Dilt's Pyramid

The Neurological Levels

The Dilts pyramid or “model of logical levels” is an explanatory model for change processes. Dilt's logical levels are based on the idea that the dynamics of change in people, teams and entire organizations are characterized by six levels that build on one another.

In this article we will get to know the origin, structure and application of the logical levels of this model.

Origin of the Dilts pyramid

The logical levels model was developed by Robert Dilts, one of the co-founders of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). That is why the logical levels are also known under the name NLP pyramid.

Dilts developed his model of logical levels in the 1980s based on the learning theory of Gregory Bateson. In Bateson's understanding, learning experiences are always context dependent and can be presented as a hierarchical learning process over four levels (there is a great article on Bateson's learning theory here).

Dilt's logical levels have seen several adjustments since its first release. Thus, the Dilts model is now an important explanatory approach for the positive design of changes in social systems and organizations.

The levels of the Dilts pyramid

Dilts Pyramid

The Dilts pyramid is divided into six levels that work from top to bottom. This means that if you want to achieve a change on one level, the intervention should take place at least on the same level, but better on one of the levels above.

With the Dilts Pyramid you can explain why agile training is ineffective, why employees ignore the digital transformation or why the call for more error culture fizzles out. We will first explain the structure of the model of the logical levels from bottom to top.


The lowest level of the Dilts pyramid describes the environment or the respective context. The Dilts pyramid thus refers to Bateson's learning theory. This means that every interaction is context-dependent and embedded in a space-time context. You can tap into the environment through the questions “Who”, “When”, “Where” and “With whom” and observe it from the outside.


With the next logical level you describe the behavior. Behavior is always to be classified in the context or in the respective environment. Like the environment, you can observe and describe behavior as an outsider. Accordingly, the appropriate questions are “How do people / teams behave”, “What do you see?”, “What do you hear” and “What exactly is being done?”.


Skills are located on the next level of dilts. In contrast to the environment and behavior, skills are not directly visible. This means that you can only draw conclusions from behavior about the skills and competencies required for it. So suitable questions for skills are "What can you do?" or "What skills do you need to show the behavior?" or “Which processes and strategies are running so that the observable behavior can be shown?”.


At the latest from the level of values and beliefs, the logical levels can no longer be explained purely by observation. Values ​​and beliefs represent the things that are important to you and for which you stand up. This means, for example, that you would not show any behavior that contradicts your values. Accordingly, the right questions to open up the logical level of values ​​and beliefs are “What is important to you?”, “What do you believe in?” And “What do you pay particular attention to?”.


The next level of dilts is the identity of a person, a team or an organization. This self-image expresses who you are and how others see or should see you. However, the self-image can differ considerably from the image of others. Therefore, the right questions for identifying yourself are “Who are you?” and “How do others perceive you / your team / your organization?”.


The top of the Dilts pyramid is the ultimate question of vision and purpose. On this Dilts level, you address the questions of what it is important for and what goals you are pursuing with a measure, a team or an entire organization. That is, the adherents of systems theory find the purpose of a team or an organization at this Dilts level.

Questions and examples

EnvironmentWhere are you here? Who is with you? What do you hear? What do you see? What do you taste What do you smellThe noise in the room makes it difficult to have dictations written. Anchors can easily be set during a group exercise. "The cancer has attacked me."
BehaviorWhat are you doing here?You did not spell well on this dictation. You have anchored with this person. "Sometimes I just can't behave healthy."
Capabilities and SkillsHow do you do what you do? How do you relate to others here? What special skills do you have here?"You don't spell well." "You are able to anchor other people." "I am unable to be in good shape."
Values and BeliefsWhat 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.?"If you can't spell, you'll never get by in school." "Knowing how to anchor makes you an influential person." "It is a wrong attitude to want to rebel against the inevitable."
IdentityWhat is your self-image here? How do you understand yourself, who are you?"You are stupid, a learning disabled child." "You are a good NLPler." "I am a cancer victim."
VisionWhere do you belong to? Is there something or someone or a group here on the professional, private, ideal, spiritual level that you know you belong to? What task, what mission do you have?"You belong to the learning handicapped, the handicapped." , "You are one of the victims of cancer who suffer the same fate."

