Is there anything in your life that you wish were different right now? How about in the life of any of your employees?
My guess is that the answer to both of those questions is, “Of course!” (or possibly, “Duh! 🙂 )
The challenge of course is, “How do you make that happen?”
On a professional level, as a business owner/entrepreneur, your job requires you to wear multiple hats—from HR professional to marketer to sales person to strategist to negotiator to accountant to manager to leader to cash flow analyst to copywriter to brand manager to PR spokesperson etc.—many of which you probably don’t feel that you’re great at but wish you were.
With your employees, you probably wish that some of them would work at a more effective or efficient level. Or maybe you wish they would raise their level of excellence or perseverance or collaboration. Or maybe you wish they would take more risks or less risks. Or maybe you wish they’d be more creative or show up for meetings on time or follow your SOPs or be more respectful or use less inappropriate language, etc.
And then there’s your personal life. Maybe you wish you were a little healthier or thinner or stronger. Or maybe you wish you were more focused and productive. Or maybe you wish you were more grateful and were able to live in a more peacefulness state of mind. Or maybe you wish you had more balance in your life (whatever that means for you) or that you spent more time with your family and weren’t so driven, etc.
Out of all of the above, what is one thing you’d like to see changed in your life right now?
I hope you’ve thought of at least one thing that you’d like to change so that as I walk through the following five levels, you can apply each level to your issue. Why five levels?
Because the secret to changing virtually anything you want to change in your life is to use ALL FIVE CHANGE LEVELS to create the greatest probability that the change you want to see will become the change you experience.
You see, the problem with most change efforts is that they focus on one of the five levels of change. For example, using the ubiquitous exercise metaphor, someone might think, “The key to finally developing an exercise habit is to schedule it, sign up for a gym membership and find an accountability partner.” Those are all good things. However, they only function at level four (the “how” level) and level five (the “environment” level). However, if the deepest levels of change haven’t taken place, a month later you won’t be exercising. Why? Because at level one (identity), you don’t see yourself as an exerciser. You see yourself as a “Fat Boy (or Fat Girl)” or using a negative, “Not an Exerciser” or “Not an Athlete.”
In other words, one of the primary reasons why you probably haven’t changed a lot of things in your life that you’d like to is because you haven’t attacked the problem at all five levels, just one or two. The moment you engage all five is the moment you’ve given yourself the best chance of actually seeing the change you want to make a reality in your life.
Which leaves us with only one question. What are the five levels of change? Glad you asked. Here they are.
Level One – The Identity Level (The Who)
This past weekend, my son-in-law, David and two of his teammates won a CrossFit competition. If you were to ask a CrossFitter how they identify themselves, most of them would make a statement at the identity level, “I’m a CrossFitter.”
The identity level is the most powerful of all five levels. Similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy, these levels build from the bottom up. If the foundational level hasn’t been changed, everything on top of it is less important.
For example, a lot of business owners and entrepreneurs use language like the following.
- I’m not a numbers person
- I’m not a sales person
- I’m a big picture person. I don’t do details.
- I’m a sales person, not a marketer
- I’m just a __________, not a ________ (fill in with any two words, I’m just a lawyer, not an HR expert)
- I’m not a creative person, etc.
The problem with those statements is that if you fundamentally don’t believe you’re something, no matter how many new skills or practices you add, you’ll keep reverting to your identity belief (since we all like congruence). Therefore you have to work to change your underlying identity statement if your want change to last.
For example, by nature and training, I’m a strategist. If you were to ask me, “Who are you?” One of my comments would be, “I’m a strategist.” And like a lot of entrepreneurs and leaders, I started off my career years ago saying things like, “I don’t do details. I’m a big picture person. I focus on where we’re going and I let other people figure out how to get us there.”
However, there’s one huge gaping hole there. Strategy means absolutely nothing if it doesn’t get executed. So I had to retrain my brain to identify myself as “One of those rare people who functions equally well at the 50,000 foot level and the 5 foot level, as both a strategist and a tactician.” Once I began to change the identity as a detail person as well as a strategist, then my ability to make sure the strategies I developed were executed soared.
