The Four Quadrants of Change and How to Make a Change

It is the simplest thing in the world to stop smoking. Some people have attempted to quit smoking a thousand times during their lifetimes. This is an attitude that everyone knows about.

However, this sort of alteration is just temporary. It isn’t going to last. We must examine the four quadrants of change in order to achieve meaningful, long-term transformation.

Change that is basic, persistent, and longitudinal (lasting across time) must occur in all four quadrants of your life. It doesn’t have to be smoking; it may be whatever you wish to give up, including drinking, chewing your nails, overeating, playing video games, shopping, and so on.

The majority of specialists concentrate on one area of change, a few on two, and virtually none on all four quadrants of change. That is why so much change management is unsuccessful.

Current change management techniques are weak, whether in a single person’s personal life through behaviors and habits, or in a corporate setting through the way they conduct business.

It all originates from the failure to consider at least one aspect of the equation. So, today, we’ll go through all four quadrants of change and learn the formula for truly changing and never reverting to your “old self.”

A word of caution: while this is simple to accomplish, it is not straightforward. Anyone who says change is simple is either trying to sell you something or doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

Those looking for an instant fix have already exited the article, leaving you, me, and the actual transformation process.

The Four Quadrants of Change

In order for a chance to persist, you must make it in one of four regions, or quadrants. If you overlook or ignore any one of these, your shift will be short-lived, and you will revert to your old habits.

The four quadrants are as follows:

  1. Individual – internal mindset
  2. The behavior of an external individual
  3. Internal collective – support system/culture
  4. Laws, rules, regulations, teams, systems, and states are examples of external collectives.

All four of these change quadrants may appear to be capable of carrying change on their own, but they are not. As a result, make sure your modification is implemented in all four quadrants. Otherwise, it’ll all be for naught.

First Quadrant — Internal Individual

This quadrant is concerned with a person’s thinking and focuses on the individual’s internal world. Our behaviors (most of the time) are a result of our ideas, and if we alter our minds about something, we will begin to modify the way we act.

People that employ the law of attraction come into this group since they’ve realized the power of ideas and how they may cause us to change.

Even Lao Tzu had a great saying regarding this:

“Watch your thoughts. They become words. Watch your words. They become deeds. Watch your deeds. They become habits. Watch your habits. They become characters. Character is everything.” [1]

Implementing what James Clear refers to as identity-based behaviors is one of the most effective methods to create a change in this sector. [2]

You value your identity as a person (I want to become/remain a healthy person) rather than the consequence of a change (example: I want to lose 20 pounds).

Here are a few instances that demonstrate the power of this type of resolution:

I want to see a lot of movies. I’m a movie buff who wants to tidy my flat. I’m a neat freak who wants to harvest my crops. I’m a harvester (farmer).
I’d want to swim because I’m already a swimmer.

This quadrant is about changing the identity you attach to a certain action. Once you re-frame your thinking in this way, you will have completed the first of the quadrants of change.

Second Quadrant — External Individual

This quadrant is concerned with a person’s conduct and focuses on the individual’s external surroundings.

This is where folks like Darren Hardy, the Compound Effect’s author, live. Hardy is all about taking modest, persistent steps that add up to big results in the long term (the compound effect).

You want to shed 30 pounds, right? Start by eating 150 calories fewer each day (about two slices of bread) and you’ll have dropped 30 pounds in two and a half years.

Business, finance, athletics, and a variety of other fields follow the same rules. Small, regular acts can have a significant impact.

This method works: I’ve been reading 20 additional pages every day for the past two years, resulting in 90 books read in that time. [3]

Negative environmental design and positive environmental design are two options for dealing with behavioral change.

Negative Environmental Design

This is when you remove the items from your environment that cause you to revert to your previous habits. You don’t store ice cream in your freezer if you don’t want to consume it.

Remove the batteries from the remote and place them on the opposite side of the house to turn off the TV (it works!).

Positive Environmental Design

This is when you physically place the things you wish to do within your reach. Do you want to learn to play the guitar? Place your instrument close to your couch. Would you want to go to the gym? Place your gym clothes in a backpack and wear them over your sneakers.

Do you want to read more? You should have a book on your bedside, kitchen table, and sofa. You can even combine this last method with my earlier tip about removing the batteries from your remote control for maximum effect by mixing negative and positive environmental designs.

Two Sides of the Same Coin

If you just alter your behavior without changing your goals (thoughts), your discipline will fail you, and genuine change will not occur. Because you haven’t addressed the basic core of why this problem arises in the first place, you will just revert to your prior habit.

