Above The Line or Below The Line?

Today I want to share with you a concept that is absolutely essential for the success of your business. In fact it is essential for success in all areas of your life. A big claim? Let me tell you a story about my fridge and then you can decide for yourself πŸ™‚

PinkFridgeThe Fridge Door

Refrigerators are like a great whiteboard in the kitchen. We always have whiteboard markers on top of the fridge and use that lovely clean surface to write messages or display a countdown to the next big family event (it now says there are 43 days until we fly to Thailand).

For a long time, it was used to teach our children an important concept. Well, OK it was also to remind myself of its importance. Here’s what was on the fridge…

A horizontal line.

Above the line were written the words:

  • Take responsibility
  • Think of solutions
  • Look for the lessons
  • Keep my power

Below the line were written the words:

  • Blame others
  • Make excuses
  • Whinge
  • Victim (give my power away)

Here’s How We Use The Concept In Our Family

If you’re a parent you’ll relate to this (if you’re not, just think back to when you were at school). It’s 7pm and your son is in tears because he has an assignment due the next day and he hasn’t started it yet. He’s angry because his sister is always on the computer so he can’t get his research done, his teacher didn’t remind him it was due, his parents expected him set the table bla bla bla. You get the picture.

In our house that is called “Below The Line Behaviour”.

I wish I could remember where I first heard the concept, but I’ll credit my friend Sharon Tieman because she uses the same concept with her staff.

Instead of going into lecture mode (very tempting as a parent) we simply refer to the fridge and concentrate on “Above The Line Behaviour”.

My husband and I continuously call each other out about “Below The Line” behaviour. It’s not always easy to accept πŸ™‚

I knew the concept had sunk in when I heard my daughter chastising our new puppy for “Below The Puppy Line Behaviour”!

How To Use The Concept In Your Business (and personal life)

Personal responsibility is the absolute basis of successful behaviour. Sure, other people do the wrong thing but it is up to YOU to accept the responsibility for how you will respond. In the example above, it is my son’s responsibility to negotiate with his sister for equal computer time. In business it is up to YOU to decide what behaviour you are willing to accept.

I recently had a huge challenge to “Act Above The Line”. Last month our entire online business disappeared because our web host went “belly-up” without warning. I must admit, my initial response was “Below The Line”. I had a great excuse to just quit. It was all his fault and I wallowed in the comforting muddy pit of blame and complaining.

But then I remembered my fridge.

By accepting personal responsibility for how I would respond, I reclaimed my power. I could look for the solutions and lessons to be learned and make a decision based on what I COULD do, rather than what I COULDN”T. I chose to rebuild. I could also have chosen other options but as long as I made those choices from a place of personal responsibility, and not as a victim, then I was acting above the line.

Do You Make Excuses?

Be honest with yourself? Do you have excuses for why you haven’t created the success you want?

Just to give you a quick example, here are someΒ  (paraphrased) comments I have received while interviewing different successful women:

  • “It’s OK for her being a single mother of 2, it is so much harder if you have to deal with a partner”
  • “It’s Ok for her, she has a husband, it’s hard when you are raising kids on your own”
  • “You have to be a technical person to have an Internet business”
  • “Everyone expects you to pay for their coaching, it’s not fair. Why don’t they support us for free when we don’t have any money?”

Reclaim Your Power

It can be tough acting “Above The Line”. That’s why the majority don’t do it most of the time. That is why people selling “Magic Bullet” products do so well. You know, the products that promise you will make a heap of money without doing any work? Of course it takes effort and persistence to succeed but that is nowhere as sexy on a sales letter. That’s why so many people get disappointed because they thought they were buying a solution but what they were really buying was hope. They thought by handing over money they could transfer the responsibility for their success to someone else.

Don’t give your power to others. Reclaim your power and accept that if you are to succeed, it is YOUR responsibility. It is up to YOU to implement the programs you are studying. Up to YOU to ask questions of your mentors if you have trouble implementing. Up to YOU to challenge yourself to not act like a victim and look at what you DO have the power to do.