Note: this doesn’t mean that you have to become the tactician creating all of the detailed plans for your business (that would be a poor use of your time), it means you need to acquire the skill sets and beliefs of a tactician so you can function well when you’re reviewing someone else’s work or you can see the problems before others can or you know enough to ask the right kinds of questions to uncover a problem, etc. But the change starts at the identity level.
So, take the issue you’re wresting with right now and unpack the identity that you have surrounding that thing (for example, I’m not a sales person). Once you identify what the identity is, then come up with a game plan to change it (which is usually just changing the language from, “I’m not a sales person,” to “I am a sales person”). Then you need to work to reprogram your mind over and over again until you believe it.
Level Two – The Belief Level (The What)
Everything you or I do (i.e. our behaviors) is driven by our beliefs. If there’s something you don’t like in your life (the outcome/effect), then you have to rewind it to discover the belief that underlies it (the cause) and change that belief in order to get a different outcome.
Using our sales example from above, if you keep avoiding making sales calls or avoid following up with customers/clients etc. there are some beliefs behind those behaviors.
- I’m not good at sales
- I don’t know how to close (or I’m not good at closing)
- No one likes it when a sales person calls them or follows up with them
- They’re probably going to say, “No” anyways
- They’ll probably think I’m being a pest
- I don’t like cold calls
- Cold calls aren’t effective
- I’m not good at negotiating, etc.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you think one of those thoughts, you’re going to have a hard time becoming a great sales person. If the language in your brain is, “They’ll think I’m a pest. They’re going to say, ‘No’ anyways. And I’m not very good at closing a deal,” what’s the probability that you’re going to follow up with them? Somewhere between zero and zilch.
In this case, the key to level two change is to take control over your self-talk and begin to reprogram your beliefs. Sometimes the change is an outright switch from, “No one likes it when a sales person calls them,” to “Everyone loves finding a solution to a problem they have. Since I have a solution that solves this type of problem, I can’t wait to talk to someone about it.” That belief changes everything.
However, sometimes the self-talk change is a partial change. No one goes from “not good at negotiating” to “being a great negotiator” in a day, let alone a minute. So, if you simply try the affirmation route from “I’m not” to “I am” in a matter of minutes, your brain won’t accept it.
In that case, I’d change the belief to something more believable. For example, instead of saying, “I’m a great negotiator,” you might say, “I’m committed to becoming a great negotiator so I’m able to close big deals week after week.” That’s far more believable
So, taking your issue, what are the beliefs you currently own that are keeping you stuck?
Once you identify them, you can begin to change them. That’s level two. Now, if you just attacked most of the issues you want to change at both levels one and two (the who and the what, identity and beliefs), you’d probably be shocked at how much more progress you’d be making. Why? Because the first two levels are the most important. Remember, you want to attack change from the bottom up.
Level Three – The Motivation Level (The Why)
You’ve probably heard someone say, “If you have a sufficient why you can handle any how.” But, why is that true? Why? Because motivation always trumps skill. Knowing how to do something seems like it should be enough, but it’s not.
For example, no one reading this post needs to read another book or blog post or article on eating healthy and exercising in order to eat healthier and exercise more. My guess is you could take out a blank piece of paper right now and write down a pretty decent plan for getting in shape that would take you less than five minutes to create. The problem isn’t a lack of knowledge. The problem is a lack of will. There isn’t a sufficient why to drive the change, which is why most people still struggle with something they already know how to solve.
Going back to our sales example, the reason a lot of business owners and entrepreneurs don’t become great at sales is because they don’t have a sufficient why attached to it. Some don’t want to engage in sales because it’s beneath them or because they don’t know how or because they have a negative association with sales, etc. But even if all of those reasons were eradicated, they’d probably still struggle with sales if they’d didn’t have a sufficient why attached to it.
So, what could be a compelling why? Well, here are a few ideas to get you started.
- If I want to scale my business, I have to become great at sales
- If I want to put food on the table of my family, as well as those of my employees, I have to become a great sales person
- If I want to impact more peoples’ lives, then I’ve got to become a great sales person
- If I want to stop living month-to-month and get rid of all my cash flow stress, then I need to become great at sales
- If I want to be able to take a month of vacation with my spouse this year, then I need to become a great sales person, etc.
