The Ladder of Change

What makes us tick?  How many segments of our life do we draw upon to make decisions, and are these segments consonant with each other and our purpose or mission?  Does our behaviour align with our beliefs and values?  Do our skills serve our mission?  Is our identity challenged by our environment?

Are we being, thinking and acting throughout the day or compromising, wandering and reacting?  How do we bring all the pieces together to achieve a unity within ourselves and better outcomes in life and in work?   Look within – 6 levels deep!


The Ladder Identity – The person we think we are

Mission – Our goal for accomplishment in work and life

Beliefs and Values

Skill & Capabilities


Environment – when and where

The Ladder of Change can help you learn about yourself, what’s important to you, what defines you and what motivates you and what tools you have to help you accomplish your goals.  Once you’ve used it for yourself, you can also coach others to help them align with their own mission and place in your team.


In his NLP Workbook, Joseph O’Connor explains the barriers to change as ‘levels’ and provides an easy way to remember, refer to and reflect upon these levels using a simple but revealing statement:

I can’t do that here

When ‘I’ is stressed, it is a statement about identity. ‘I can’t do that here’

When ‘can’t’ is stressed, it is a statement about belief. ‘I can’t do that here’

When ‘do’ is stressed it is a statement about capability. ‘I can’t do that here’

When ‘that’ is stressed, it is a statement about behaviour. ‘I can’t do that here’

When ‘here’ is stressed, it is a statement about environment. ‘I can’t do that here

Where the emphasis falls will provide you with insight on where the work is needed … in yourself and others.  You can then direct your resources to the need which now aligns with the over-arching mission.

E.g.  A physician refuses to work with a nurse practitioner as peers on a team, but works very well in a collaborative effort with a team from another organization.  At what level do you think the issue is best placed?  (substitute “he” or “she” for “I” in the above sentences) If the problem is at the level of beliefs and values, then sending that person for training incommunication skills will not be useful.  Rather, work needs to be done on the approach of providing shared care on an inter-disciplinary team.



Purpose:  To identify the level at which you may be experiencing barriers to change, in order to find an appropriate coaching solution.

Outcome: You will become resourceful and efficient in assessing any interaction or event, for yourself and others.

The Exercise: You will ‘walk’ your way through the connections between the 6 levels, with increased information and perspective. (This exercise is more effective if you physically walk through the steps)


 Choose an important event or issue for yourself which holds a challenge for you, or is associated with a goal you are intending to set.

2  Imagine or lay out 6 steps in a room, represented by sheets of paper. With eyes closed or open, place yourself mentally in the environment where and when the interaction or event will take place (eg conducting meetings with an individual or group, making a presentation). Describe your surroundings in detail – what is on the floor, on the walls, who is there?  Note any sounds from within the room and around it.

 Describe your feelings, thoughts and actions. What are you using in the environment?  Who are you interacting with?

 Think about the skills you are using from your current personal toolkit, in relation to this event and in general: communication, analysis, decision-making, establishing rapport, and others.

 Reflect on your beliefs and values in relation to this event and in general: What’s important about your beliefs and values in relation to the event or interaction? Why does it matter? What’s mostimportant about it?   What’s true about your beliefs and values? What would you wish others to understand about what’s important to you?

What is important about this event, about achieving the outcome? What are your beliefs about what you are capable of and what others at the event are capable of?

 Observe yourself in your role in relation to this event.  Who are you in this role?  Who are you when you do the things you do?  Who are you at your best in this role?  Who are you at your worst in this role?

 7  Your work extends into benefits for the world around you.  We call this your mission. Think about what is important to you in life and what you would like to accomplish in this world.


You will now turn around and take steps back down the levels.


 Now take this sense of your connectedness to the bigger picture of the world – your mission – as you step forward to your identity and notice the difference it makes in how you feel about your ‘self’ and your role.

 Take the enhanced feeling of your ‘self’ and step to the level of beliefs and values: what is it you believe now?  What do you wish to be important about this event?  What outcome do you now envision?  And what principles will guide you?

10  Take your new sense of your beliefs and values and principles and imagine employing your capabilities that you are now ready to put into play.

11  With these capabilities play through the behaviours you may be now aware that you are capable of, and assess how you can best use them.

12  Now step into the environment in which the event or interaction is happening.  Note your level of congruency within you and between this particular event and your capabilities, values and greater purpose or mission.

Now step away from the levels and note the resources you have at hand when this event will occur in the future!