That is why you must effect change in both the first and second quadrants (internal person — mentality and external individual — conduct).

These two change quadrants are just two sides of the same coin. Most change management would end here, which is why so much of it fails. No matter how much you concentrate on yourself, there are events outside of our control that have an impact on our lives.

Third Quadrant — Internal Collective

This quadrant focuses on the internal world of the collective where the individual resides, and it concerns itself with the culture of that collective.

There are two different distinctions here: the Inner Ring and the Outer Ring.

The Inner Ring

These are your relatives and friends. The Inner Ring is where your friends and family’s social and cultural conventions reign supreme.

So, if everyone in your family is overweight and each meal has 1,000 calories per person, you may put your plans to lose weight on hold.

In this scenario, your group’s culture, as well as the inner standards that drive decisions, actions, thoughts, ideas, and behavioral patterns, are all centered on consuming as much food as possible.[4]

If you wish to make a change, you’ll need the help of your Inner Ring. If you don’t have this support, you should either change your whole Inner Ring or distance yourself from it.

Be aware that most inner rings will not accept your desire to change and will actively work against you on several occasions—some out of habit, some out of jealousy, and others because supporting you would require them to change as well.

You don’t have to eliminate people out of your life, but you may choose to spend less time with them.

The Outer Ring

The outer ring is made up of your company’s, community’s, county’s, region’s, and country’s culture. It’s difficult to be an open-minded individual in Nigeria, for example, no matter what your friends and family believe.

The Outer Ring is the reason why young people leave their present city, county, or nation in search of areas that match their values.

When your Outer Ring’s culture prevents you from changing, you may need to modify it as well.
In my nation, I witness this every day, where the culture can be so poisonous that no matter how good of a job you have or how good your life now appears, the culture will alter you, inch by inch.

Fourth Quadrant — External Collective

This quadrant focuses on the collective’s exterior environment, where the individual lives, and it is concerned with the collective’s structures, teams, laws, and regulations.

This quadrant is about the communal culture’s outward expressions. If the majority of the population thinks in a specific manner, institutions will be created to execute that way of thinking.

Companies are subject to the same restrictions. One example for businesses (or what is called Theory X in management) is managers who believe their staff are lazy, lack accountability, and require continual monitoring.

Then those managers put in place mechanisms that reflect that culture, such as no flexible work hours, rigorous recording requirements, no remote work, and so on.

Your thoughts, on the other hand, could be different. You could think that people crave responsibility, that they are capable of self-direction, that they can make smart judgments, and that managers don’t need to break their necks to get things done (this is called Theory Y in management).

Then, if possible for your profession, you’d like to have flexible working hours, alternative means of assessing your productivity (for example, not time on the job but work generated), and remote work.

This is when you enter into a conflict with the external collective quadrant. Here, you have four options: leave, persevere, neglect, and voice.


You can just leave the firm, organization, town, or nation and go somewhere else. The majority of individuals choose to do so.


This is when you see that the situation isn’t ideal, but you opt to persevere and wait for the ideal time (or position) to make a change.


This is the point at which you give up on the change you wish to see and simply go with the flow, doing the bare minimum to maintain the status quo.

These are the employees that are disengaged at work and just perform the bare minimum (which, in the U.S. is around 65 percent of the workforce).

This was the one time I did it, and it’s probably the only thing I regret in my life.


This is when you actively try to improve the situation, and the people in control are aware of your desire to make a difference.

You are actively asking for a change and will not stop until it is accomplished, whether it is in your workplace, neighborhood, or nation.

Putting It All Together

When you consider everything, change is simple in principle, but difficult to put into practice. It necessitates effort in each of the four quadrants:

  1. Individuality — mentality
  2. The behavior of an external individual
  3. Internal collective — support system/culture
  4. Laws, rules, regulations, teams, systems, and states are all examples of external collectives.

Some will take more effort, while others will require less, but you will need to make a modification in all four.

However, don’t be discouraged change is achievable, and many people have done so. The ideal moment to begin altering was yesterday, but today is a close second.


[1] ^ Goodreads: Lao Tzu: Quotable Quotes

[2] ^ James Clear: Identity-Based Habits: How to Actually Stick to Your Goals This Year

[3] ^ Medium: How I Read 90 Books in the Past 2 Years By Reading 20 Pages a Day — A Review of Every Single Book

[4] ^ Harvard Health Publishing: How Your Friends Make You Fat — The Social Network of Weight

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top