Executive Coaching: Maslow & NLP

Oct 23, 2019


What does Maslow have to do with Robert Dilt?

Dilt’s neurological level inquiry as part of NLP processes at first level has very little similarity to the Hierarchy of Needs. Yet, this is a process that can move us from Level 4 of Maslow to Level 5.

Most of us are fortunate to be born in fulfillment of our first 3 needs of survival, safety and emotional validation.  Almost from the first conscious year of our evolution in this world we are struggling to fulfill our cognitive status needs at Level 4 of the Maslow Hierarchy. Having reached this state with no effort and learning of our own, we are unstable at this level.

Every jolt to our status, ego and validation throws us back into lower levels. Continuous failure to do better than others in class, relationships, or work throws us into emotional turmoil of self doubt, perhaps even depression. If this continues, we go lower to safety and belonging needs. If those are not available, we descend into basic survival needs, questioning our ability to live. 

The only way out of this descent is ascent from Level 4 to Level 5, from Cognitive status needs to self actualisation, from ego centricity to eco centricity. This is what the journey with Dilt provides.

I get the client to walk forward with these questions, one  for each step –

  • Where are you?
  • What are you doing here?
  • How are you qualified to do what you are doing?
  • What values drive you? What beliefs limit you?
  • Who are you?
  • What is your purpose?

When the client walks forward, answers are transactional. Often along the lines of I am in this room with you, I am being coached/trained by you, I have years of corporate experience. I would like to serve others, I am held back by a lack of opportunities, I am a corporate executive in search of a freelance opportunity, my purpose is to be successful, etc. 

I then get them to pause and reflect; then take a step back as they ponder on what their purpose in life is. A question I pose is, “What legacy would you like to leave after another 20 years that you can be proud of when you are no longer in active work and earning? What would be important to you then?”

The mind revolts. I hold the client to this question asking them to take a step back while still looking ahead and answering. The response this time is very different – very transformational. It is no longer about wealth and status. The response now focuses on other aspects of work life such as health, relationship, service, learning, joyful activities, ecology etc. 

I ask them to take another step back with the question,”What do you need to be to become? Would you wish to be what you just said?” The answer now is vastly different from before to the same question. 

Another step backwards with the question “What would need to be your values and beliefs?”, followed by “What do you need to acquire in your learning for a mindset shift?”, “What should you be doing now to prepare for this shift?” and finally, “Where are you now?”

Every time the answer to the first question comes from an open mind, open heart and open will, no longer clouded by the downloaded limiting beliefs one had.

It is difficult to believe that this can be done in 30 minutes. Just try!

Ram Ramanathan, MCC
Ram Ramanathan, MCC


Ram is the Founder and a Principal at Coacharya. As the resident Master and mentor coach, Ram oversees and conducts all aspects of coaching and training services offered under the Coacharya banner.

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