Grit Toolkit Part 2: The Line.

The Line - Life Coaching Tool

Part 2 of 4 in The Apple, the Line and Your Emotions series.

The next game changer people with grit use, is that they constantly work to keep their thoughts above ‘the line’. This imaginary line is a great little tool to help you organize and control your thoughts and bringing them to a place where your brain can be stimulated to work intellectually in the areas of possibility and creativity, instead of being stuck instinctively in the areas of fight, freeze or flight.

A three-minute video to introduce the concept can be found here.

This handy little tool is so jam-packed with information that I recommend you watch it more than once. Come back to it whenever needed. I’ve probably watched it hundreds of times, and find myself coming back to it from time to time, even after several years of being introduced to the concept. Every time I either find a new gem, or gets reminded of something that is very useful. We all are on a journey of discovery and hopefully constantly getting better; a journey that never ends - at least not while we are on this planet!

When I was running a sizable company, I started using the graphic below:


Mental Toughness Business coaching tool


An adaptation from what I learnt at my MacKay CEO forum (that I was a member of at the time; today I chair six of these forums), I pasted the graphic in noticeable places in and around our offices. Nicely framed versions were hung in my office, in our reception area and in our boardroom. Simple copies were posted on noticeboards in all departments.

I also made it available in an electronic version to everyone and anyone. (You can download yours here from my Toolkit page.)

This tool is very handy to constantly remind us to focus our thoughts in a place where it will help us become better.

When thinking of the past, whenever we find our thoughts going to a place of worry, or guilt or regrets; or whenever we get stuck in simply reliving mistakes, we need to focus our minds and reframe our thoughts. Instead we can think of that same mistake we made in a different way. Instead of being stuck in the emotion of failure, we can reframe and think of what lessons we learnt. We can use our intellectual brain to become curious of how we can ensure that we will not make that mistake again. Instead of reliving mistake, we can move our thoughts to relive positive moments and we can celebrate the progress that was made. It has happened to me in the past that something that I at the time thought was a total disaster, later on became something that I saw was a pivotal moment in my journey of life. What looked totally negative at the time, turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Something that I want to make very clear is that, by using this technique, we are refocusing the same experience to be positively focused to take the process forward. It does not mean that the actual event is made up to be something fully positive. We are not merely employing positive thinking. We are not looking to life through rose-tinted glasses! We are merely learning from the experience and moving on to a place of possibility and creativity and growth, instead of being stuck in a place of negativity. The experience overall will still be in our memory banks as a mistake, a negative experience, that we have learnt from and, most importantly, moved on from.

When thinking in the present, when we are instinctively below the line, we get bombarded by thousands of thoughts. It saps all our energy. We feel stuck and defeated. Because there are so many thoughts, we flit from one to the other. We are left exhausted and oftentimes in a state of anxiety. Stressful times! By simply focussing and then reframing, we start
living in the present. We focus on the positive thoughts. We get curious on how we can move forward and soon we will feel our energy levels improving. In the next session we will discuss how to master your emotions – this all comes into play when we live in the moment maximizing our energy above the line.

The only place where we can find true joy and happiness is living in the moment. By experiencing the here and now, we fully embrace life. How we feel, and how we choose to interpret the very moment we live in, determines our moment, our hour, our day and pretty soon our whole life. We can remember the past with happy memories, but that is all they are: memories. We can look to the future with thoughts of expectation, but that’s all they are: thoughts of expectation. We live in the here and now. This is where our happiness and joy are determined.

When thinking of the future, below the line we visualize failure; what we don’t want. We are ridden with thoughts of worry, fear and anxiety. When we focus on what we don’t want, and we make our plans with that in our minds,
can it be any surprise that then we end up in exactly the place that we do not want? Instead, we should reframe our thoughts and focus on what we do want, what success will look like. When we focus on a vision for the future, we are best equipped to move into that direction.

We need constant reminders to start living above the line. To establish any new habit takes time and effort. This system encompasses a whole series of new habits. It’s not easy to implement. It takes time and effort, and a will to be better. Once it becomes part of you, of the way you show up and operate, it starts blessing you with the gifts of optimism, hope and other positive emotions and you will find yourself with renewed energy and increasing joy in your life.

Once you introduce this system to your loved ones and colleagues, your joy tank will start filling up even more.

Back to my company days: Once the line and the system to use it were introduced, we---as a leadership team---developed a simple gesture to encourage one another to constantly work to keep our thoughts and our words ‘above the line’: Whenever in conversation, anyone who started becoming aware that we were drifting below the line, would make the simple gesture of both hands with palms upwards (forming the line), and using a slow motion pushing palms upwards to encourage everyone to work together to bring our conversation to a place where we could be able to use our intellects instead of our instincts to serve us better (see photo).

Together we could be better. Today I’m giving you the gift that will hopefully allow you to do the same.

You are welcome. 😉

(Next: Part 3. Your Emotions).

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