If you’re reading this article here you probably are interested in transformation. But I suspect that what you mean by transformation is very different from what others mean by the same word.

I’m a member of the Transformational Leadership Council, a group of “transformational” leaders, and I’ll bet if I asked each member what he/she meant by the term transformation we would get almost as many definitions as there are members.

So I would like to suggest a definition of transformation, not as the last word on the subject, but as a starting place for a discussion that I hope you will join after reading this post.

Three types of change

I’d like to start by distinguishing between three very different types of change. Let’s call them first, second, and third order change. (I got my idea about three types of change from Gregory Bateson’s distinction between three types of learning in his book, Steps to an Ecology of Mind.)

First order change is a change in behavior that is consistent with your existing worldview, your existing beliefs, your existing “creation” (who you think you are). Let me give you an example. If you believe exercise is good and you like to exercise and you have beliefs that lead you to exercise regularly—and then you learn about a different exercise routine that would be better for your health—you probably would start using the new routine.

First order change is a change in behavior that does not require a change in one’s beliefs, in one’s view of oneself, in one’s “creation.” It only requires information you didn’t know before.

Second order change

Second order change is a change in who we think we are in order to implement a change that is inconsistent with who we think we are.

In an earlier post I made the point that information and motivation usually do not result in change because often information is inconsistent with your belief system. And in the long run, it is difficult to act inconsistently with your beliefs.

So if we believe exercise is not necessary, that we don’t have time for it (because it is way down on our list of values), and that it is not fun, then learning about a new exercise or even learning that exercise is good for our health probably will not result in us using the new information we have gotten about exercising.

In order for that to happen, we need to change something about ourselves, probably our beliefs about exercise.

Second order change is a shift in your worldview, your beliefs, your “creation”—that opens up new possibilities for new actions that weren’t possible before.

If second order change is changing from one creation (our overall view of who we think we are) to a different creation, then third order change is being able to distinguish yourself as the creator of your creation. As such you have the ability to create a new creation at any time, which would create new possibilities and make any new information useable.

Categorizing offerings from the Lefkoe Institute

When I take a look at what we at the Lefkoe Institute offer people, I would say that my blog and most of my videos are representative of first order change. In other words, they provide information that will be useful and used by people who already have certain beliefs and will not be used (or even understood) by people with different beliefs.

If second order change consists of changing your beliefs and your “creation,” then the processes that eliminate beliefs and conditionings on all of our streaming video and DVD packages and in our one-on-one sessions provide second order change.

For example, in the Natural Confidence program you change from someone with a low level of self-confidence to someone with a high level of self-confidence. You also change from someone who is concerned about what others think of you to someone who is no longer concerned with what others think of you.

In fact, whenever you eliminate even one belief, you are changing your creation. You can see possibilities for your life that you couldn’t see before and you can do and feel things you couldn’t do and feel before.

To make this real, ask yourself what are the possibilities for a nurturing, long-term relationship for someone with the beliefs: I’m not lovable, relationships don’t work, men/women can’t be trusted. And what are the possibilities for someone with the opposite beliefs: I am lovable, relationships can work, and men/women can be trusted? Can you get how changing a few beliefs can drastically shift your sense of yourself and change the possibilities in your life?

Helping people stop their emotional eating using the Lefkoe De-conditioning Process is another example of a second order change program. Who you think you are changes from someone with an eating problem to someone who no longer has that eating problem. For someone who struggles daily with the problem of overeating, being able to totally eliminate that problem is not a negligible thing. This second order change program is life-changing. So I am not minimizing second order change programs.

Third Order Change

So what is an example of a third order change program? The Who Am I Really? (WAIR?) Process, which is offered on all our streaming video and DVDs packages, and is a part of most of our one-on-one sessions, enables you to experience yourself as the creator of your creation. In that state you profoundly experience that you are not merely any given creation, you are the creator of all of them.

Our new Occurring Course is a good example of a third order change program because you learn how to change your experience of life at will by dissolving what you had thought was reality (in other words, how reality was occurring for you) and be left facing naked reality, without any meaning attached to it. Learning how to use the Lefkoe Occurring Process (LOP) in this course enables you to shift how you experience life, to eliminate negative feelings in moments, and to create a host of new possibilities for your life.

Interestingly enough, using the LOP to dissolve your “occurrings” usually puts you into the same “creator state” as the WAIR? Process, where you experience no limitations and unlimited possibilities. In this altered state of consciousness you experience yourself as the creator of your life, not as a specific creation.

All three types of change can be extremely valuable

Getting information you did not have before that you are able to use to improve your life can make a profound impact on your life (first order change).

Shifting your experience of yourself from one creation to another and creating new possibilities for your life that did not exist before can make a profound impact on your life (second order change).

And distinguishing yourself as the creator of your life—as opposed to a specific creation—and being able to change your experience of yourself and life at will can make a profound impact on your life (third order change).

So classifying change and programs that produce change into three categories is not at all meant to diminish one type or exalt another. All are different and each can be useful in different situations.


However, I suggest that the term “transformation” be reserved for the third type of change. This is change that results in you distinguishing yourself as the changer and not that which is being changed, that empowers you to initiate continued change on your own, and that enables you to create your experience of life moment by moment.

Please share below any comments you have on first, second, and third order change and my ideas on transformation.

If you haven’t yet eliminated at least one of your limiting self-esteem beliefs using the Lefkoe Belief Process, go to http://recreateyourlife.com/a/sga where you can eliminate one limiting belief free.

copyright © 2010 Morty Lefkoe

Author's Bio: 

Morty Lefkoe, founder of the Lefkoe Institute in Fairfax, CA , is the author of Re-create Your Life: Transforming Yourself and Your World. Using The Lefkoe Method, Morty and his colleagues have helped over 12,000 clients get rid of a variety of behaviors and negative feelings, including the fear of public speaking. For additional information, contact Morty at morty@lefkoeinstitute.com or visit the web site http://recreateyourlife.com/a/sga

For more information about our program, “Bust Your Money Beliefs,” please go to http://recreateyourlife.com/moneybeliefs/

If you haven’t yet eliminated at least one of your limiting self-esteem beliefs using The Lefkoe Method, go to http://recreateyourlife.com/a/sga where you can eliminate one limiting belief free.

To purchase an on-line interactive program where you can eliminate 19 beliefs, go to http://www.recreateyourlife.com/sales.html.

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