Jatin often has problems at work. It’s not the first time, and once again Jatin wants to change his job. He makes the rash decision to leave his job. At his next employer, however, Jatin soon finds himself in the same situation.. He starts to wonder whether there’s something that he needs to change, as he keeps ending up in the same situation.

The challenge faced by Jatin is quite common, we all fall prey to these patterns in our lives. How do we break these patterns ? Neurological levels (also known as logical levels) is the answer.

Apart from problem solving, “the neurological levels” model has many different applications. It can help us identify what promotes or limits our effectiveness as leaders. It can help us in goal setting, relationships, sales counselling etc.

Introduction Neurological Levels of thinking


The term “Neurological Levels” first coined by Gregory Bateson and the model was created by Robert Dilts. Neurological levels is a tool which allows us to view and analyse our problems through different perspectives.The levels are visualised in a pyramid, from the basic and superficial at the bottom to the deepest and significant at the top.

  • Each logical level is a different point of view which is connected to the other levels and they are arranged in a hierarchy of importance.
  • Most of us are not conscious about the logical levels but they have a huge impact on the quality of our lives (whether we are aware or not).
  • Any problem in life or any goal we want to achieve is within one of those logical levels.
  • We can use it to understand where our problem standing and use different thinking levels in order to solve it.

Rules of Neurological Levels

  • The function of each level is to synthesise, organise and direct the interactions on the level below it.
  • Change in any of the levels are impactful and affect the other levels.
  • The higher the level where change happens, the bigger the change is.
  • Changing something on an upper level would necessarily bring change on the lower levels. 
  • Changing something on a lower level could, but would not necessarily, affect the upper levels. 

In order to understand these neurological levels, we will start with the lowest level and work our way up the highest level. Starting with the lowest neurological level.

Neurological Levels

1. Environment

The environment level is your surroundings. The place you are in, the people you interact with, conditions, results and basically everything from the “outside” which has some effect on us. when and where , It’s particularly about the time and the geographical location of the problem. In organisations environment means buildings, facilities, factory design, people etc.

A person who acts from this level will probably explain the change by stating exactly what happened and who was involved. This explanation can be accompanied by complaining.

Imagine a person is trying to lose weight. In the first situation, he opens the fridge and see cookies, in the second situation he open the fridge and there’s only healthy food.The person in the second situation (without the cookies in his fridge) has a lower probability of eating cookies at that moment right? The change in the environment caused a change in behaviour (eating healthy food). The connection between those two levels is simple and clear.

2. Behaviour

Behaviour is about what people do and say. It refers to action and reaction of a person in a particular environment. At this level, a person describes what he thought, did and what effect this action had in a certain situation.

If an observer were to observe another person, the behaviours are what the observer would see, feel, or hear when the observed person is carrying out an activity.

In organisations, behaviours means work routines, working habits or job related activities.

Let us take the same example of a person trying to loose weight.The person who eats healthy and goes to the gym four times a week will have much better results than a person who is lazy and eats junk right.
Our behaviour eventually creates capabilities. When we do something we gain experience and knowledge which tells us what we can and cannot do.

3. Capabilities

Capabilities refer to the skills, abilities, possibilities, competencies, qualities, and strategies that people are able to do and can apply to initiate change. Everything you have done until that day, over time, created capabilities. This is considered as the ‘how’ level.

In organisational set-up , capabilities include cognitive strategies and skills such as learning, memory, decision-making and creativity, which facilitate the performance of a particular behaviour or task.

The person who is trained and ate healthy all his life has more knowledge on nutrition, health, has better stamina and better physical capabilities. This capability allowed him to stay healthy and can lose weight further if he would like to.

4. Values and Beliefs

The Beliefs & Values level is simply what we believe and think about the world and how it operates. We form beliefs about what is possible or impossible, what moral and immoral, necessary or unnecessary and so on.These beliefs have a direct influence on our lives.

They provide the reinforcement (motivation and permission) that supports or inhibits particular capabilities and behaviours.If a person believes that making a lot of money is materialistic and immoral, then he will have no motivation and it will prevent him from creating behaviours and capabilities which will allow him to do so.

Belief and convictions concern the reasons behind certain behaviour-why people do things. They are at the core of judgment and culture.

The person who believes and thinks that age is just the number and physical training and daily exercise keeps you energetic even in old age will have motivation to exercise and keep himself fit.

5. Identity

The Identity level is our beliefs about ourselves. It’s our self-esteem, your sense of self, what you think about yourself and who you think you are

It is the sense of self-worth; the self-realisation a person identifies with. Identifying with something or someone can be done in many different ways: your job, roles you take in life like husband or father, religion or descriptions of your self-worth

Identity is about the question: ‘who are we?’.

Identity is a combination of two complementary aspects: the ego and the soul. The ego is oriented toward survival, recognition and ambition. The soul is oriented toward purpose, contribution and mission. Charisma, passion and presence emerge naturally when these two forces are aligned.

This is what we believe we are, the impact of those beliefs is huge! Every change on this level will automatically have an effect on all the other levels. Most of the successful people identified themselves as successful, entrepreneurs and businessman before they gained huge success.

A person who is saying to himself “I am so fat and so lazy”, will have a hard time loosing his weight , he is trying to change on the other levels because in his core he will always pull himself to verify the belief.

6.Vision

The level is our belief of what is our “purpose” or “mission” or ” vision”, the most powerful influence on our lives! It is defined in terms of the service performed by people in a particular role with respect to others within a larger system. The deeper-rooted question: ‘what else are we here for?’ This level can also be called spirituality, referring to the larger system we might be a part of.

For what or for who you are doing everything? Religious people believes that the word has to be spread and they dedicate their life to it.
Or maybe a vegans dedicate their life to be a warrior protecting the animals. A leader wanting to change the world and find a way for his people to live a good life are some examples

A change at this level is the most powerful and impactful and once someone changes or adopt a new vision, his whole life will change dramatically! Although a change in the higher levels is more unlikely and on this level is very rare.

Each level functions by integrating and operating upon the level beneath it. Clusters of change or activity at any particular level will also influence the level above it. Consider the following examples:

ABC of Neurological Levels

Neurological LevelsQuestions answered at each levelA B C Of Neurological LevelsExamples
IdentityWhoWho (a)m I ? – ABeing a “good driver” (identity) is a function of aligning all of them.
Values & BeliefsWhyWhat I (B)elieve? – BRespecting the speed limit is a result of valuing laws and believing that there are consequences if they are not kept. If one does not value the speed limit, one will not maintain it, even if one is capable.
CapabilitiesHowWhat am I (C )apable of ?- CThe capability of maintaining the speed limit is a function of integrating a mental map with one’s perceptions in order to regulate the way in which one uses one’s foot.
BehaviourWhat What I (D)o ? – DPushing the gas peddle or brake of a car with one’s foot is a behaviour which alters its speed.
EnvironmentWhere & WhenMy (E)nvironment- EThe speed of a car is a function of the change in distance it makes in relationship to time (environment).
  • The first step in the process will be to identify at which level the problem exists.
  • The next step is to identify the cause of the problem by tracing the issue at each level
  • And then, you can find out how a personal change in a level can help you tackle the problem

To understand the process of problem solving through Neurological levels read the next blog…

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