes before you can make a real behavior change, you have to develop skillfullness and the capability to do that behavior. If you want to climb a mountain (behavior, environment) then you will need to develop the skill to do that.

Ask "Are you capable of climbing a mountain?". If you have most of your arms and legs and you're in reasonably good health, then yes you are probably capable of it. If not, then what needs to change so you are capable? Target that area first.

Then ask "Do I know how to climb a mountain?". Maybe not. So in that case you may want to first go to the climbing gym and get lessons (behavior, environment) until your Skill increases and you can go take on a real mountain.

Convictions and Beliefs

Even more invisibly empowering us or limiting us are our Convictions and Beliefs. Perhaps you were a long time mountain climber (Capability, Skill) but you had a fall and haven't climbed in years and you feel bad about that.

In this case you have likely developed an unconscious limiting belief such as "If I try to climb I'll hurt myself again." or "I'm too old for that now"

Often these beliefs are instead formed in our youth and limit us unconsciously and invisibly. I call these Convictions because often they aren't even questioned. Learning to uncover the subtle layers of meaning that people have created for themselves over the years is an extremely valuable skill for any growth worker.

The famous story of the baby elephant in the zoo applies here. The baby elephant was tied to a tree with a rope around its ankle. The rope was too thick for the baby elephant to break and it developed a conviction that there was no point pulling on it. It would only hurt and chafe and it was better to just stand silently by the tree.

As the elephant matures, at some point it becomes strong enough to easily snap the rope. Yet, the elephant remains standing by the tree because it believes that it is too painful and dangerous to try breaking the rope. This is an unconscious limiting conviction at work.

If you can notice a limiting conviction (not always easy) and you can release it, then new capabilities can open up immediately. This can lead to new skills and behaviors and likely a change in the environment as well.

This is something that can happen quickly (though practice and reinforcement over time is key) where struggling against a limiting belief at the Behavior level could just serve to strengthen the belief ("Wow, I KNEW I couldn't do this!")

Neurolingusitic Programming and Hypnosis offer dozens of tools and techniques for changing limiting beliefs and our coaches at UI Humanics are trained in these process.


If you assemble all of your beliefs, convictions, capabilities, skills and behaviors together, they start to coalesce into Archetypal Forms.

Archetypes were made famous in the growth work world by Carl Jung. He asserted that there are 12 primary archetypes that every human operates within. These archetypes are: Ruler, Creator, Caregiver, Everyman, Jester, Lover, Hero, Magician, Outlaw, Explorer, Sage and Innocent.

Each of these archetypes have different qualities and characteristics and the theory is that we are embodying them and playing out unconscious drama between them at all times. This is part of why myths and stories are so deeply appealing to us.

There are many different archetypal forms to study. In my work with men, the masculine archetypes King, Warrior, Magician, Lover & Wild Man are extremely useful to focus on.

This level is where you start to answer the question "Who am I being?"

Are you embodying the Ruler in your life anywhere? If so are you ever embodying the Tyrant or the Weakling shadow forms of this archetype?

This is a simple way to notice and categorize patterns within yourself or a client. Archetypes can give you a pattern of language to work with when articulating nuanced and subtle aspects of the psyche.


This is where you ask "What is important to me?"

This is the second to highest level and this is where we work with simple words like Truth, Power, Love, Assertiveness, Kindness, Awareness, Freedom, Abundance, Victory.

We all unconsciously live from a set of values and through a process of discovery you can make these patterns conscious. Most people are working through values that will not actually allow them to achieve what they want.

If you have the value of "Freedom" and the conviction "Structure is limiting to my freedom", perhaps from your time at public school, then you may never be willing to schedule your day in a way that gets you what you really want. You are likely to experience subtle resistance and procrastination when you have an internal contradiction like this one.

Perhaps instead of "Freedom" what you really want is "Authority" in your life. Making a conscious switch between these two concepts could help you take charge of your life in a new way. Much better than just focusing on the Behavior level (try to work harder! Just do it!) making a few calculated swaps at the value and conviction level will have a much bigger impact.

Working against your inner convictions and values is a waste of time. Better to make a conscious change first and then start working with them instead.

Purpose and Meaning

"What's greater than me?" What's more important to you than your own life? What do you want to accomplish that might take longer than you have left on Earth? What kind of higher truth or higher power do you adhere to?

These questions are key in staying motivated on any kind of journey or growth experience. Having a destination (or destiny) in mind will keep you focused on the long-term implications of everything you think and do. This is the level where you begin really asking yourself what is important in life and why you are even doing any of this.

If you think your purpose is to make money and drive fast cars, you will continually hit spiritual potholes until you accept a purpose truly worthy of you.

Once you accept a bigger purpose, one that is aligned with your true spirit and so big that it scares the crap out of you, you become much more powerful and effective.

Sometimes when people can't get themselves motivated (Behavior) it's because they just aren't aiming high enough.

What's greater than me could include your family, your business, the whole world, the universe and whatever inner realms and spiritual connections you may be inclined to explore.

In a strange way, this model loops on itself. Your Environment and your Purpose (What's greater than you) have many touchpoints and are often linked in surprising ways.

Think through your environment, particularly your connection with other living beings, and see if you can discern some element of your purpose shining through there. Focusing on those aspects can be a great start to any growth journey.


Hopefully now you can see how these levels are useful in choosing an area for targeted growth work. By asking yourself or your clients questions that target a particular area, you can work your way up and down the levels until you find the point of highest leverage.

Making a recommendation or suggestion at that point will almost always be well received.

by Matt Davis