Lesson 25

Lesson 25

Taking Personal Responsibility and Living Above the Line.

Length of course: 15 Minutes Lesson format: Video and Reading

“You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of.”
Jim Rohn

Have you ever wondered what happens to all the litter strewn by the side of the motorway? More importantly who drops it? Does the driver think to himself? (It has to be a bloke) ‘I know I’ll open the window and chuck my McDonald’s bag out and it will disappear into thin air’ These days, local government spends thousands of pounds putting their workers at risk, so drivers who won’t take personal responsibility don’t have to put their takeaway wrappers in a bin at their next stop.

Obviously, none of these drivers work for your organisation, or do they? If so what are they like at work? Lack of personal responsibility usually manifests itself through blaming someone or something else or leaving dirty coffee mugs in the sink. You may hear statements from colleagues such as; ‘The information from Engineering was not clear.’ ‘They have reduced our budget, so we can’t do anything.’ Blah blah blah. Syd Banks describes this as ‘Outside in’ thinking where you believe events outside of you are affecting your feelings or state when actually it is only your thoughts which impact on how you feel about a situation.

Why take Personal Responsibility?

Taking personal responsibility is key to business effectiveness yet so few organisations train their managers and employees in this, dare I say it ‘life changing’ concept. Just sit back in your chair for a minute and imagine what your life would feel like if everyone took personal responsibility. Personal Responsibility is both the corner stone of NLP and Coaching and impacts massively on your results.

We all THINK we take personal responsibility, it only when we are consciously aware of our thoughts and our self-talk that we may become aware that we are not. Richard Bandler asked the question ‘Who is driving your bus?’ When I ask delegates ‘If your life was a bus where are you sitting on it?’ Many reply ‘I’m driving it.’ Some say they are the conductor, which is strange because we haven’t had conductors since 1970! Others say they would like to be driving the bus, but they know that they are not.

Paul McGee asked the question ‘Who is responsible for where you find yourself in life right now?’ Most of our delegates respond with ‘My Dad’ or ‘My parents.’ Some say ‘Me.’ The answer of course is ‘Me.’ who talks to you more than anyone else? You of course!

In some areas or schools of NLP they refer to Personal Responsibility as ‘personal power.’ A little Californian for me! However, when you do take responsibility the impact on your results in life will be huge.

Now this blaming someone else has been around since Adam and Eve. If I remember correctly from RE at infant school when God asked Adam if he had eaten fruit from the forbidden tree Adam pointed at Eve and replied, ‘it was her, she gave it to me, honest!’ When God asked Eve if that was true she blamed the snake!

Often you will hear ‘reasons’, these are subtler than excuses. Often neither the speaker or the listener, are aware of an excuse being used. A few years ago, I was working with a corporate client doing our ‘How to be a Better You’ workshop. One of the delegates shared her experience with the group. She agreed with me that her physiology does indeed affect her state. ‘I go running for half a mile every morning and I feel great all day.’ She went onto say. ‘In fact, I take my dog and when we finish I have shower and get to work feeling really positive!’ One of the other delegates then said. ‘It’s alright for you but I haven’t got a dog!’

Well you can imagine the fun I’ve had recounting this story over the years. Bless her. But what a great example of giving a reason why something can’t be done.

So, when we use reasons or we are blaming someone or something else we are not taking responsibility but we may not be aware of it.

Cause and Effect

The term ‘Cause and Effect’ with assigned boxes is generally used in NLP. If you are at Cause, you are taking responsibility and driving your own bus. If you are in the Effects box you are blaming something or someone else.

There are only two boxes; the Cause box is the box you are in when you are driving the bus. The Effects box is where you are when you are using excuses, reasons or blaming something or someone else. Now here’s the killer, you can only be in one or the other, it is digital, on or off, not half in half out!

I find this useful in a number of ways. Firstly, if I’m not in a great state, which box am I in? That’s right the Effects box. And what do I do to get myself into a positive state? Ask myself a better question! For example, ‘What result do I want?’ ‘What action can I take?’

Another way of expressing, the Cause and Effect which we use in our corporate training, which delegates find easier to understand is ‘Above the Line or Below the Line

If you are above the line you are taking…


If you are below the line then you are looking at…


Easy to remember, OAR and BED. And there is more! Whenever you are Above the Line your emotions will be positive, you will have a ‘can do attitude,’ you will be flourishing. Conversely when you are below the line, you will possibly have a ‘can’t do attitude’ and you will be feeling one or more negative emotions and using ‘Outside in’ thinking.

The ‘above the line’ concept is very useful to teach to the person you are coaching and to show to your team. It is vital that the coachee ‘takes personal responsibility’ for only then does the coaching begin.

“There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you.” J.K. Rowling


Monitor your emotions and if you feel upset or negative you may be ‘below the line.’ Ask yourself some ‘better questions’ to get back above the line. Make this a habit and you will be the ‘better you’ more often.