I’ve been thinking over a concept for a while, which I’m going to call the pyramid of effect.

It provides a map for change. It places our emotions, our habits, our choices and our bare participation in reality in one spectrum, and identifies the pecking order.

We need something like this to place things like habit change and life hacking in their appropriate context. The current situation is that people are reluctant to observe their deeper patterns—or see how those patterns are already shaping their lives—and so they reach for a hack or a tip.

But the place where these tips and actionables are absorbed has much deeper roots. In other words, tips just re-arrange the bricks at the top of the pyramid. They’re the summit.

Their position and appearance is largely determined by what is below them. In this case, that is our beliefs, and then our emotional intelligence: how intimate and knowledgable we are in our own emotional reactions. Our fears, our aversions, our blind spots.

These affective currents are much more powerful and structurally fundamental than the bricks at the top (the superficial habits). If you shift stuff around in this area there is more noticeable change.

Further down the pyramid we would find our personality type itself: our most basic ways of interacting with the world: agreeableness, introversion/extroversion, perfectionism, etc. Again, these areas exert a strong upward influence, and shuffling things around at the top does not change anything here.

The first bricks of the pyramid represent our biology and genetics: the parts that we mostly don’t have a say in. And below even that is our most basic participation in reality. This is the realm of spiritual insight and awakening. Changes here reframe everything above, without necessary changing or rearranging anything specific.

This floor relates to the keystone of our identity. Realisation might be conceptualised as the floor being seen through. Still, a person, but a part of, or an emanation from, a larger reality. How does this change things?

The upper layers are still in place, but any introspection falls straight through the bottom, into boundlessness. This is the recognition of the source. It houses everything above in a radically different context, without compromising or denying its individuality.

Why is this pyramid important? To give people an idea of what they’re working with. To show that superficial change is just that—a shuffling of some elements at the top of an almighty, bottom-heavy structure.

And to show that meaningful change has to come from a deeper place, a deeper engagement, than just switching out a habit, or trying a new morning routine.

It means that 99% of the time, we don’t need new information, or a new book. We need to contemplate the pyramid. We need to see how our individual and cultural beliefs are already hindering us. We need to see how our neuroses and defence mechanisms are already blindsiding us.

If we cannot perceive and appreciate these deeper levels, we will simply be defined by them. Each deeper layer sculpts a more fundamental definition.

And then there is the bottom layer, which sees through the sense of definition, at all. It doesn’t tear the pyramid down, it just sees everything that makes it up as distinction, rather than differentiation. Distinct patterns in undivided consciousness.

This radically changes our perception of ourselves, and can become a catalyst for all kinds of change above. But it is no guarantee. A glimpse through the floor will not suddenly make you a Saint. You’ll still be biased in the same ways you were before.

But your identity is now perceived more accurately. The whole picture has been seen and cannot be unseen. And that makes all the difference. Because you are not solely defined by what is above, there is less fighting with your own structures. And when there is less fighting with the structures, they naturally realign into their unique form.

Each pyramid has a unique form latent in it—the ways it is like no other, the voice and style that have never come before and will never come again.

This is all slightly different to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I just went to draw a comparison but it doesn’t quite link up. Maslow has self-actualisation at the top. I have self-realisation at the bottom.