No one can motivate you. Only you can motivate you. So, what’s a sufficient enough why to get you out of bed in the morning and to start making the change you want to make in your life?
Once you know the why, you have to mentally tie that why to the problem you want to solve in your life.
At this point, you’ve attacked this change you want to see in your life at the who, what and why levels. Those should be sufficient but to ratchet it up a notch or two, you’ll want to attack your problem at levels four and five as well.
Level Four – The Skill Level (The How)
Of the five levels, this is the easiest and most obvious. It’s the one you read about all the time or hear people talking about all the time. It’s the how level, the “How do I make this change?” level.
Using our sales example, if you now identify yourself as a sales person (and everyone should, “I am a sales person”), and you’ve changed your beliefs about sales (for example, you now believe that sales isn’t about convincing people to buy something that they don’t need but rather helping people get a result they want better, faster, cheaper, etc. than they could on their own) and you’ve found a compelling why (let’s say, you want to be able to take your spouse on a month long trip through the wine country of Italy), the next step is to figure out how to become that great sales person.
In that case, you could
- Take a course on sales
- Buy and read several books on sales
- Follow a great sales person around for several weeks and learn by observing
- Find a sales mentor
- Join a sales coaching group
- Listen to sales mp3s on your way to work every day
- Sign up for some daily or weekly sales newsletters, etc.
Or you could focus on a specific skill area (closing big deals, overcoming objections, negotiating terms, mastering cold calls, prospecting, etc.).
Regardless, the goal of level four is to say, “If there’s an area where I’m not performing at the level that I’d like to, chances are high that there’s a skill component to it that I need to learn and master in order to consistently achieve this result.”
So, what new skill do you need to acquire to master the issue that you’re currently dealing with? What’s your growth plan for it? And more importantly, what do you need to do over the next two weeks to make progress on it?
Level Five – The Environment (The Where and When)
Even though you’ve made progress on the first four levels, this fifth level is still critical because you and I both know the impact environment plays in our lives. For example, if you hang around a bunch of people who cuss all the time, you’ll probably cuss. If you don’t, you won’t. I watch this all the time when people hang around me (for some reason, most people tend to “clean up their language” when they know they’re around a former preacher 🙂 )
The same thing happens in every area of your life and mine. It’s why two of the classic self-help lines of all-time are, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” and “If you want to know where you’ll be in five years, tell me what books you’re reading and who you’re spending time with.” Those are environmental issues.
In the entrepreneurial world, if you’re spending a lot of time with other entrepreneurs who all like to dump and run, chances are you’ll do the same (even though that’s not in your best interest). Or if you’re spending a lot of time around other business owners who really don’t want to invest the time and effort to scale their businesses, you’ll find it harder to scale your own.
This is why most books on eating healthy state that step one is almost always, “Clean out your cupboards and fridge of all of the bad foods (list inserted) and stock your kitchen with all of these good foods (list inserted).” It’s all about environment. How can you create an environment that will support the change you want to make?
In the case of our sales example, your environmental plan could be
- Putting up motivation statements about sales around your office or on your screen saver
- Hanging a white board in your office and keeping track of your sales contacts in a very visual way
- Relocating your desk to the middle of your sales department
- Hanging an image of the wine country of Italy in front of your desk
- Placing a call list on your desk, last thing every day, so it’s the first thing you see every morning when you walk in, etc.
So, as you look at the change you want to make in your life, what could you do to use your environment to help make that change?
Well, there you have it. The five levels of creating change in your life (or anyone else’s) that you need to use to make virtually any change a reality.
- The identity level (the who)
- The belief level (the what)
- The motivation level (the why)
- The skill level (the how)
- The environment level (the where and when)
And the secret is, USE ALL FIVE. If you want to change virtually anything in your life (or someone else’s) don’t sabotage yourself (or them) by focusing on just one or two levels. Use all five and you’ll be amazed at the results.
To your accelerated success!
P.S. What is the issue you want to solve? And how are you going to attack it on ALL FIVE levels?