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The Neurological Levels – The Dilts Pyramid

The Neurological Levels – according to Gregory Bateson / Robert Dilts.

Description of the various levels

  • Environment:
    That is everything that we respond to, our environment and other people we meet.
  • Behaviors:
    These are our real actions.
  • Skills / capabilities:
    These are the groups or classes of behaviors, common skills and strategies we use in our lives.
  • Beliefs and values:
    These are the different guiding ideas that we believe to be true and use as the basis of our everyday actions. Beliefs and attitudes can include both rights (permissions) and restrictions (prohibitions).
  • Identity:
    This is my basic self-image: my deepest, most central values and my task or mission in my life.
  • Affiliation / belonging:
    On the one hand, this concerns our professional, family, social or whatever (perhaps also philosophical, religious) association.
    This is the deepest level at which we view and implement the greatest metaphysical questions. Why are we here? What's the meaning of life? This spiritual level guides and shapes our lives and provides a foundation for our existence. Any change at this level has a profound impact on all levels. In a sense, it contains everything we do but is more than the sum of its parts.

Examples of beliefs at the neurological levels

LimitationsCausesMeaning
EnvironmentThe war ruined everything.Poverty at home means having bad initial prospects.Nothing bright can come from the slums.
BehaviorsHe (never) strikes anyone, because he himself was often beaten earlier..Those who drink, ruin their health.Listening and knitting at the same time is impossible.
Skills / capabilitiesI cannot skate because I never learned to skate.If one person can do something, others can learn to do it too.You cannot learn anything without practice..
Values / beliefsHonesty is sacred to me because I myself was often lied to.Equality in the relationship means true partnership.Trust is not possible without openness.
IdentityI'm a failure because no one ever supported me..Fat people are pleasant bon vivants.As a welfare recipient I'm the lowest of the low..
SpiritualityShe believes in God because she that’s what she learned.To believe is to be in harmony with yourself and the world.Without belief you might as well kill yourself.

Setting goals through the neurological levels according to Robert Dilts

Part I: Lead the target state through the neurological levels (NE)


  1. First conduct a short goal-setting discussion with A according to the known criteria (positive, self-evident, contextualized, sensory-specific, ecological).

  2. From now on, keep the "as-if-frame" for the entire exercise: "Suppose you have already reached your goal ..." and lead A through the entire NE in this state. Start with the environment level and go on from there step by step and anchor the respective situation with a space anchor and maybe with terms or symbols.

    If it should result that resources are still missing on one or more levels, go first to the next higher level and find here the resources that were missing at the previous level. Otherwise, just notice the level where something is missing for later.


Possible questions at the different levels:

Environment: Where are you here? Who is with you here? What do you hear? What do you see? What do you taste? What do you smell?

Behavior: What are you doing here?

Skills / capabilities: How do you do what you do? How do you relate to others here? What special skills do you have here??

Beliefs and values: What is important to you here? Why do you do what you do? What do you believe in here? What motivates you? What do you think about yourself, others, your job, etc.?

Identity: What kind of self-image do you have here? How do you understand yourself, who are you?

Affiliation / belonging: Where do you belong? On a professional, private, idealistic, spiritual levels, is there anything here or someone or a group that you know you belong to? What task, what mission do you have?

Go yet a step further.

Your unconscious will send you another important piece of information at this point. It can be an idea, a picture, a symbol, a feeling or whatever. It is a special gift of your unconscious to you, for your goal. Take as much time there as you need to absorb it all in yourself.

Part II: Gather resources


  1. Now go back and remember all the insights and resources you've already found along the way. Experience how each level has been enriched and intensified by the knowledge and your experience of the others. Perceive the changes.

  2. If something is missing at any step, go into dissociation and take resources from here (send them or set a resource anchor). Go back to that level and experience the change that has now resulted with the resources.

  3. Go on to the environment level and remember your goal. Experience how your goal has become richer compared to the beginning.


Part III: Internalization and completion


  1. Now go through all levels once again at your own pace. Take the time you need.

  2. Now go through the all levels from top to bottom quickly and without thinking. Get back to the starting position and see how your goal has become richer.

  3. Future Pace: When will you take the first steps towards the full realization of your goal?


The neurological clock of the future

Summary of the format


  1. Find goals:
    • Goals for personality development
    • Professional / financial / business Goals
    • Goals for partnership (family)
    • Health goals
    • Social and charitable goals
    • Fun and games destinations (luxury / leisure destinations)

  2. Review of goals for well-formedness: (self-initiated, short feedback sheet, well contextualized, sensory-specific, no negative and no comparison)

  3. Give the goals a timeframe: Summarize at critical times.

  4. Finding Mentors for a Master Mind.

  5. Neurological clock of the future
    1. current state
    2. first critical point in time
    3. collect resources
    4. critic
    5. planner, mentors as companions
    6. in mentor position one back; in mentor position two forward and back to the final integration. Anchor on the clock.
    7. Second critical point in time, etc. ...

  6. Wise, old magician (the other Ecology Check)