As you can see, my fridge gets me pretty fired up. Tell me what you think? What challenges face you when it comes to acting Above The Line or Below The Line?


  1. Amen to that sister! Living above the line is a life of FREEDOM!
    And for the record, my fridge is a great whiteboard when hosting teleseminars. Works well when you live in a bus and have verylimited space! πŸ™‚


  2. Shelley of all the people I know you soooo live “above the line”. Most people would see your lifestyle as a reason to put everything in business on hold, whereas you use it as a reason to move forward. Ingenious use of the fridge by the way πŸ™‚

  3. So love this newsletter. I am truly happiest when I live above the line and I choose to live “ATL” most often these days. I had heard this talked about earlier this year, so thanks for the written version! You’re always doing such a gr8 service for us my friend,
    thank you.Fab Fran x.
    .-= Fran Blake´s last blog ..Let’s Make Real Estate Investing Simple =-.

  4. Fran I have just LOVED watching your transformation over the last year. A true inspiration. I’m finally coming up for air this week and would love to catch up. I remember seeing something come through from you but in the focus I placed on getting the business up and running again most communication came to a screeching halt! Drop me a line and tell where you’re up to my dear.

  5. Great article Janet!

    It is so easy to make all the excuses in the world for not moving forward. (Janet, you know me, you know what I mean πŸ™‚ )

    You’ll be pleased to know I have finally embraced your #1 on the list this year – I called it, take ownership of my future.

    And guess what? things are happening!

    .-= Viv McDonald´s last blog ..Google announce Street View for the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games =-.

  6. That is brilliant Viv. It’s not as easy as it sounds because we all have different levels of head chatter that hold us back. We kept the Above the line / below the line graphics on our fridge for about 6 months before it really sunk in.
    As soon as you stop allowing yourself to justify and make excuses, thing WILL happen really fast. You go girl!!!

  7. Great blog Janet. Taking personal responsibility is the first step in my ‘Seven Steeping Stones to your new career’. I love the simplicity of your message. Thanks, Leanne

  8. BRAVO!!!




  9. Lyn Bowker says:

    Janet I just LOVED your ATL/BTL fridge story! (Do you really write ON the fridge? lol)…

    I am definitely going to use my fridge for this purpose now, to remind myself and my man (Graham the WonderPlumber)to stay in “adult” mode and ABOVE THE LINE…not always easy to do when tired, stressed, a bit short of cash, whatever the excuse might be at the time.

    I’d certainly be forgiving yourSELF my dear for falling below the line for a little while when everything went belly up as you say…but here’s a marguerita for you darling, you deserve all the cheers you get!

    Cheers! Lyn

  10. Great idea Janet.

    We have been using our fridge as a message board too – it’s the one place everyone goes to regularly!

    If you aren’t comfortable with writing directly on the fridge, we place photos and special pictures / sayings on as a border, then put contact over the top. This made me feel so much better about the kids starting to write on the fridge too, as I then have a chance if a permanent marker is used and it also contains the writing to one area.

    I do love the line idea, very useful!

    Have a fantastic day everyone


  11. Leanne I’ve loved watching the action you are taking towards your goal and the 7 steps. You’ve really stayed focused and taken real responsibility for your new business, despite the web site hassles I know you’ve had.
    Hey Jen. Love all those Bs!!!Written like an applause I love it πŸ™‚
    Yep Lyn we do write straight on our fridge! We’re also the kind of family that puts the Christmas lights up in the dining room in winter because it gets dark early and we can eat by the coloured lights, which you can’t do in summer. A bit unorthodox I know πŸ™‚ Gladly accept all margaritas!
    Ah yes Marina. The permanent marker. We’ve been caught out with that a few times. Gumption and elbow grease fixes it. Once you start thinking in terms of above and below the line you’ll find it stops a lot of arguments. Seems to take the focus off the person and put in squarely on the behaviour.
    Thanks heaps for your comments. Love to know you are listening.

