This is apparently an old Polish saying that got popularized recently through social media. One of my clients brought it to me recently. Knowing how to identify what is your responsibility and what isn’t seems to me to be a skill worth cultivating. This isn’t like saying “not my job” in a cavalier way. This is about knowing what you can control or influence and what you can’t, and how to liberate yourself from unnecessary burdens and hopeless situations. Much of what we take on in life is taken on voluntarily, and some of it really doesn’t belong to us, nor is it something that brings out our best or utilises our strengths. If we could stop taking on other people’s responsibilities and focus more closely on our own, we might find ourselves with more energy, patience and time for the important things.

A friend just asked me what she could do about her adult son who kept getting into relationships with women who were disrespectful to him. He would complain to her, she would offer her opinions and some solutions, he would storm off. Then he would come back, remorseful but not having put any of her suggestions into action. She asked me what she should do. I asked her how she learned how to have relationships in her life. She said that she had her heart broken many times, and that now she made better choices. I asked what would have happened if someone had tried to protect her from, or counsel her out of any one of those relationships. She replied that, in the latter case, she would have rejected the counsel and probably gotten further into the toxic relationship, and in the former case, she mightn’t have learned how to choose better. I then asked her what she wanted for her son. She said that she wanted him to be safe, happy and feel competent in his life. And then I asked what she thought she should do for her son and she said that maybe he’d be better off if she didn’t get involved, just listened compassionately and asked him what he wanted to do. In other words, walk away from that circus, walk away from that monkey and leave it for him to figure out.

What monkeys are you taking on? What are the circuses you get involved in that prevent you from putting your full attention on your own life? Where will you choose to put your time, energy and love?