Above or below the line: Where do you sit?

Everyone wants to live above the line, taking responsibility and creating a great mindset. Here's how to know where you sit and how to fix it (if you need to)

One concept about the way we think and behave is called living ‘above the line’ and ‘below the line’. It’s something we use a lot in coaching to help navigate and unpack where someone is at.

The goal is to rise and live our life above the line as much as we can. This is where we live as a responsible, emotionally mature and empowered adult.

Most of us do live naturally like this. But every now and then we might drop below the line. What does that look like? Okay: playing the victim card or the blame game. Saying, ‘There’s nothing else I can do.’ Thinking you don’t have enough resources.

Most of the time below the line passes pretty fast, with a quick mindset reset. That could look like which could look like reaching out to get support, knowing you can do something. Taking responsibility and getting empowered again.

Living below the line is called having a victim mentality. That means we blame everyone and everything else for what’s going on in our lives and it’s one of the biggest wasted energy approaches you can take.

Common focuses of blame: parents, the economy, the government, the weather, family. You know what, any of those things could be true and could be creating challenges but if you point the finger at them for what’s going on in your life you are forgetting one major adult fact.

You are in control of your responses.

You are in control of the meaning you place on what is happening around you.

Everything that life throws up is an opportunity to reflect, to learn, to pause and educate ourselves. Check if we’re on track and if we are in a glass half full place and moving towards our goals and dreams and things that really matter to us.

We are also responsible for our thinking. It doesn’t change automatically and we have to choose to be proactive. One of my favourite questions is, ‘Are you willing to see things differently right now?’

Of course responsibility is not being responsible for everything in the world. We are only responsible for our selves and the meanings we place on things, and the actions we take—or don’t take.

Do you know the Henry David Thoreau quote, ‘I have lived a life of many troubles, and most of them never happened'?

It's perfect for this situation. You want to help someone have a great life and be above the line? Teach them to stop worrying about the problems they don’t have and concentrate on the ones they do have.

A lot of the time the one tipping point is, ‘Am I going to take action or not?’ That’s what helps us be responsible and live above the line.

If you got value from that, share it with anyone you know. And if you want to break down more ideas like this for your own life and others’, I invite you to attend to 'Your First 3 Coaching Sessions' where we’ll do just that.


One of Australia's leading coaches, trainers and speakers, and head facilitator at The Coaching Institute. In between mentoring thousands of coaches and leaders all around Australasia and helping others build incredible culture, Matt is passionate about fitness and music. His healthy office lunches whipped up in five minutes are the stuff of legend

Matt Lavars life coaching
Matt LavarsThe Coaching Institute