Not My Circus

 

When you take off on a flight, the attendant always says the same thing: “In case of an emergency put your oxygen mask on first before helping the people around you.” This includes the ones you love!

As a road warrior I know this mantra better than anyone.  I heard these words every Monday morning for 17 years! It was the theme song of my undoing and then the melody of my road back home.

This, my friend, is the single best piece of advice in my tool chest of tricks. We all know I have a treasure trove of good advice, cautionary tales, analogies and tricks up my sleeve.  This one should not be ignored!

Recently, one of my favorite members of my Personal Board passed through town.  At an impromptu mini board gathering over fish tacos and red wine, she reminded me of another important saying, “Not my circus, not my monkeys!”

Wow, how powerful and freeing is that statement?  How thought provoking.

“Save yourself first” so you can save the folks around you. Further, “If it is not your circus and not your monkeys” where do your responsibilities start and where do they end? What is yours and what is theirs? What is helping and what is enabling? What is teaching and what is providing answers? Listening and lecturing? Loving and smoothing?

As a parent of grown children, letting go is a tippy ship at best.  Mission accomplished, although I type through tears, as my son officially graduates and moves the last box of clothing and mementos to Philadelphia next month to start his new career. Nevertheless, isn’t that the point?  If you do it right they should leave the nest! My son put his oxygen mask on first! He found his own circus and his own monkeys! Painful as his parting is, I couldn’t be prouder.  The coolest part is that we are going to meet every other week in the middle for a meal (once a foodie always a foodie). I will say that again. WE WILL MEET IN THE MIDDLE! (Hold that thought)

So if we are to put our “Oxygen mask on first,” and if it is  “Their circus and their monkeys” how are we to continue to show up for our family, friends, colleagues, society and the world in a caring and meaningful way while still retaining our boundaries?  After all, isn’t showing up fully truly the only way we can make an impact? How then will we still help the ones we love and be of service?

Here is my list of tips for putting on your oxygen mask first so you can show up for those around you while continuing to take care of yourself.

 

We are all a work in progress

Never stop growing, learning, evolving, exploring, asking, stretching, reading, expanding, scaring yourself, stepping out of your comfort zone! Repeat!

I am a life learner! I say that I am done getting certifications and degrees.  We all know I am lying. I will never stop learning!  I will never stop reading, taking courses and stepping out of my comfort zone.  I will never stop reinventing myself! We live, we learn, we grow and should repeat this process again and again and again!  Pay it forward by sharing your knowledge.

 

Be Your Personal Best

Whatever your aspiration, strive to be the best in class.  How do you achieve this? Simple, roll up your sleeves and put in the work!  Do the research. Do your homework. Network, Network, Network (even when you are exhausted). Stretch further than comfortable. Show up fully. Frankly, when you think you have done your best work possible, take one more pass through.  In conjunction, have no expectations of others. You won’t need to, you will be too busy leading by example.

 

Take Care of Yourself

I never end a coaching session without inquiring about my clients’ self-care rituals.  Why? Because at the heart of our work together, no matter what the topic, we can accomplish nothing if we are not taking care of ourselves.

It is the same reason that I watch everything I put in my mouth. Eat organic if possible (even when traveling).  Try desperately to get a good night sleep each night, and exercise regularly. I have dragged my yoga mat with me on every trip I have taken for all 17 years of business travel (oh the places we have seen!).  It took my limo driver until last year to figure out that I was not a heavy breather and I was meditating on the way to the airport!

Create a healthy routine and stick to it. A healthy life style will lead to productivity. You will become influential, productivity is sticky!

 

Listen More, Talk Less:

Don’t let the noise cancelling headphones, pile of work, the fact that I am typing, have my eyes closed, am facing the other way, or that I am actually sleeping dissuade you.  If I am in your presence (whether I know you or not) you will talk to me and I will listen. You will tell me things you have never told anyone, and I WILL KEEP YOUR CONFIDENCE.  I will give you advice, I WILL NEVER JUDGE.  Trust me I know things I could have gone my whole life without knowing, but rest assured when you utter the last word it is already forgotten.

When I go on vacation with my family I am instructed not to look up or make eye contact with anyone! (After all, it is their time).  All kidding aside this is the best gift you can give someone, empathy and understanding. A safe place to unload, and then let them go on their contemplative way to figure it out.

