Today I want to share some methodology around the way we think – the four levels of thinking. After all, it is our thoughts that trigger our feelings.  And, it is our feelings that will trigger our actions and therefore our results.

‘We are what we repeatedly do, therefore excellence is not an act but a habit’ – Aristotle

4 Levels of Thinking:

There are 4 levels of thinking that people apply to any experience or action.  The level of thinking eventuates from how the experience makes you feel and how good you perceive that experience to be for you or for others and the greater good (i.e. in relation to your goal).

Level 1:

Doing what feels good
Is good for you
Is good for others
Is good for the greater good

If you are a runner, going for a run would be an example of a level one experience.  It feels good, it is good for you and it is good for others and the greater good.

The more experiences you have in your life that are level one experiences, the better the quality of your life.  Your doing things that feel good and are good for you.   The catch, something can only become a level 1 experience by first being a level 2 experience.

Level 2:

Doing what does not feel good
Is good for you
Is good for others
Is good for the greater good

Level 2 experiences are those that take you out of our comfort zone. When you start something new, such as a new hobby, a business or a new exercise regime or diet, most of the actions associated with that should be be level 2.  It won’t feel good and you may not want to do it, but you know it’s good for you and good for others.  If you stick with it, it will start to feel better and eventually become a level 1 experience.

Level 3:

Doing what feels good
Is not good for you
Is not good for others
Is not good for the greater good

Level 3 experiences keep you within your comfort zone.  If you have too many level 3 experiences you may feel flat, unfulfilled and bored. If your experiences are level 3 experiences, you may wonder why you aren’t getting the things you want in life.  An example of level 3 is procrastinating on social media or drinking too much at night.  It feels good at the time but there is nothing to be gained from it.

Level 4

Doing what does not feel good
Is not good for you
Is not good for others
Is not good for the greater good (i.e. your goal)

Examples of level 4 are living day to day, not setting goals, not changing habits and lacking motivation and growth.

What does this mean?

The more level one experiences you have in your life, the happier you will be.  You are doing things that feel good and are good for you, others and the greater good.

The only way an experience can be level 1 is for it to first be a level 2 experience.  Level 2 experiences take you out of your comfort zone. They don’t feel good, but they are good for you, others and the greater good.  Level 2 experiences come with a lot of uncertainty – you’ve not done it before, you’re not sure if it will work or how to do it and you may not be good at it because you are still learning.

Given this, the quality of your life is determined by how much uncertainty you can take.  The more uncertainty you can take, the more level 2 experiences you will be willing to push through, ultimately resulting in more level 1 experiences.

How can you step up?

Level 2 experiences require you to step up and out of your comfort zone. Unfortunately, a lot of people get stuck swinging between level 1 and level 3 experiences and only do what feels good.  They base their decisions on what feels good rather than what is good.

If you can immerse yourself in level 2 and do the dues, that experience will become a level 1 experience, ultimately expanding the number of level 1 experiences you have.

The more level 1 experiences, the more your actual life matches your wishes, plans and goals.

The more level 2 experiences you are willing to experience, the more your life will be driven by uncertainty.

If you spend your time deciding to do level 3 experiences, you are really working on things that don’t matter. When it comes to level 3 experiences, you have a choice.  If something remains level 3 for too long, it will eventually become level 4 and you’ll quit.  Your other choice is to take the steps to move from level 3 to level 2.

Let’s look at an example:

Say you’ve just set up a new business.  This would require you to have a lot of level 2 experiences.  One of those is networking, something you are not comfortable with, but you know it is good for you, others and the greater good of your business.  Attending the networking event is a level 2 experience. Not attending and designing your business cards instead is a level 3 experience.  If you keep doing the level 3 experiences, you’ll feel good and comfortable, but your business won’t grow, and you may eventually quit.  If you keep attending networking events that experience will get easier.  It may even eventually become a level 1 experience-something you enjoy and look forward to because of the great people you meet.

A final point, level 1 experiences are not static.  You need to keep stretching yourself and growing your skills and capability and adding to it by adding new level 2 experiences.

How do you apply this to your life?

Make your decisions using the four levels of thinking.  Make your decision based on what is good for you, good for others and good for the greater good (do some exercise instead of watch TV) not based on what feels good (i.e. eating chocolate).

Each week identify three level 2 actions you can take that will move you closer towards your goal.  Consciously step out of your comfort zone regularly so that you comfort zone grows, along with the number of level 1 experiences you have.

Let me know, what level 2 experiences are you going to commit to for this week?

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