Not my monkey. Not my circus.
This is one of the most freeing mantras for whenever I get off track with other people’s projects or issues. I used to spend hours agonizing over the decisions of others that had virtually no bearing on my life. I now know that being able to identify what IS my circus and what is not is one of the greatest skills I have acquired. It has created natural boundaries for my time and energy.
Three Ways to Protect Yourself from OPM (Other People’s Monkeys)
- Step back. Sometimes just stepping back, emotional and physically, can provide you the needed perspective to identify that this is definitely NOT your problem, nor is it worth your time and energy. I am a problem solver. I believe I have the solution to every problem and that every problem is worth my time. But the reality is–I don’t and most aren’t (worth my time). I had a friend who did things in a way that would drive me crazy. I could find every reason why what she was doing would be 1000% better if she only did it the way I recommended. Maybe it would have helped, or maybe not. It didn’t matter. It wasn’t my monkey and definitely wasn’t my circus. It took stepping back and looking at what was in my control and influence to realize that no emotional investment would be worth it, no matter how great my solutions were.
- Say no (or no thank you). We get sucked into other people’s wild ideas or crazy life issues because we are kind hearted and want to help. But knowing how to say NO is the biggest asset you have when it comes to protecting your priorities. I joined Toastmasters to work on some personal goals. It suited me at the time and it was amazing the things I learned about myself and about the process. But then things changed. My business took a different turn, my kids demanded more of my time and energy and I felt that I had done what I wanted to do, for now. (Maybe I will revisit again later when my life allows). When the members continually tried to draw me back to the obligation by putting me on the schedule, I politely but firmly declined. It was taking away from other priorities that I had, not adding to them. The more you say ‘no’, the easier it becomes.
- Keep your eyes on your own work. Famous last words of my mother. Stop looking and comparing–your monkey is your very own. No better or worse than anyone else’s. It is just your monkey. Keep your own monkey in check. Offer experience to others (who ask for it) regarding the care and feeding of monkeys. Just remember that no two monkeys are exactly alike and every time you agree to hold someone else’s monkey, you can’t handle your own properly. Be grateful that you have your very own circus with its own monkeys and avoid the temptation of wanting to help wrangle OPM while yours starves or destroys the house.
Whose monkeys are you wrangling with today?