We want to introduce you to a model that will help you understand the most important thinking part of TLC. The Line measures our:
- State of Mind
Our attitudes, state of mind, and moods Above the Line are significantly different than our attitudes, state of mind, and moods Below the Line. This difference is shown in the following chart.
|Above the Line
A positive view on life and how we see the world
Sometimes students will come into our class and say, “I’m Below the Line,” which indicates that they are having a bad day. When we are BTL, our thought life is serving us poorly. We are at the mercy of our negative attitudes and our low moods.
When we are Above The Line, our inside life, our thought life, our thinking power is serving us well. It is really doing the job it was designed to do and it is doing it whether we are aware of it or not. It’s bringing out the best in us.
All people fluctuate between these two states of mind. It’s normal to have highs and lows. Top 20s sometimes experience life Below the Line. But as you will see later, they handle it differently than the Bottom 80.
Your mental and emotional experience of life is greatly influenced by whichever state of mind you are in. If you are in a class and are Above the Line, you will have a totally different emotional experience than if you are Below the Line. When you are Above the Line, the class will look and feel different than when you are Below the Line.
Tom’s sixth period class last year was a daily challenge for him. When he went into the class being Below the Line, his experience of that period was much more dreadful. Like the 90/10 Rule says, Tom had a hard time trying to get the class to come on time, enjoy the class and do the work. But it was easier for Tom to monitor his own moods and it was a better experience for him and his students when he was able to stay at or Above the Line.
Viewing Problems Differently
Are you Below the Line because you have problems or do you have problems because you’re Below the Line? That’s an interesting question. Obviously, everyone has problems in his or her life but Top 20s and Bottom 80 view problems differently. The 80s claim that they are Below the Line because they have problems in their life. The Top 20 believe just the opposite. They are aware that part of the pain or misery related to their problems comes because they are visiting Below the Line. They also know that better solutions to problems are found Above the Line.
The greatest benefit of this awareness is that the Top 20 know that when they are Below the Line that they still have power. They may not be able to directly improve the condition or situation, but they can improve their attitude. They can resurface Above the Line. What they then experience is that the conditions of their life improve with their improved attitude.
All people experience bad things in life but Top 20s are able to be graceful in their suffering. Top 20s establish a resiliency regarding visits Below the Line. As they stop blaming and take more responsibility for their life, they visit Below the Line less often, don’t stay under very long, and bounce back quicker.
“It’s up to you to decide
You can let sadness be your magnet
Or hope be your masterpiece”
-Lowen and Navarro’s song,“What I Make Myself Believe”
Life Looks Different from Above or Below the Line
When students are Above or Below the Line, they will see everything differently: their parents, teachers, classmates, school and work and other activities. When parents and teachers are Above or Below the Line, they will see their children and students differently.
If you are not aware of this concept of Above and Below the Line or if we forget its impact on your experience, it will look like it is the event that is the source of whatever you are feeling or experiencing. At those times you need to realize that although this may be the truth there is something better than the truth and that’s the whole truth. Remember, the outside event is 10% of the source of your experience but the much bigger source (90%) is your inside reality, whether you are Above or Below the Line.
When you know you are Below the Line you are accepting some responsibility. Furthermore, this awareness allows you to maintain the power you have to lead, direct and create your own life. Awareness is curative. With awareness you can make things better; without awareness you can’t. It is easier to change your state of mind than it is to change your outside life (parents, teachers, school, job), but if you change your state of mind you will change the experience you have in life. Quite simply, you’ll have a better ride.
“Usually at school I have a good morning and a bad afternoon. I decided this had to stop… so I decided that in the afternoon I had to think Above the Line…. I tried this out and although I didn’t have the best afternoon it was a lot better than usual.”
Living and Visiting
It’s neither good nor bad to be Above or Below the Line. It’s just a life thing, a human thing. However, there’s a big difference between living versus visiting. Where you are most of the time is where you live. The Top 20, consciously or unconsciously, intentionally or unintentionally, have learned how to live Above the Line even when conditions aren’t favorable. Furthermore, when they visit Below the Line, they:
have an awareness of being BTL
take responsibility for being BTL
develop skills to change their state of mind when they are BTL
don’t take their thinking at face value
Consequently, they avoid making important decisions when they are Below the Line. It’s not that they run from their problems. Rather, they do first things first. The first thing is to get their head on right, to get their thinking right, and then to deal with the problem. They fix it in their seat before they hit the street.
Maintaining Dignity Below the Line
One thing you need to be especially careful about is being Below the Line with no dignity or grace. It’s like being under water without oxygen. You flail your arms and legs about and run the risk of emotionally hurting someone else or yourself.
