Femke Stuut


The Ladder of Intentional Behaviour

        Suppose someone throws a ball at you. What is your first instinct? Yes, that’s right, you (try to) catch it. And is it a conscious decision to catch the ball, or is it a direct response to the ball coming towards you? I would guess the latter to be true for most of us. And it works the same for a lot of external stimuli around us, doesn’t it? We respond to it without realising that we actually have a choice. It’s just that sometimes we don’t FEEL we have a choice. We all have certain triggers in the outside world that can leave us feeling stuck in our responses. Triggers like an “angry” look from our lover, or the “demanding” voice of our boss. And we respond to it in ways that aren’t serving our highest intentions.

        Perhaps you already have a situation in the back of your mind in which you feel stuck like that. A situation in which you would like more resourceful behaviour? If so, what movies do you play in the back of your mind? What thoughts and feelings do you have ABOUT those situations? And wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could become more intentional and CHOOSE the reaction you need to be more effective?

        A great gift to mankind is the ability to create a gap between stimuli and response (as illustrated below). This means that when someone throws us a ball, we can make a decision whether to catch it or not. We can choose our reaction, simply because it is OUR reaction. This choice is a lot easier if we use our ability to create the gap. In that gap we have the freedom to add meaning to what happens arounds us, our external stimuli. Most of the time we are unaware of the movie we play in the back of our mind, and the meanings that we have given to everything that happens around us, as well as within ourselves. Yet, those “frames of mind” determine our reaction! In his book “The Secrets to Personal Mastery”, Michael Hall calls this phenomenon “The Matrix” of our mind. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to create a frame of mind that supports your highest intentions?

        Jake Peryer and I created a guided visualisation, which I believe will help you to reconnect with your highest intention in situations in which you feel stuck. Using Gregory Bateson’s levels of change, we will help you to create a movie in the back of your mind so that you can be more resourceful and flexible in those situations where you need it the most.

        Before starting the exercise, take a moment to relax, make sure that you cannot be disturbed and that you are comfortable. It might help you to have someone guide you through this proces, or you can record it and play it back as you relax and start this journey.




  1. Associate in a situation in which you feel stuck, where you feel a lack of ownership of your four basic powers of  thinking, feeling, speaking or acting. Notice what goes on in the back of your mind. What are you thoughts about the situation, and how do you feel. And what are your thoughts and feelings ABOUT those thoughts and feelings.

  2. Now that you know where your thoughts and feelings go in this situation, you may become aware of your surroundings.  In front of you, see an imaginary ladder stretching out on the ground. This is your ladder of intentional behaviour. Take a step forward, on the first rung of the imaginary ladder.

  3. You are now on the first rung. Here you can become aware of increased flexibility in your body. Notice how you can stretch yourself and how this affects your behaviour, your movements. You might want to make a movement that goes along with this renewed sense of flexibility. You can also start to notice what you see around you. Perhaps you see a symbol that represents this space. Or it might be a colour. Just take a moment to really become aware of the images that appear around you. Then slowly your attention shifts to what you hear. What sounds or words do you hear?  Listen to the sounds or words around you while you breath the breath of renewed flexibility. Take your time to really feel in your muscle what it is like to be here and how this has started to enrich your life. Repeat the movement that is just so appropriate for where you are right at this moment.

  4. Leaving behind all the sounds and symbols of this space, you may now take another step, onto the second rung. Take a moment to feel how this step brings with it new thoughts and feelings to bear upon the situation. Thoughts and feelings that will help you be even more effective. So that you start to explore new ways to react to the situation. Again become aware of the symbols, colours, sounds and words that are around you. What movement expresses this space. How would you, in your own unique way, bring this into your body. You might even want to experiment a little with different thoughts and feelings, to find the ones that are just right. You can make that choice, because you are not your thinking, you are so much more than that. And you are not your feeling, in fact you are much much more than your emotions. You even have a wide variety of words to choose from when you speak and the way you let them flow from your mouth. Practice the movement a couple of times. 

  5. Now it is time to step onto the fourth rung, the rung of your highest intention. What is it that is so important to you. So important because it enriches your life. And when you realised that, what is important about that. Notice how it feels to be fully aware. You can now look through the eyes of this highest intention, breath its breath. And again, when you take a look around you, there might be symbols or colours. And sounds or words. And when you express this state of awareness in a movement, what would it be?

  6. Taking the movements from the fourth rung, we can now step back onto the third rung and feel how this transforms the movement you made here. It will naturally transform into something new. Once you have it just right, you may step down onto the second rung, and again let the movement there transform. When you have experienced the transformed movement of the second rung, step down onto the first rung, and allow the movement there to be transformed by what you have brought from the higher rungs. Finally, when you have experienced the transformed first rung, step off the ladder, to where you are back into the situation. Feel how it is different, how you can react from an intentional stance.

  7. Now step out of the situation and turn around. Look at the ladder that you have created in your mind. This is YOUR ladder of intentional behaviour. Now you can install this in the movie of your mind. You might want to play with it a bit by bringing it closer or making it smaller until it is just a little dot. Do you have permission to go up this ladder to become more resourceful in the situation you had in mind? Do you decide that from now on you will choose to direct your attention through your highest intention? This ladder will be there for you whenever you need it – it is up to you to use it.

Good luck and enjoy!


This process was developed by Femke Stuut and Jake Peryer.  It makes use of concepts from the work of Gregory Bateson, Michael Hall and Robert Dilts.



Dilts, Robert and DeLozier, Judith, NLP Trainer and Consultancy Certification Course, NLPU Press

Hall, Michael, The Matrix Model: The Seven Matrices of Neuro-Semantics, Neuro-Semantic Publications, 2002

Hall, Michael, Secrets of Personal Mastery, Crown House Publishing, 2001


The author, Femke Stuut, is an internationally certified NLP trainer and meta-coach (neuro-semantics). She has an extensive background in international business and specializes in organizational change as well as personal and professional leadership. She is founder of "Completely You - The human quality headquarters" in the Netherlands. Her vision is to facilitate in connecting people with their core so they can live the purpose of their existence. In December more background information will be available online on www.completelyyou.nl (will contain an English version).


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