Shakespeare said, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” My buddy Chris from New Jersey, paraphrased this by saying, “Hey it ain’t bad, just is.” Either way, they both make the same powerful point that “interpretation” is a decision.
I spent a lot of time learning about concepts such as this from my buddy Chris, who also happens to be a top mental toughness coach for athletes, sales teams and business executives.
Of all the lessons learned, perhaps the most beneficial for has been a concept known as “Living Above The “O” Line.” The “O” stands for “observation” or your ability to simply see things as the are without judgement. The lesson basically states, “If you’re feeling ‘stressed’ it’s because you’re choosing to believe in something that’s simply not true.” That is, you’re deciding to interpret outcomes or events as negative, when in reality, the negativity is produced by you. We also call this the “victim’s mentality,” where we think in a manner that makes us feel like the world is happening to us, versus demonstrating the ability to be creators of our own happiness.
In many cases, we’ve been conditioned to think in this way as a means of getting attention or even sympathy from others. How many times has someone approached you and said, “You’re not going to believe what happened to me today?” Most of the time it’s a tale of being wronged or on the receiving end of so-called bad luck. “You’re not going to believe what happened to me. I got stuck behind that accident and it took me over an hour to get to work!” “You’re not going to believe what happened to me. I hit a perfect drive down the middle and my ball ended up in a divot!” Statements like these are a pretty common part of everyday communication with others.
Living “above” the O-Line means developing the practice of consciously elevating or upgrading interpretation in a manner that better serves both happiness and performance.
The goal is, at the very least, to simply see outcomes and events as neutral observations, where they don’t affect your mood in a negative way. For example, let’s say when on the golf course I hit my ball into the trees. If I remain neutral in my observation, I accept that the outcome just “is” and then proceed to hit my next shot. When we decide to live “above” the observation line, we think in manner that turns a moment of perceived “adversity” into fuel. Perhaps instead of acting like a victim, I decide to see my ball in the trees as an opportunity to hit a creative recovery shot. A shot that’s way more exciting and inspiring than if my ball were in the middle of the fairway. When I live above the “O-Line,” I elevate my mood, thus activating the creative genius we all possess when we feel our best.
In learning this lesson, I was encouraged to consciously look for opportunities to utilize this practice not only on the golf course, but also in everyday life. Shortly after, while driving to work, a rock hopped up off the freeway putting a big crack in my windshield. Being conscious of my goal, I thought for a moment how I might normally react to such an event. How I’d act like a victim blaming it on the dump truck driving in front of me and then walk into work spouting the “you’re not going to believe what happened to me” story. Instead, I looked for ways to “interpret” the event in my favor. I noticed there were already a lot of little nicks in my windshield which I had to look through for the past few years. “This is perfect I thought. I finally get to look through a clear windshield!” I then acknowledged that I had an awesome insurance plan with full glass coverage and how glad I was to be able to get something out of the money I’d paid into getting the plan. In speaking with the insurance company I learned that not only would my windshield promptly be fixed, they’d also come to me to fix it while I was at work and give me a voucher for a free detailing through a promotion with my dealer! Living above the “O-Line” turned a moment of perceived bad luck into an awesome tale of good fortune, all through the conscious power of positive interpretation.
This lesson isn’t about looking at the world through rose colored glasses. It’s about removing the glasses all together and seeing things the way the are. Neutral in reality, with the opportunity to be perceived any way you wish. Try developing this practice in upgrading your interpretation, and I’m confident you’ll feel more powerful on or off the golf course.