 

Energy Zappers/Energy Fillers:

Get in touch with the people, places, and trying that are sapping your energy and GET RID OFF THEM!  Okay, so this is not always practical. If it was, I for one would spend my days reading, doing yoga, cooking, gardening, hiking, mountain biking, eating at great restaurants and watching old movies.

We are all intimately in touch with what brings us stress; however, are you aware that there is a positive counter balance?

I am also a bit of a math geek, and a strong believer in that “What gets measured gets done.”  In fact if I was to get a tattoo (which I won’t kids, so you can’t) it would have that phrase.  As a result, I have invented the “Balancing Act” equation. (AP to follow)

How does it work? Make a list of everything that brings you stress and give it a numerical value. Then, come up with a list of energy fillers and do the same until you reach equilibrium!  I challenge you to balance your act! Leave others to do the same.

 

Speak Your Mind.  Don’t over communicate:

No one likes a nag and overstating the same point over and over and over again does not make it so.

Stop!

Definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over again expecting different results.  This came up two blogs in a row for a reason!  Don’t hold back. Say it once. Hope you are heard. Move on.

 

Come As You Are

You cannot change anyone but yourself and you should not want to.  It is your responsibility to continue to grow and evolve, and it everyone else’s responsibility to do the same.  You should always strive to be your personal best and hope that the people around you continue to do the same.  At the end of the day you must accept people for where they are regardless of the level.  That is their choice.  Do not let it deter you from continuing to grow. I repeat, do not let it deter you from continuing to grow. Lead by example.

 

Drop the Mad

This is one of my personal favorites; however, be cautioned it does not always work! Nothing was ever accomplished through screaming, yelling and or trying to solve the world’s problems in one sitting.  Sometimes you just have to take a break from it all and have some fun.  If you can put together some peaceful connected moments you can get back to figuring out the world’s problems through a clearer lens.

 

Take Breaks

Step out of the drama! Get out of the ring! Take yourself out of the line of fire! Do it for an hour. Do for a day. Do it for a week. Do it for any amount of time necessary and practical so that you can clear your head and think.  Take as much alone time and thinking time required to make the decisions and put the actions in place that are right for you.  After all this is yours, not theirs.

 

Empty Vessels/Projects:

Oh how I love a good project!  I get that from my Grandma Fanny.  She always took in strays, and I am very much the same.  I have a 12 foot farm table and none of the chairs match.  Neither do the people that often pass through for the home cooked meals on Sunday.  My family and I often reminisce and say, “I wonder what ever happened to so and so. I hope it all turned out well”.

I bring this up as a cautionary tale. It is a gift to give, but it can also be trap.  Always give and open yourself to others, but remember it is a two way street.

 

So, in conclusion, what is yours, theirs and ours anyway?

Another favorite saying of mine is really a question. What happens when you stop hitting your head against a wall?  Answer, it stops hurting.  What is yours and what is theirs anyway?  Truth is, it is all yours and it is all theirs.  It is our job to be our best, it is their job to strive to do the same. It is our job to take care of ourselves. It is definitely their job to do the same.  It is always our job to show up fully. To be kind, caring, helpful (when asked), resourceful and always, always show empathy. It is their job to clean up their side of the street and do the same. Perhaps in time we agree to meet in the middle? Perhaps we don’t?  In the end the universe will take care of the rest.

About the Author

Joan Axelrod

About the Author: Joan Axelrod Siegelwax is the Executive Vice President of Love & Quiches Gourmet, and the CEO and President of Empowered Possibilities/EMP2 Coaching. In her role at Love and Quiches Gourmet she leads the Human Resources Department with the primary goal of increasing employee engagement, accountability, retention and improved corporate culture. Through creation of Empowered Possibilities/EMP2 Coaching, she has made these skills available to a larger audience through Transformational Executive Coaching, specializing in personal growth, organizational development, career coaching, leadership development, managing transitions, executive presence, personal branding, personal empowerment, life balance, organization and productivity.

2 Comments

Lynn Miller

Love this post Joan! My favorite tip is be your personal best. Being willing to stretch and take on new challenges, while learning how to be the best you possible, opens up more opportunities than you can imagine.

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Joan Axelrod Sieglewax

Lynn, Could not agree more. I always try to challenge myself to take on something new and never stay stagnant. There is always room to grow beyond our current boundaries and circumstances. Glad you enjoyed it. Joan

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