High Performance Vegan Letters

The D1-D4 System of Behavioral Change To Stop Relying on Motivation

Published about 2 months ago • 3 min read

Quit Relying on Motivation and Use the D1-D4 Behavioral Change System

Date: February 27th, 2024

Read on:

I used to rely on motivation exclusively.

Yet for years, I struggled to build consistency in my health and fitness.

Part of the reason why?

I wasn’t clear on my deep WHY for my goals…

And I wasn’t familiar with how motivation ebbs and flows paired with skill development.

Motivation comes in different levels.

To be more specific, there are 5 levels:

Courtesy of the Conscious Leadership Group - the 5 levels above correlate from our lowest level of motivation Lv1 all the way to Lv5.

As you’ll notice Lv1 motivation is based on fear, guilt, and shame.

Health concerns, disease, fear of old age, following in our parent’s footsteps, etc. permeate this level.

As you move up the pyramid, you’ll notice that you start to move from extrinsic reward (external: I’m down 10 pounds, or my coach acknowledged me today!)...

—>to intrinsic reward (internal).

Eventually, as you stay connected to your deep WHY for your health, you can evolve to the point of moving to play and love.

Play because taking care of your health is just fun.

Love - because taking care of yourself is the highest expression of love and compassion for yourself.

Reaching levels 4 and 5 are rare in our current society.

But it’s possible.

According to the timeline of habit development (30-120 days) to identity transformation (3+ years), levels 4 and 5 typically happen after several years of dedicated effort and consistency.

But it’s attainable.

What’s interesting is that Maslow’s Pyramid of self-actualization correlates directly with the 5 Levels of Motivation:

(courtesy of AJ Willingham)

So why does motivation go up and down?

And how can you find the balance?

The D1-D4 model of motivation is helpful when it comes to understanding why change takes time.

Here’s how it works:

As you can see, change starts on the left with low competence (low skill level) with high levels of motivation.

As you progress into your health & fitness journey, your skills will develop while motivation may drop.

Since is expected and normal.

And it’s likely this has already happened to you.

Deep breathe.

The goal here is to reach D4 where you have a high level of skill and a high level of motivation.

And the D1-D4 model happens all over again each time you start learning a new skill.

This leads us to the next point:

The GSPA Success System

Goal-setting systems are often set up incorrectly.

They’re disconnected from our daily actions which should move us to our goals.

The GSPA model (pioneered by Precision Nutrition) is different.

It directly correlates your goals all the way to your daily actions.

Here’s an overview:





When it comes to reaching your goals consistently and with ease, the real aim should be skill development.

The higher your skill level, the higher the likelihood of success.

Why do most people give up and quit on their goals and health?

Because it’s uncomfortable having a low level of skill for prolonged periods of time.

Yet, failure is a prerequisite to life-long success.

Failure = feedback.

The more and faster you can fail, the faster you’ll develop a higher skill level.

Fail your way to success.

So create your goals.

Define your skillsets.

Clarify your practices.

And work on your daily actions.

That’s the golden thread of concsicousness that connects your goals all the way down to your actions.

Key Takeaways:

  • Choose skills that will move you towards your goals fastest
  • Use the GSPA system as a roadmap for success
  • Connect to your deep why and ascend the 5 levels of motivation
  • Move from D1 -> D4 skill and motivation level by setting SMART goals

Excited to hear how this goes for you. 🙂

- Gabriel

Whenever you're ready, there are three ways I can help you:

#1 Join our free high-performance fitness FB group to get access to dozens of free live trainings recorded, plus a tight-knit group of leaders who want to become healthy role models.

#2 Are you a high achiever who wants to be lean, strong, and lead by example? Apply for private 1:1 coaching and get in the best shape of your life (2-week waiting list).

#3 Want to fuel your fitness curiosity and follow along with the latest findings, insights, and evidence-based practices? Let's be friends on Facebook and Instagram. :)

(feel free to DM me anytime - I love connecting with new friends worldwide).

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High Performance Vegan Letters

by Gabriel Zhanay

Join the top 1% of plant-based founders, leaders, and creators. Every week, you'll receive practical advice on how to build muscle, get lean, and build a high-performance body that fuels your busy plant-based lifestyle.

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