Tom, as a classroom teacher, learned about being Below the Line without dignity. Upset about students not having their homework done or misbehaving, Tom would foolishly overreact. He would give students 100 extra problems for homework when he didn’t even have 100 extra problems to give. He once suspended a student only to be told when he went to the office that he didn’t have the authority to suspend a student. Not only did Tom look stupid but so did his assistant principal. Now when Tom goes Below, he tries to go in the submarine and maintain his dignity. If this happens in class he will even make a submarine diving sound and inform his students that he’s going under. Consequently, his visits Below are fewer and much more graceful.
“I see my family at the hardest times of the day when mostly I’m Below the Line. I see them in the morning when I…am usually very tired and come home from school exhausted from the day… When they try to talk to me about my attitude I find anything to blame it on…. I’d never take the credit for my unhappiness. This new concept made me think I need to change. My outlook on life was terrible. I decided I need to become a submarine when I’m angry and just separate from the group for a while and cool down. I…need to… realize it’s only me holding me back from being happy. I can’t change anything but myself.”
What’s it like for you Below the Line? Can you detect it when you are Below the Line? Do you know what your indicators are when you are Below the Line?
Everybody is different. When Mary is Below the Line she feels overwhelmed and that no one is helping her. She feels teary eyed and unloved. When Tom is Below the Line he talks faster and feels angry. Michael’s indicator is that he begins to see people in his life doing things wrong. It appears to Michael that his wife and children are making an inordinate amount of mistakes. Paul’s indicator of being Below the Line is manifested in his desire to take control of the situation. What we learn from this is that the experience of being Below the Line is different for everyone. Willow withdraws and concentrates on negative thoughts.
The other important thing to be aware of is what triggers us to go Below the Line. Triggers are those conditions that make it likely for us to go Below the Line. Maybe it’s somebody calling you stupid or laughing at something you say. Maybe it’s not finding a seat at the lunch table with the crowd you want to be with. Maybe it’s doing poorly on a test or assignment. Maybe it’s a parent telling you to do something or telling you that you can’t do something you want to do. Maybe you just woke up Below the Line. Knowing your triggers and your indicators can help you be more resilient in bouncing from Below the Line to Above the Line.
Remember that one choice you have is to wait until you are better able to decide what the best action would be. It is always a good choice not to say or do something that you would later regret or something that would send you even further Below the Line. It may be wise to not make any decisions until your head is screwed on right, until you have surfaced Above the Line.
Just as you have a trigger that tends to get you moving Below the Line, you can create your own positive triggers. Examples of Above the Line triggers include:
spending some quiet alone time
talking to a trusted friend or adult
listening to music
performing an act of service for someone who needs help
prayer or meditation
focus on the present
These are all things that might help get your perspective back and get your head screwed on right. Although we’ve called them triggers, they might be more aptly considered to be trampolines since they help us to bounce back up Above the Line.
The Parking Lot
When you are unable to give a problem or situation the attention it may require, put the issue in your mental parking lot until later. Make an appointment with yourself to deal with it after school. Then focus on whatever is in front of you. Stay in the present. Because you will not have spent the whole day Below the Line, you will probably approach the situation after school by being closer to or Above the Line. Consequently, you will make a better decision or have a better experience.
Deciding to put things in the parking lot is another way of seeing that you can take control of your life rather than being controlled. It’s another way of creating a good ride for yourself by dealing with concerns when you are best able to do so.
Alert and Protect Others
Top 20s do something else when they are Below the Line: they communicate that condition to other people so others understand that they are not the source of the problem. Sometimes just telling someone you’re Below helps you to move upward.
When Paul met with Mary to do some work on this book, she informed him of having a bad day. Mary had smashed her toe earlier and the pain triggered Mary to go Below the Line. She was aware of her negative attitude and by informing Paul up front Mary’s mood didn’t diminish the productivity of their meeting. Had she not been aware of being Below the Line or had not communicated it to Paul, he might have taken her bad mood personally. Their energy for the meeting would then have gone in a totally different direction. However, because she alerted Paul that she was Below the Line, he knew the cause of her emotional state. Consequently, their meeting was quite productive and no damage was done to their relationship.
As we introduce you to other ideas in the book and as your understanding of this material deepens, you will more quickly detect when you are Below the Line and more quickly get Above the Line. As you accept greater responsibility for your life, you will be more aware of the power you always have to steer your bike, regardless of the circumstances, in the direction you want to go.
This great power of accepting responsibility will enable you to discard the weights (thoughts and beliefs which lead to non-productive behavior) that in the past have sunk you deeper Below the Line and kept you there. When you plant the powerful seeds of responsibility, you bear the wonderful fruit of freedom, a freedom that allows you to direct your own life and influence the lives of others towards having a good ride.
Time for Action
You have the power to live more frequently Above the Line and to only make brief visits Below the Line.
What can you do to move Above the Line when you are Below the Line? Consider: