This is a conscious leadership concept that was taught to me by the Conscious Leadership Group. It’s a powerful and simple tool for self-awareness.
This concept helps us identify and better understand our emotions. It’s been one of the most impactful tools in my continuous practice of self awareness. It’s also extremely simple to comprehend and implement. I enjoy simple and effective tools 🙂
So here we go!
In any given situation we are operating from above or below the line.
Above the Line
This is a state of curiosity where you are open minded. In this state you are committed to learning.
Above the Line beliefs
When you are above the line you are the creator of your well-being.
You believe there are always more than two possibilities.
You find it valuable to question your thoughts and beliefs, while also knowing your feelings are intelligent.
You already possess internal approval, control and security in your life, so you no longer seek it.
You are in an abundance mindset where there is always choice.
Above the Line statements
- What can I learn from this?
- I choose and take responsibility for…
- How is this for me?
- What I hear you saying is…
- I feel (sad, angry, scared, joyful, etc.) when…
Below the Line
This is a state of reactivity where you are close minded. In this state you are committed to being right.
Below the Line beliefs
When you are below the line you think being right is the most important thing.
You believe there is always a right or wrong way.
You often feel under attack or threateneded.
You seek approval from others, need to be in control, and think security/safety come from external sources.
You are in a “not enough” mindset where there is no choice.
Below the Line statements
- I am right and they are wrong.
- You should do…
- It’s not my fault.
- You’re not listening to me…
- The “truth” is…
Above – or – Below
To respect the mental model, you have to identify with above or below the line. It’s an either/or construct. You cannot play the “I’m not sure / middle” game of being neutral. You’re either above or below the line at any given time.
And here’s the kicker – we’re all usually BELOW the line. Yep. Most of us, including myself, spend a lot of time below the line. This is the nature of humans and how we operate.
Let me give you some examples of when I’m below the line:
- I become frustrated when my children leave messes all over the house.
- I tell my wife she should go to the gym.
- I get angry when a client sends me a text message.
These are all BELOW the line instances where I’m in a defensive state or trying to control a situation. I am not open to curiosity or learning. I’m simply reacting to flaring emotions.
Now let me give examples of approaching those same experiences from above the line:
- I stop to question why my children leave messes all over the house. Where does this come from exactly? How can I know my children better to understand why they leave messes everywhere?
- I consider asking why I want my wife to go to the gym. What is it about fitness that I value so much to the extent that I want her to also value it? Is this really about me or her?
- I pause and try to empathize when a client sends me a text message. I’ve already told them not to text me so this must be really important. They must be scared and need my help.
You see the difference? When we approach these situations from a place of curiosity everything shifts. No more reactivity or flaring emotions. Instead, an opportunity to learn something about myself and others. I am now open to growth.
The Balancing Act
Most of us jump above and below the line all day long. Our lives would generally look like the picture for this post. We can be above the line one minute, and then sink deep below the line by a simple event. Very few of us operate from above the line most of the time.
And in all fairness, it’s hard to stay above the line. It’s also perfectly okay. We’re only human. It’s easy for our emotions to kick in and use our animal-like defense mechanisms. We are reactive creatures by nature.
So what’s the point of all this?
The point of this mental model is locating yourself. In other words, being aware of whether you’re above or below the line. It’s not good or bad to be above or below the line. That’s not the point.
However, as we become more aware of how we’re operating (above or below the line), we can attempt to stay above the line more often. We can operate from a place of curiosity and growth, instead of always operating from a place of fear and reactivity.
This has held true for me in my life. Before this mental model I was below the line ALL the time and not even aware of it. Now I’m above the line more often, but more importantly, I’m aware of when I’m below the line. Having this awareness allows me to shift when I’m ready. In other words, you cannot shift above the line until you’re aware that you’re currently below the line.
Sounds like fun, right?
Shifting from below to above the line is a separate blog post in itself. So for now, just focus on locating yourself. In moments of tension, pause and ask yourself – “Am I operating from above or below the line?”
This is an early step to becoming a more conscious leader in your every day life.
Ali is a father, husband and serial entrepreneur with a deep drive to create. He writes, records, codes and builds things to inspire the artist in all of us.