Above the Line Thinking

By: Robert Danneker, Principal, Hutchinson High School

Often, when we interact with others, encounter new problems, or try new things, we are guided by past experiences and patterns of behavior that have become largely ingrained and are generally unconscious practices.

What would happen if we strived to make these unconscious processes conscious? How might that change how we approach new people, problems, and ideas? Might we find ourselves open to new experiences and opportunities?

These questions are the basis of the Top 20 Training (www.Top20Training.com) professional development group’s model of Above the Line / Below the Line thinking.

In this model, Above the Line thinking is defined as “thinking that is in my best interest,” characterized by energetic moods and emotions, positive attitudes, true beliefs, hopefulness, optimism, and feeling like one has the power to control their own life.

Conversely, Below the Line thinking is typified by “thinking that is not in my best interest” along with negative moods and emotions, including feelings of sadness and anger, gloomy attitudes, false beliefs, hopelessness, pessimism, and seeing one’s self as a “powerless victim of life.”

Given the option of choosing between Above the Line thinking or Below the Line approaches, most people would naturally opt for Above the Line.

So why don’t we see Above the Line thinking more often?

Typically, we don’t see Above the Line thinking as often as we would like because the people we interact with are not consciously choosing to live Above the Line, functioning instead on ingrained habits that may not always be positive or productive.

It can be so easy to overlook that we all have to ability to choose our mindset, to choose our outlook, and to choose how we interpret the world around us.

At Hutchinson High School, we have introduced the Above the Line / Below the Line dichotomy into our common language expressly for the purpose of making our beliefs and habits conscious acts. In doing so, we hope students and staff will choose an Above the Line mindset and, in the words of Top 20 Training, “keep their day.”

To reinforce the idea of consciously choosing to live Above the Line, staff and students at HHS also employ what Top 20 Training would call our “four responsibilities.”

The first responsibility is to “help everyone succeed.” Within this idea is the obligation that we all have towards one another to help and to support those around us whenever possible and however is most appropriate given the context.

Our second responsibility is to communicate “you matter” by consistently showing our genuine appreciation for others through simple thank yous or in more elaborate expressions of gratitude.

Third, we “honor the absent” by always ensuring that when discussing someone not physically present, we always take care to present that individual and their character in ways they would appreciate.

Finally, we “see the problem, own the problem” through each member of the HHS community possessing both the freedom and obligation to identify areas of concern and to assist in their resolution.

In addition, at HHS, we have added a fifth responsibility: to “assume positive intent.” We don’t spend time speculating on innuendo or what another person might be thinking. We are open to input, and we seek to clarify confusion.

Recently, the concept of mindfulness has been having a cultural moment. At HHS, by staying Above the Live and staying true to our five responsibilities, we are creating an environment of mindfulness for all.

Hutchinson Public Schools

Hutchinson Public Schools