Robert Dilts proposed this hierarchy of change or “logical levels” of change to help us understand ourselves a little bit better and why we do or don’t do certain things. It provides a really helpful structure to evaluate our current behaviors or start new ones.
If you’re thinking, “what the heck does behavior change have to do with me not being able to lose 20 pounds?”…well, it has everything to do with it! Let me explain.
Behavior change is really quite complex when you think about it. It’s not just a matter of doing or not doing something. We often tell ourselves we’re going to do so many things, but do we actually go to the gym 4 times a week consistently? Do we go to bed on time and put our phones away every night? Do we eat that container of spring mix every week? No, no, and probably no. Why does this happen?
Well, we typically start at the bottom of the pyramid (your environment and behaviors), and this is where our most conscious and present brain lives. When we set off on a new goal, especially weight loss, we start thinking of all the things we need to change ASAP about our environments. We buy the Peloton, we throw away the junk food, and we set out a pair of pants we want to fit into as inspiration. The more things we can edit in our world to support our goal the better, right?
We also start changing all of our immediate behaviors. We start meal prepping on the weekends, we set out to follow a workout routine, and we say no to dessert and fun foods as strictly as possible. We try to do all the things and change all. the. things. Because isn’t that what we’re supposed to do??
Well, yes, attempting to change your habits to reach that ultimate goal sounds like a good thing, but in order for those changes to actually stick, we have to think about starting at the top of the pyramid instead (our identity, beliefs, capabilities, etc.). This is where our subconscious mind has set up camp and it makes behavior change a heck of a lot more effective.
If you’re thinking, “oh gosh, subconscious sounds a little spiritual for me,” let me explain what your subconscious mind actually is. It’s all of your memories, previous experiences, beliefs, and self-identity. It’s not something to just brush off. It’s a huge part of who we are! How are we supposed to reach big goals if we only pay attention to one part of our minds?
Think of it this way:
Our subconscious mind does so many things and habits for us in a day that we don’t even think about. Do you actively think about brushing your teeth in the morning? Do you have to pull up directions on your phone to drive home every day? My guess is no. These things are automatic, and the energy you need to follow through with them is almost zero.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if all the habits associated with losing weight or reaching a goal were just on auto-pilot like this in our brains all the time? Sign me up! This is the exact reason why doing this self-exploration through this hierarchy of change is so fantastic and 100% necessary. It’s a matter of sliding down the pyramid vs. climbing uphill.
We must have an internal belief and mindset established about what kind of person we actually want to be and what goals that version of ourselves has. What would that person do? How does that person live their life? The more specific the better. Following through with certain habits becomes a lot easier when you really believe deep down that you ARE that person. Or at least becoming that person. It’s like the domino effect.
If you have a goal of losing 20 pounds, but behind the scenes you don’t really believe you can do it, it doesn’t matter how many pieces of exercise equipment you buy or how perfectly you follow a meal plan, you’re just not going to succeed long-term. You don’t identify as that person who can meet this goal, so following through becomes extremely difficult after the initial burst of motivation wears off.
Think about it: we know that 95% of dieting efforts fail. This perfectly aligns with the fact that our subconscious mind is considered to be 95% of our brain power and activity. If you’re solely focused on the behaviors and environment needed to support weight loss, but you don’t ever tap into your higher beliefs and identity, you’re aligning with this 95% fail rate. Ouch.
Another way to put it:
Even if you’re following a sustainable approach to weight loss that supports lifelong healthy habits (like not even a crazy fad diet that you’ve failed before), if you don’t do the mindset work and determine the true vision and values you have for your life, I hate to say it, but you’re destined for failure.
Now a little shameless plug: this is a HUGE reason that our monthly membership (M3) is so incredibly valuable to our members after they complete Metabolism Makeover.
We know that you are extremely smart and deserve to know how your metabolism actually works. That’s often one of the big missing pieces to the puzzle of weight loss for women, and we’ll talk about this more in Part 2. None of the diets actually explain the science to you. Instead, they give you colored containers or another box of bars to eat. (I’m being a little dramatic, but not completely wrong either).
Back to my point…you are more than capable of doing the work to change your behaviors and environment for a short amount of time. Anyone is. HOWEVER, going back to the top of the pyramid and creating that healthy mindset about yourself is 100% necessary for any of these changes to really stick. That’s why M3 has accountability groups, trainings, and challenges for this critical area of your health journey.
It all comes down to this:
You can’t rely on willpower alone. For most of us, it’s just not enough to get us to our big goals in life, no matter what they are. We think our conscious mind must be the most influential driver, but the truth is that our subconscious mind has way more to say! Plot twist: it’s the one that’s actually in the driver’s seat.
Starting at the top of this hierarchy of change pyramid and working your way down will help you set the record straight from the start. In all honesty, you’ll probably ask yourself why you haven’t learned this sooner.
No matter where you are with your goals, mindset, or life in general, I strongly encourage you to check out the other parts of this series so we can hack your habits FOR GOOD!
Elle, MM Coach
PS: We are here for you! If you need more individualized support and guidance for weight loss, our VIP team is ready to help. Follow this link for more information and to fill out an application to see if you’re a good fit.