7 levels of living

Spiral Dynamics is a theory of human development introduced in the 1996 book ‘Spiral Dynamics’ by Don Beck and Chris Cowan.

I am taking some liberties with their idea, but here is my take on why these 7 levels are so crucial to understand. It is not necessarily a hierarchical model (i.e. the next level is better than the one preceding it) nor is it completely linear as we tend to cycle through the levels in various seasons of life, yet the learning the lessons of each level allows us to move to the next stage.


Level 1 – Survival (I)

The focus is simply on existing. How do I make it through to the end of the day without dying physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually? All energy is taken up working out how to survive what ever crisis you are experiencing.

The key to make it out of this level to the next is to find some kind of support network to belong to increase your chances of survival.

Level 2 – The tribe (We)

The focus is on finding your identity, purpose and value in the group you belong to. Independence or individuality has no place in this level. It is instead all about living by the rules, traditions and culture of the tribe/family/team uncritically.

The key to making it beyond this level is taking responsibility for your own life and stepping into independence even where it is against the beliefs or wishes of your tribe.

Level 3 – Rebellion (I)

The focus is on defining yourself by what you stand against. This is about having a cause or a fight that consumes your energy and gives your life purpose. This level puts you at odds with the tribe and leaves you outside the community. Although it maybe perceived as a negative level, it is crucial for our development and teaches us very important lessons about who we are and what we are capable of.

The key learning that allows one to pass beyond this level is being able to submit to authority.

Level 4 – The system (We)

The focus is on living by the rules, doing what is right and respecting the systems of authority around you. This is the level of religion, government, clubs, committees and laws. It is all about comfort, safety and control.  This level we learn to ‘work for the man’, pay taxes and exist peacefully within society. We trust the authority of those in key positions to tell us how to live and think and what to believe.

The key to move beyond this level is being willing to embrace risk, uncertainty and adventure

Level 5 – Entrepeneurism (I)

The focus of this level is on innovation, pioneering creativity, business, financial abundance and thinking outside of the box. Right and wrong become far less clearly defined and rules for what a person should do/think/believed are left behind.

The key to go beyond this level is to shift the focus from building your own empire to genuinely serving others.

Level 6 – Contribution (We)

The focus shifts to seeing yourself as part of the global community. We are one with all people and creation. Our role moves from being a consumer to a contributor and we seek to give back, make a difference and serve others by genuinely adding value.

The key learning to move beyond this level of living is about stepping up into ultimate purpose and capacity, discovering that your greatest ability to serve others lies in giving extraordinary leadership.

Level 7 – Statesmanship (I)

Those who make it to this level have transcended level 6 by making such a significant contribution. Examples may be: Mother Theresa, Bono or Nelson Mandela. The focus now turns to leadership and modelling a way that inspires millions of people to live differently.

The key implications of this model, is that we can’t move beyond our current level without embracing the key learnings encaptured in that same level. So many people want to make a level 6 contribution, but are operating out of level 3 or 4 thinking and so end up severely limited in their capacity to make a difference for others. Often these people resent the system or think that money is evil and seek to avoid these things at all costs.

Yet, the lessons of level 4 and 5 become the game changer for those wanting to genuinely serve others. You’ve got to learn how the system works before you can change it, and you’ve got to work out how to conquer money,  learn how to back yourself and think outside the box in order to ever make a contribution on a significant scale.

Jaemin FrazerComment