Are you above or below the line?

Dear Lovely Reader,

A Friday question for you.

Are you above or below the line?

I work with many different types of clients.

Founders and CEOs of venture-backed tech companies.

Leaders of charities and social enterprises.

Owners and MDs of family businesses and creative businesses.

My main role is to listen, help them understand the root of their challenges and issues, and then support them to create a new way forward.

With each client this takes different forms: different styles of conversation, different types of processes, different frameworks.

There is one tool however which every single client leaps on, loves, pins up behind their desk, tattoos on their hand.

They use it at work and in their home life.

So I offer it to you.

A line.


Yes,  a line.*

And then the question: are you currently above or below it?

Above means you are curious, open, and committed to learning.

A mindset that leads to collaboration, community and ease.

Below means you are closed, defensive, and committed to being right.

A mindset that leads to stress, stagnation and silos.

And the truth is we are always going below the line.

It’s normal.

Something happens: a project goes wrong, your team doesn’t perform, a child is difficult, your partner makes a comment.

We see a threat.

We go below the line and either fight or shut ourselves down to survive.

We recede into the narrowest part of our brain.

And ha! We make things worse!

So my clients learn to ask themselves in any moment: am I below or above the line?

They pause. They notice.

Then they can choose to shift.

To a place of creativity, problem solving and wisdom.

An expansive place rather than a diminished place.

This is a constant daily practice.

So how do we shift?

How? How? How?!

Notice first. That is half the work.

Then below I offer some shifting practices to experiment with.

And I leave you with the question:

What would it be like if you, your company, your family, the world noticed where they were and shifted?

Have a wonderful weekend,


* The “line” is the foundational tool of the Conscious Leadership Group. All credit to them.

Some small practices to shift yourself above the line

Use your body to change your mind. 

Take 3 slow breaths. In through the nose and out through the mouth. When threatened our breathing tends to get shallower. Consciously breathing deeply into your belly, and then out for the same count, calms your sympathetic nervous system and shifts the sense of stress.

Change your posture. When we are defensive and more interested in being right we tend to either puff out or hunch up. Deliberately shift to an open, relaxed body pose. Or shake or dance: whatever works for you.

Once we have shifted our biology and physiology we start to dampen the production of adrenalin and cortisol and we can begin to tap into the creative side of our brain.

Reverence and awe

Take a moment to simply appreciate something around you. The view from your window, someone’s face, a piece of food. Be alive in the moment. This will calm you and give you perspective.

Ask yourself exploratory and future-focussed questions 

To shift yourself out of a closed state begin to tap into the open part of your brain by asking questions of yourself.

How would I like to respond to this? What would someone wise do? What impact would I like to have on others? What can I learn? What would help me? What one thing can I do now to be the best I can be?


And by the way all of the above are great to do when you are NOT below the line as well.

Bring bodily awareness, reverence and questioning into your daily life.

An extract from On Little Joys by Herman Hesse

A prescription for breaking the trance of busyness and inattention. 

Just try it once — a tree, or at least a considerable section of sky, is to be seen anywhere. It does not even have to be blue sky; in some way or another the light of the sun always makes itself felt.

Accustom yourself every morning to look for a moment at the sky and suddenly you will be aware of the air around you, the scent of morning freshness that is bestowed on you between sleep and labor. You will find every day that the gable of every house has its own particular look, its own special lighting. Pay it some heed if you will have for the rest of the day a remnant of satisfaction and a touch of coexistence with nature.

Gradually and without effort the eye trains itself to transmit many small delights, to contemplate nature and the city streets, to appreciate the inexhaustible fun of daily life. From there on to the fully trained artistic eye is the smaller half of the journey; the principal thing is the beginning, the opening of the eyes.