(30 Things To Stop Spending Time On If You Want to Be Successful #29)
“Five percent of the people think; ten percent of the people think they think; and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.”
— Thomas Edison
Everything rises and falls on behavior. The decisions you make and actions you take all depend on your internal and external behavior. Some would argue that there are other factors involved like culture and environment, and they’re probably right. But life is ultimately like a cause and effect. Your behavior is the cause that produces either a negative or positive effect.
Urban Meyer, head football coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes explains in his book, Above the Line: Lessons in Leadership and Life from a Championship Season, how he has developed an elite college football team through a thorough coaching method. It has nothing to do with background or past environment. It has everything instead to do with behavior and individual choices that each team member makes.
Meyer writes, “The performance of a team rises or falls on behavior. The simple truth is that getting and staying above the line is the foundation of success in anything you do—work, school, football, and life. Every day is a battle for whether we choose to live Above the Line or Below the Line. The choice we make determines how we treat the people we love, how we interact with colleagues at work, how we do our job, how we learn and grow, how we deal with adversity and disappointment, and ultimately what we achieve.”
There is “the line” in each of our lives and in our cognitive processes. There is above the line thinking and below the line thinking. When we are above the line, we are ultimately succeeding and achieving. When we drop below the line, we can be sure that something is out of order in our lives that is causing us to fail. The question you want to ask yourself is which side of the line are you living on?
Let’s take a deeper look at both sides of the line:
Below the line thinking consists of impulsive behaviors. It is defined by a number of things including: blame, denial, complaining, justification, negativity, irresponsibility, playing the victim, defending and excuses.
We live a drama filled, out of control life and then we blame other people for the outcome. This happens in almost every type of relationship which decreases trust, intimacy, and connection between people. If company leaders don’t take responsibility for a lack of growth, parents don’t take responsibility for their children, teachers don’t take responsibility for their classrooms, and governmental leaders don’t take responsibility for the country, then everyone starts pointing the finger and nothing gets done.
Below the line thinking is also denial. Denial is a form of escape. We know there is a problem but we pretend that the problem doesn’t exist. Thus the problem that we are denying and running away from gets bigger and bigger until it gets so far out of our control that we can’t do anything about. It’s the attitude of “I didn’t do it” so it must be the effect of some external force.
Below the line thinking is also playing the victim which is very simply not taking responsibility. It’s choosing to complain about everything instead of finding solutions to problems that come up. It is also justification which is attempting to shift responsibility by justifying the reasons one failed or didn’t accomplish something. It is defending situations that are totally messed up and making excuses instead of making progress. Ultimately, it boils down to “it’s not me, it’s them” — some person, some event, some situation, or some past engagement.
On the other side is above the line thinking which consists of intentional behaviors. It is defined by a number of things as well including: taking responsibility, positivity, playing the victor, embracing ownership, and thinking situationally.
By choosing to live above the line, we intentionally make choices that produce the kind of behavior we want to display which in turn help us live the kind of life we want to live. Above the line living means we take 100% responsibility for everything that happens in our lives. We blame no one and nothing for the bad and we are humble and grateful about the good. It is a very simple but powerful belief that we create the type of life we want to live.
Life is not a game of chance. It’s not left up to fate to decide what our future is supposed to be like or how we are to live in the present. Successful people believe wholeheartedly in the idea that you are the cause for everything that happens in your life and to you. If you want to achieve something, it is totally up to you to make it happen. If, on the other hand, you don’t want to achieve something, that is completely up to you to. When you think and live above the line, everything is up to you.
Of course, this does not mean that there are times when things are out of our control. There will be situations that are just out of our range of limited power to do anything about. But above and below the line thinking comes into play here as well. When you encounter a situation you can’t control or a person who is beyond difficult, do you complain (below the line) or think situationally (above the line)? Those who are in control of their lives are able to see every situation in perspective and act with appropriate energy, tone, and temperament.
By choosing to live and think above the line, we are choosing to embrace our individual ability to respond (responsibility) to every situation in life. When we choose to be responsible, we no longer allow life to happen to us. We no longer react to situations and respond negatively to people. We begin to realize that true freedom comes when we choose to make the right decisions in our lives and own up to the decisions that didn’t work out.
The line is what separates successful people from unsuccessful people. It’s what divides those who came to show off from those who came to play. There is a personal choice that must be made between operating above or below the line. Whatever choice we make will impact our present goals and our future achievements. It is that one simple but profound choice that determines everything about us — our happiness, our wellbeing, and our ability to succeed.
“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
— Albert Einstein