Above the Line or Below the Line? You and Mr. Trump

The concept of above the line or below the line comes from accounting where above the line refers to profits and below the line to expenses. But there is another, far more interesting, application of the term and that is about how we think and behave in the world.

Many thanks to Profound Journey tribe member, Fran K., for telling me about the following excellent whiteboard animation video. It was created by the Conscious Leadership Group so it is written from the perspective of being a leader who influences other people. However, it applies to all of us if we embrace the concept of self-leadership, meaning influencing ourselves to achieve our goals.


So, Where Are You?

At any moment in time, you can be above the line in one aspect of your life and below the line in another. What you can’t ever be is on the line; the Conscious Leadership Group would say that you are simply moving very rapidly between above the line or below the line.

Are you above the line or below the line for each of the following:

  • Relationship with someone significant in your life
  • Your work or, if you’re not working, your retirement
  • Your physical wellbeing — fitness routines, physical health, or perception of your weight
  • Thoughts about money, your financial wellbeing
  • Your creativity
  • Results of the U.S. election
  • This specific moment in time

Awareness, we are reminded, is half the battle. But what if you want to win the battle? How do you shift from below the line to above the line?

Below the Line with Donald Trump

Let’s use Donald Trump’s election win as our example. This, after all, is a situation where many people are far below the line. Their three core wants of approval, control and security are threatened. They feel unimportant, unsafe and insecure. Below the line is a place of scarcity where things are being done to us, not by us. We have no control over the situation and we feel like victims.

Before the Election

The election campaign, on both sides, was run deep below the line. Therefore it’s not surprising that supporters of candidates on both sides expressed opinions that showed they also were deep below the line. Take a look at this summary of a 60 Minutes piece with pollster Frank Luntz and twenty-three adults chosen as a representative cross-section of American society. You might also want to look at some of the 185 comments this script generated.

You will notice that in their threatened state, the individuals in the 60 Minutes script and the commenters all reacted as we would expect of people below the line. They were clinging to their opinions, assigning fault and blame and, generally, were committed to being right.

bolt of lightning in a dark blue sky symbolic of threat when below the line

After the Election

When we are under threat, we have a desperate need to be right because we believe that being right is key to our survival. The post-election protestors and rioters make this point for us. If only, they seem to be saying, those people who voted for Trump understood the error of their ways, maybe we could make sense of this madness. Or, even better, the madness could be somehow unwound.

There are two typical responses to threats when you are below the line. One is to behave as the protestors are behaving–try to force the outcome you want. The other is to feel discouraged, exhausted and defeated; to give up because nothing matters, nothing will make a difference.

Moving Above the Line

Fortunately, there is a third choice and that is to move above the line. Here’s how:
wooden image of female thinker unusual in missing center of torso symbolic of above the line thinking

  1. Accept your need to be right. Here’s an interesting 8 1/2 minute meditation about embracing then shifting away from our need to be right.
  2. Then allow yourself to be curious. Curiosity, in this case, means asking yourself big questions that you can wonder about, rather than small questions that you will figure out. A sample wonder question is: “What can I learn from this situation being exactly as it is?”
  3. Recognize the learning. Accept that this situation is an invitation. It may be an invitation to try to influence some small corner of your world through the way you live your life, or maybe it’s an invitation to become more active in the larger political arena.

Patti Digh is one of my heroes. She describes herself as an “author and speaker, community builder, educator and activist” and says “at the intersection of all those identities is story.” Patti is a masterful storyteller. This is a woman who knows how to use words to move people to action. Please allow Patti’s words to influence you, then come on back and leave a comment–about any area in your life where you wish to move from below the line to above the line.




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  1. I think everyone needs to read Patti’s words. Far too often I find myself surrounded by people who need to be right so intently that they push their point to the extreme in order to persuade those they argue with that they are right.

    I personally do not feel the need to insist I am right. The way I look at it the truth will come out eventually and those that would argue the point will come to know who was right in the end. It may be me that was right after all but regardless of who is right or wrong it does all boil down to what Patti says; First, know that while you can influence others, the only person you can control is yourself. Well said, Patti, well said. 🙂

    Like a lot of others, I believe, I wish I could move above the line when it comes to finances. I think that is a common problem for many these days when the price of absolutely everything is going up and the money coming in never seems to rise by the same percentage. I speak for myself here when I say that in my life I am forever trying to make ends meet and somebody keeps moving the ends. 😉

  2. I’m glad you read Patti’s words. She’s quite amazing.
    I completely understand what you are saying about finances. Perhaps try the three steps above for moving above the line? I’m working on that process and am finding it helpful – although it takes more than one time through (probably many more!) for it to take hold in my brain.

    1. Good advice! I think I will try those three steps for sure. I am encouraged that you are finding those three steps helpful and it will likely take more than one time for me as well. =) Here’s to both of us being able to move above the line. 😉

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