Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys

Recently I got caught up in drama that disrupted my routine and focus which affected everything around me. I was having an amazing month and so on track to deliver the results for myself and my clients.  I was reminded of an old Polish proverb, “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” The underlining meaning is “not my problem.”

When I remembered, it brought a smile to my face and realized I was being the ringleader of a circus that wasn’t mine to lead. Sometimes it’s not our problem to control and we need to recognize that. I posted the message on my white board in my office where only I could see as a reminder to myself.

I received a call by another later in the month about a problem to help with. My nature is to jump in and “fix it” which I always have done, and again I found myself getting too involved in everything that was happening.

After a lengthy phone call I needed a break, I went to my office and when I sat down and looked up I saw the quote. In that moment, I got it! I realized exactly what I had been doing and I knew that one of the biggest causes of stress in my life was my need to become the ringleader of every circus in town.

Why do I feel the need to fix everything and everyone in my path?

To answer this question, I did what I normally do when I want answers: I made a cup of tea, sat in my favourite chair and grabbed my journal. I turned back the pages and reflected on my life. I’ve been “the fixer” my whole life!

What’s wrong with that?

It’s not a bad thing to be there for people, it’s what I do for a living now, however, sometimes the best way to help people is to let them help themselves! It’s like the “you can lead a horse to water” philosophy. You can give someone the opportunity to do something, but you cannot force them to do it if they don’t want to. When they learn to do it on their own it creates independence and the ability to learn important coping skills they need to get by in life.

Leaping into “fix it mode” may also signal to those around you that you don’t have faith in their ability to take of themselves; and it can cause a lot of undue stress in your own life.

And finally, if you’re not careful, some will try to take advantage of your kindness and ability which can drain your energy and focus!

Over the years I have found myself being sucked in to all kinds of drama that was none of my business. There were so many times when I caused myself unnecessary stress by worrying about something that didn’t concern me. When you learn how to pull back from things that are going on around you, which may not be easy, but once you do, life becomes much calmer and peaceful.

If you find yourself getting led in to another person’s circus, stop and ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is this my problem and does it involve me?
  2.  If “no”, what is my desire to get involved?
  3. What will it cost me to get involved? My time, my money, my energy, my sanity, my relationship?
  4. Am I being asked to help or am I just wanting to jump in to “fix it”?
  5. Am I being drawn into something where I can provide solutions or do I have to be the one to solve it?
  6. What will happen if I decide not to participate in this situation?

If the situation isn’t yours to fix, it’s time to reflect about why you are considering getting involved.

If your motivation is to be in on the drama or to control, step back! If your motivation is anything less than for the good of all involved, then be an observer not a participant.

If getting involved is going to cause you stress or strained relationships avoid it. Focus on what you can control and your own needs.  Some things come at too high a cost, so better to be kind to yourself than thinking you are helping others.

Create boundaries for yourself to avoid the drama. Say “no” when it feels right which means you are saying “yes” to you!

If you want to be part of the solution, avoid being part of the problem. Get involved if you can help, but be clear on what help is needed and is it you that should be doing it.

When a problem is presented go through these questions and play out in your mind what could happen if you get involved or better yet what could the outcome be if you step back and allow those that should to solve their problems. Be clear on the consequences if you do get involved.

The point I want to make, if you’re anything like me, you’ve already have a lot of things on your plate in your own life. Be the ringleader of your own circus and your own monkeys. Ask yourself do you have the capacity to take on someone else’s circus and someone else’s monkeys? Most likely not.

Keep your peace of mind, step away and let the ringleaders out there that want to jump in and take control do it. There will be many I’m sure.

If you need help determining where to draw the line and how to set boundaries contact Corey for a breakthrough coaching session to gain clarity and focus. 

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Master the Mind, Master the Game



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