The Open Gates Model for Successful Behavior Design and Goal Acquisition.

How to Succeed When “One Simple Trick” Fails

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Moving Beyond Quick Fixes

In 2011, I became enamored with habits as the solution to every problem in my life and the path to every goal I had for the future.

The Open Gates Model

To help see how advice may be correct, yet insufficient, I’ve been using this model, the Open Gates Model, to help people assess themselves (and to help coaches assess clients). There are six categories: mission, identity, belief, capacity, habit, and environment.

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Open Gates Model

Origin of Open Gates

The categories that I use are inspired by a famous author in the NLP world, Robert Dilts. His “logical levels” model is often used to explain different levels that could be addressed by various change agents, i.e. coaches, therapists, consultants, parents.

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Categories of the Open Gates Model

Let’s get clear about these categories.


You can’t effectively practice basketball without a basketball and a basketball hoop. Things in the environment category include tools, external triggers like alarms, available time, and supportive family and friends.


You don’t lose weight by changing one meal on a single day. A lot of goals require a consistent behavior change over weeks, months, or years. This category is about building that required consistency.


Skill and strategy are usually the key elements of capacity.


These are things you believe about how the world works or how other people work. When you are wrong, you’ll get stuck.


These are beliefs you have about yourself. If you believe you are a great improviser, you may find yourself resisting making a plan.


These are the things that are important to you, your life goals, your purpose.

An Example Where Habit & Capacity Break Down

I’m going to give you two examples. The first is trivial. But the second is much deeper.

A Tricky Example of Limiting Beliefs

The second example comes from meditation. I’m talking the simple, breath-based meditation that apps like Calm and Headspace teach.

  • They believe both that the goal of meditation is to calm the mind and that the mind can be perfectly calm. Neither of which is right.

How to Apply This If You Are a Coach

So how does this help you, given that you either have a big goal in mind or are a coach helping someone else with their big goal?

Written by

Human potential busy body. Founded @coachdotme, @bttrHumans, @bttrMarketing. Helped @medium @calm. Current work focus: Habit Coach Certification.

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