Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys

Now my circus, not my monkeysLet’s talk about drama and distraction. Some examples would be in order.

Example One!

Your seven-year-old is yelling at your five-year-old because he’s hogging all the good toys and why does he always have to be such a pain anyway and doesn’t he know he’s supposed to SHARE and that he should totally get in big trouble, right now …

Example Two!

Your mother is calling to tell you about something your sister did and can you BELIEVE it and Susan can’t always expect Mom to bail her out of yet another situation she shouldn’t have gotten herself into in the first place – and another thing, now that we’re talking about Susan …

Example Three!

Someone on the internet is wrong. Or there’s a big scandal, or some controversial change that Facebook or Twitter or Gmail just made, and HAVEN’T YOU HEARD and it seems like either the sky is falling and this is the biggest deal in the world and requires your immediate and constant attention because EVERYONE is talking about it …

This is what makes people say “Where did the day go? I just got so distracted. It’s like a three-ring circus around here.”

Sound familiar?

There’s a difference between a distraction and a drama.

Distractions take up time. Little Jimmy is harassing Littler Johnny and you tell them to go their separate ways and you’ll talk to them about this after dinner.

Dramas take time, energy and emotion. You not only have to hear Mom talk about Susan for an hour, you’ve got to get emotionally invested in all of the drama between them.

Distractions are bad. They eat up your day.

Dramas are toxic death knells. They eat up your you..

When you have to deal with a distraction, all you have to do is deal with it. There’s activity that takes place. You knock your glass of milk off the table, you have to clean it up. You forgot to put the laundry in the dryer, you get up and do it.

When you have to deal with a drama, you have to get involved. And when the drama is your drama, as in you say something that hurts your partner’s feelings, you kind of have to stop and take care of it.

But when you’re presented with someone else’s drama, and they expect you to get involved in the same capacity … then you’re at their circus. You have to expend your emotional energy on something that’s not yours.

And when you take family, friends, your inbox, your social media circles, etc., into consideration, those circuses start adding up.

Circus after circus after circus and all of a sudden it feels like your life is one big, constant drama.

If you feel like your life is one, big constant drama, here is our advice.

Begin developing the skill of excusing yourself from other people’s circuses so you can get back to your own life and your own business.

How? Repeat after me.

That is not my circus. Those are not my monkeys.

For full disclosure, the actual Polish proverb is “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” But we’re doing it a little differently here, because there’s psychological benefit to choosing your words carefully.

When you add words like “that” and “those” to statements, you imply distance. When you use words like “this” and “these” you implying intimacy and closeness.

If you order a hamburger and the waiter tries to hand you a dish with baked salmon on it, you’d say “That’s not mine.” You’ve already rejected it. You wouldn’t say “This isn’t mine” if the plate is still in his hand.

The same goes with drama. When someone tries to embroil you in a circus that you don’t need to be at, you’ll do yourself a big favor if you don’t let the proverbial plate get into your hand in the first place.

How you do that is up to you. Some situations can be straightforward, and you can say “I don’t have time to get involved in that right now.” Other situations require a bit more grace and tact.

But if you don’t get that drama away from you, no one is going to do it for you. And you’ll lose out on the things you’re trying to get done, which creates a new drama of it’s own.

So, repeat after me:

That is not my circus. Those are not my monkeys.

That is not my circus. Those are not my monkeys.

That is not my circus. Those are not my monkeys.

You take care of your own monkeys. Let everyone else take care of theirs. (Or, at the very least, consciously limit your exposure as best you can.)

This will help you get through the rest of the year with some semblance of sanity.

So keep this in mind.

Take care of your monkeys and no one else’s. Don’t get caught up in other people’s dramas.

That is not your circus, and those are not your monkeys.

As you move forward, you will be tested. Ridiculous circuses and monkeys are going to start competing for your attention.

Just keep repeating that phrase. It will come through for you when you need it.

About the author: Naomi Dunford started IttyBiz in 2006. In her free time, she likes to… ha! Free time. You’re adorable. Learn more about her here and catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook.