Dilts’ logical levels were created by organizational psychologist Robert B. Dilts. Dilts’ logical levels are a framework for personal development. They help an individual better understand themselves and their environment based on six logical levels: environment, behavior, capabilities, values and beliefs, identity and vision.
Understanding Dilts’ logical levels
The notion of logical levels of learning and change was initially conceived by anthropologist Gregory Bateson and based on logic and mathematics. Bateson identified four basic levels of learning and change, with each level incorporating elements from the level below it and each successive level having a greater degree of impact on an individual or system.
Dilts’ logical levels are an adaptation of the work done by Bateson, describing a hierarchy of process levels within an individual, group, or organization. The function of each logical level is to synthesize, organize, and direct the interactions on the level below it. Importantly, changing something on a higher level means lower levels must also change to support it. Changing something on a lower level, however, does not necessarily impact those above.
Fundamentally speaking, Dilts’ logical levels indicate the different degrees to which an individual thinks, feels, knows, or speaks. Lower levels encompass trivial or concrete thoughts, while higher levels are more complex, abstract, and meaningful.
According to Dilts, one can tell what logical level someone is operating on by the language they use to discuss their situation or problem. Some individuals become stuck on a level and see their problem as unsolvable. However, helping them move to another level gives them a fresh perspective, and the nature of the problem changes.
As a consequence, Dilts’ logical levels are used in problem-solving, personal development, conflict resolution, and motivation. The levels are also particularly useful to those in a position of leadership.
Dilts’ six logical levels
With the above in mind, let’s take a look at each of the six levels that are sometimes represented as a pyramid:
- Environment – at the base of the pyramid is the environment. Every experience occurs in a temporal and spatial context, so the environmental level contains every external condition likely to affect a person. In the workplace, an employee may use adjectives to describe what their work environment looks like, sounds like, or feels like. From this, they may be able to identify a “vibe” that affects their experience.
- Behavior – on the next level up is behavior, encompassing the individual’s actions, words, gestures, movements, breathing, and perceived reactions to others. Collectively, behavior constitutes particular patterns of work, interaction, or communication at the individual and organizational levels.
- Capabilities – or how behaviors are generated and directed within the environment. For the individual, capabilities are typically associated with learning, decision-making, and creativity. For the organization, capabilities describe infrastructure supporting communication, innovation, and planning.
- Values and beliefs – what are the values and beliefs that underpin each capability? These fundamental traits motivate the person to act based on what they believe to be true based on previous experiences. It’s important to note that people can only utilize existing capabilities if there are corresponding beliefs that allow them to do so. Values and beliefs determine the meaning attributed to an event and are the foundation of company culture.
- Identity – the fifth level supports an individual or organizational sense of identity. They give each entity a sense of mission and purpose as small players in a much larger system. Dilts argued values and beliefs were comprised of two complementary aspects: the ego (survival, recognition, ambition) and the soul (purpose, contribution, mission).
- Vision – at the top of the pyramid is the level of professional, family, social, philosophical, or religious affiliation and vision. Vision can be thought of as a spiritual force that guides and shapes the life of an individual or business. As a result, it asks some big questions. What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? What is our reason for being? To what cause or greater system is the individual or business devoted?
- Dilts’ logical levels are a framework for personal development created by organizational psychologist Robert B. Dilts. They help an individual better understand themselves and their environment.
- Dilts’ logical levels are used in problem-solving, personal development, conflict resolution, leadership, and motivation.
- Dilts’ six logical levels are environment, behavior, capabilities, values and beliefs, identity, and vision. As one moves through each level, thoughts become less trivial and more complex or abstract.
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