  12. This is the best blog post I’ve read so far this year. I straight away printed out the ATL/BTL motivators with smiley faces next to the ATL and sad faces as dot points for the BTL. (I should probably explain that I have young children!) I have been struggling for some time to achieve harmony in the household and I think this will be a wonderful tool to assist with that. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  13. Wow Lorraine thanks very much for your enthusiastic feedback. As a mum there is another resource I can point you to that has really helped me. I also use it in staying on track with my business decisions. Check out http://www.52Virtues.com . It’s our charity project for our company and something I am passionate about.
    You know there are some incredible parallels between bringing up children and bringing up a business πŸ™‚

  14. Janet, my love… I love when I hear people talking about taking responsibility for their lives, businesses, health, fertility, wellbeing, emotions, results!

    It is so empowering and especially when feeling really down and stuck and overwhelmed I find there is no better way to get back on track.

    No wonder you are the shining light and leader that you are. What a wonderful (web women) reminder! πŸ˜‰

    Keep up the great work!

  15. Hi Janet,

    I am so glad that another person realizes the importance of having a white frig. It is for wisdom. LOL I use my frig “whiteboard” all the time to the gasp of all of my “perfect kitchen” friends. Now I will have something else to add to my kitchen oracle.

    And what you have to say is so powerful too. It is an act of courage to choose to work for yourself. When you do you though, you now have a deeper responsibility to recognize that now you are the owner of the problems and need to do something about them. You, no one else has that responsibility.

    I can see a line going on my frig as we speak. And Mr. Money Queen will have a part in writing down some of the words.

    Thank you for such powerful wisdom from the other side of the world. It is a pleasure to get your ezine.

    Best wishes,
    Nancy Knettell
    The Money Queen

  16. Wow, Janet.
    I woke up, stumbled through the dark to my computer, and had your inspiring post waiting for me to read. It’s definitely going to be an ATL day. πŸ™‚

    Thanks so much,
    P.S. I never thought to write on my fridge. I’ll have to move over the pictures and refrigerator magnets to make room. lol
    .-= Peggy Baron´s last blog ..Using Google Alerts =-.

  17. Janet,
    Love the article and the Pink Fridge.
    Here’s to living above the line and a fridge full of Margarita’s.
    Lots of Smiless,

  18. Hey Janet,
    Only the most creative of minds would think of such a
    cool analogy! You are such an awesome person!
    As a business reminder..
    There are two phases to success
    1.Starting (no whining)
    2. Finishing (no blame game-just do it.)

  19. Hi Janet

    Sometimes the most powerful lessons come in the simplest forms. Thank you for your humour and sharing your knowledge so generously. Now how can I get the cat to act ATL without involving snacks, hmmmm. πŸ™‚



    PS Have you thought about producing ‘fridge magnets’ with this?

    PPS I really can’t believe that I didn’t think of using the fridge as a whiteboard. Doh!

  20. Hi Janet,

    As always you have provided others with something they can hold onto and use to be more of who they were meant to be.Personal and professional development go hand in hand and hinge on taking responsibility, something I know you live and breath.

    I love this article, I love the idea of using whiteboard markers on the fridge – I usually have inspirational magnets and posters on mine. Wait ’til my family get introduced to colourful white board markers in the kitchen….:)

    Thanks for the inspiration

    .-= Lenore´s last blog ..5 ways to keep the balance between your home based business and your children with Amanda Robins =-.

  21. Gabriela I was reminded of this concept (which is so ingrained) while flicking through the the little box of cards from the Money & You workshop we did together. There was one card that said “There are no victims, only volunteers”. For everyone else reading, if you’ve never heard of Money & You, GO TO THE NEXT WORKSHOP. It is the best investment you will ever make.
    Hey Nancy, great to find a soul sister from the school of “my home is an expression of love for my family not a showcase for visitors”. Though I do hold in awe the people who can manage to combine both.

