Are You Under It or On It?

And why it matters so much.

Photo by Jessica Arends on Unsplash

This morning I was on it, but by mid morning I was under it. No, I’m not talking about the sofa, the table or a chair, though all these mental images have vastly improved my mood.

I’m talking about life.

Are you familiar with that feeling of being ‘on it’.



This morning I had the small human shouting to me that he would not be stopping his game of table football to get to the school bus on time. ‘Mheh’, I thought. You’ll manage it. I’ll somehow cajole you to the front door, convince you to climb into your kit and fly down the stairs. Indeed, we did and we were 10 minutes early.

On days when I am working and I’m on it, time seems to bend. I can make a coffee, reply to emails, change my mind about my outfit, touch up make up, read session notes, light a candle, send out an invoice and set up a zoom session about to start, adjust lighting and sound, set up the virtual whiteboard and be ready to go in 4 minutes. You think I’m kidding? You’re right, I should record it.

I’m also unflappable in the face of things shifting around when I’m on it.

Husband: “Oops I’m on night shifts this week, can you manage the kids all week? Sorry I know you are delivering huge projects for work.”

Me On It : “Of course, I’m built for this, I’ve been in training for years, I’m not just going to do it all, I’m going to make it look easy and still have time and energy to read that book I was given before bed.”

Client: “Can you pull together that bespoke session for next week?”

Me On it : “I can have that bad boy set up and ready tonight.”

Friend: “Any chance I can chat to you later? It’s been a rubbish week and I really need a download?”

Me On it : “Get yourself a cuppa and call me.”

But. Oh. When I’m under it.

Being under it, I hear the full violin section of a philharmonic orchestra playing a string piece just for me. It is slow and uncomfortable on the ears. It whines and tells the tale of a foreboding incident where I was swept away in a tidal wave of children’s demands. They play a tune of a world where I couldn’t possibly cope with my work or the insanity of my life’s circumstances. My inner and outer voices are full on: “I can’t”, “Why me?”, “Are you kidding me?!” and “No!!!!!!”

And when I’m under it time flies and nothing, and I mean nothing, gets done. The inbox is completely out of control and my only hope seems to be a ‘read all’ short cut with a cut paste into archives. My life admin seizes up and is about to choke the very existence of my family and my creative juices run completely dry and it means there is not an ounce of work scheduled for the year ahead. And woe betide you call me a drama queen.

So what on earth makes for these two dramatically different people? The answer is painfully simple, conscious choice. Daily, sometimes hourly, oh who am I kidding, sometimes minute by minute, conscious choice about whether I am going to be on it or under it.

“No!!!” I can hear you shout. I just want the world to line itself up and bring me the perfect day. The perfect flowing inbox of perfectly wonderful emails that fill me with nothing but joy, and colleagues, family and friends that behave themselves perfectly and make my life exactly the way I want it.


“It’s always me bending to others, giving way to what I want in order to smooth the path.” I hear you shout. “I’m tired of being the one that has to make the effort. I don’t want to make the conscious choice to be on it.”


I’ve had those days when I barricaded myself under the sofa and under the table and under the chair too. When I refused to be anything except under it all. But there we stay when we refuse to do the inner work. Under it.

The inner work is to see that it is our own thoughts, emotions and physiology that shape our mindsets and set the tone for our day. When we don’t code ourselves consciously for the day, the ‘under it’ coding has every chance to play out and suck us into a wasted day of frustration and anxiety.

So the question is, what will you use to code yourself today? How will you set your mindset up to make the most of every eventuality that comes your way? How will you ride the waves of shouty children, passive aggressive colleagues, demanding clients, impossible family members and global events beyond your control?

Why not try out some of these techniques?

Morning pages. From the best selling book by Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way, this is one of the most beautiful ways to start the day. Grab a pen and paper and let whatever is on your mind pour out onto the space in front of you. It is a great way to see the contents of your conscious and sub conscious mind and to check in on the quality of your thoughts. Helpful or unhelpful for being on it? If they aren’t helpful, start this…

A Rewilding of the Mind. Tired of your focus being on what isn’t working? On what is making you feel heavy and anxious? Then plant some beautiful wildflowers of appreciation. Look around you, in this very moment and find the things you love, admire, respect, appreciate, feel grateful for. Stretch your muscle and find it even in the hardest of moments. I dare you. Yes, there really are beautiful things, even in the most terrible of events. What you choose to focus on, is exactly that, your choice.

Meditation. There are so many beautiful wonderful teachers out there to guide you through meditations (some of my favourites are the incredible Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield — soft voices that can carry you to your inner self in an instant) but try meditating on those wonderful feelings that you conjured up from your rewilding of the mind exercise. Focus in on the sensations of love or gratitude and see if you can have them glow brighter, emanating from inside you, filling you up and radiating from you. Nothing will reset your inner coding quite like this. And the more you practice it, the more you can default to that feeling rather than the ones of being under it.

Step outside and take a look up. Reiki Master, Lisa Butcher taught me the posture of planting your feet firmly on the ground, hip width apart, even imagining roots growing deep into the earth and expanding out just as far, before lifting your shoulders up and dropping them and stretching your chin to the sky. Soak up the awesomeness of the view around you, one you rarely stop to take in, and feel the power of this pose resetting your body. Amy Cuddy would approve.

So tomorrow may bring another wave of under it moments, but world beware, I’ll not go down without a fight. Because the fun and games lie in the moments we choose to spin to help ourselves and in the incredible things we make happen when we are in the flow of being on it.

Perching on top of furniture may help too.



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Kim van Niekerk

Explorer of mindsets. Writing about leadership, start ups, teams and organisational culture.