The Dilts pyramid using an example

As an example, we want to use the neurological levels after dilts to identify stressors and activate resources that help us counteract stress. There are numerous NLP intervention techniques at every level that help bring about the desired changes.


  • What in the environment is causing the stress?
  • Answers could be: noisy office, argument with colleagues, meeting in the morning, etc.

To reduce stress, it helps, for example, not to carry out certain work in a noisy environment or to move to another time of the day when the office is still quiet. At this level, one looks for resources that are lacking in the individual environment that help to avoid stress.


  • What about my behavior contributes to stress?
  • Answers could be: I am constantly changing my everyday routines, taking appointments at the last second, etc.

After answering this question, it will look for useful behaviors that can serve as a resource. For example, one would be to take time to relax during the lunch break or to do sports after work. There is an extensive collection of tools in NLP for changing behavior. Stress can only be effectively reduced by specifically influencing your own physiology (e.g. changing your own posture, breathing, voice).

In dealing with strong stressors, the so-called VK dissociation has proven very useful. With this technique, you watch yourself encounter the stressor on a cinema screen. Through targeted influence, it is now possible to look at the situation calmly and thus prepare the way for a change in behavior that can be implemented.


  • How do you carry out the activities, which internal processes and programs run?
  • Answers could be: I cannot concentrate. I can't be on time because something always comes up.

In order to activate resources at this point as well, it is helpful if the client learns to imagine how he can develop the skills he lacks, for example to show up on time for his appointments, and then to ask what he has done for them to achieve the positive goal.

At this level, strategies play a special role in NLP. Those describe the internal processes that lead to a certain result. It is important to interrupt inappropriate stress strategies and learn new, effective alternatives. These are derived from already successful models. In this way, you can very effectively develop new skills in dealing with your own stress factors in a relatively short time.


  • What beliefs could cause stress?
  • Answers could be: I have to be able to read the wishes of others from their lips. I always have to do everything perfectly.

"Any value that makes you dependent on other people's grace, on certain events, or that leaves no alternative course of action open, contributes to the development of stress," said Ian McDermott and Joseph O'Connor, who wrote in their book "NLP and Health "have devoted a very detailed chapter of their own to the subject of stress. They argue that any belief that enhances the sense of influence is a resource.


  • Who am I (if I live these beliefs, abilities)?
  • Answers could be: I am a slave to my schedule. I am a servant to others.

Healthy self-confidenceis a good source of energy to prevent stress. Self-confident people know who they are and therefore also what they can do for themselves. Stress arises at this level when one's own personality is not lived. This can be expressed in that it is hidden and no feelings are shown or by wearing a mask that protects from others but also from itself.

Here it is important to go deeper into the true personality. So you can e.g. very consciously ask: "Who am I really?" and "How am I?". You can also learn a lot about yourself from demarcation: "How am I not?", "How do I not want to be?". In the NLP methods you can explore your own identity more closely. In doing so, one becomes aware of one's characteristics (eg passionate, patient, vulnerable, etc.), which are checked in the following: Where are there reference experiences that "prove" that someone has these characteristics? How does someone fix them? Are there also experiences in which the opposite was true? These experiences are questioned. Bit by bit, your own self-image clearer.


  • Is there something or someone or a group on the professional, private, ideal, philosophical level that you know you belong to? What is my job in this world?
  • There are huge resources behind the answers to these questions.

Anyone who finds good answers for themselves here and can live them will no longer perceive their stress as such. He will be happy and grateful to live his destiny a little more every day.

The boundaries of current identity can be broken with this awareness and integrated into a comprehensive sense of self. This can be achieved in various ways, such as meditation, spiritual experiences, love, etc.