    Hey Peggy, that’s hilarious, stumbling through the dark!

    Barb you’re speaking my language girl with a fridge full of margaritas!

    Kristi (big kisses for your compliments)that is such a great abbreviation re the start and the finish. It really IS that simple (as opposed to easy).

    Hey Ruth I like the idea of the fridge magnets. I wonder of we could have a series of Wonderful Web Women magnets with useful pearls of wisdom? Maybe CafePress could be the place to do it?

    Hey Lenore, my Margarita Mindset Coaching Diva. You are a person who demonstrates ATL behaviour every day. Glen will probably draw boats on your fridge with the textas though with his latest passion!

  22. I’d been putting all adult stuff on the freezer part (“above the line”) part of the fridge— breakable magnets, calendars I didn’t want my toddlers tearing….. and all toddler stuff (alphabet magnets, non breakable magnets) on the fridge part (“below the line”) part of the fridge.

    My toddlers (3 year old twins) stand on their tippytoes and REACH for the “above the line” stuff— those breakable or small, swallowable magnets are sooo pretty. And there are boxes of cereal on top of the fridge— if we could just reach a LITTLE higher…..

    I hadn’t thought of their fridge play as related to how I look at life and business, but now I realize that they are REACHING to get ABOVE the line and I can learn a lot from them……

    Thank you for this wonderful post!
    .-= Heather Price´s last blog ..Melave Malka Blog Hop =-.

  23. Janet, I read your post last night and thought “what a wonderful thing to teach my two young boys about solving problems” and I felt particularly inspired. But today, as I’m dealing with my own little family issue and feeling a bit sorry for myself, I’ve suddenly realised that I’ve spent the day trapped in below the line behaviour. What an amazing thing you have achieved in one blog post – to change the way I think and based on other comments, the way so many others think too! So instead of having a little sook to myself, I’ll take responsibility and find solutions. You are amazing!! πŸ™‚

  24. Heather I love the visual of reaching to get above the line. Melinda what a wonderful self awareness you have reached. And what a great role model to your children when they see you take ownership of your problems and model how to deal with it.
    Thanks so much for your feedback.

  25. Very inspiring. What a great way to teach kids about your values! Also, I never thought about writing on the fridge – it’s a great idea though.

  26. Loved the article…A few lessons for me in there. And yes such a great way of teaching children to take responsibility…i dont have a fridge to write this on…have to think how to do…but am definitely doing this…thank you for a fab post

  27. Teresa Touey says:

    I find this very helpful. In addition, patience is a key ingredient.

  28. Hey Janet
    I can not believe our lives have never crossed before!
    I learnt ATL/BTL via ActionCOACH, 7 years ago and it has changed my and my families life.
    My 5 year old son was taught it and now just drawing a line on a piece of paper or even in the air – he know where he is playing! HE ALSO CATCHES ME AND MY HUSBAND!

    I know the concept of money and you and am talking to Jane Jordan about bringing it to Perth – although I may just have to bite the bullet and go over east to attend.

    So glad we are now connected.

  29. great article babe really helpful in life a lot

  30. Howdy! I simply want to give a huge thumbs up for the nice information you have right here on this post. I might be coming back to your blog for extra soon.

  31. What a superb post Janet, just love the message. I am off to put a line on my fridge. I received some life coaching a couple of years back and the importance of personal accountability has been something that I had to work on and continue to work on in my life, and now am starting to reap the rewards of that. I love this approach to extending that learning to our children. Thank you you have no provided me with a way to achieve that!

  32. great post

  33. This blog is definitely rather handy since I’m at the moment creating an internet floral website – although I am only starting out therefore it’s really fairly small, nothing like this site. Can link to a few of the posts here as they are quite. Thanks much. Zoey Olsen


  1. […] PS. I read a fantastic blog post today about a very simple method of changing mindset: http://wonderfulwebwomen.com/blog/2010/above-the-line-or-below-the-line […]

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