How to adopt a not my circus not my monkeys mindset in life


Kevin Mangelschots

There are those of us who are burdened with a constant feeling of responsibility who have the impression that they need to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders, even if they don’t.

And while being a responsible, caring adult is great, attributing everyone’s problems and concerns to oneself is not healthy, and not realistic either.

That’s why people need to learn to adopt the “not my circus, not my monkeys” mindset. Let’s explore what it means and how it applies in life.

Not my circus not my monkeys meaning

The not my circus, not my problem attitude conveys that you don’t want to get involved in someone else’s drama and problems.

It signifies that it has nothing to do with you and that you don’t want to get affected in any way.[1]

It is typically said when good advice is given, but not taken into account by others.

Furthermore, it can also be applicable concerning someone’s work environment.

Likewise, not my show not my monkey entails that you don’t own the workplace, that you’re not the boss. That’s why you consequently don’t have to be concerned about your coworkers and how well they execute their work, since that’s one of the executives’ jobs.

Not my circus not my monkeys attitude explained

Illustration of a circus with monkeys in front and the quote, “not my circus, not my monkeys!”

An example of, “Not my circus, not my monkeys in the workplace”

The not my business, not my monkey attitude is important to keep your sanity in the workplace if you’re just an employee and not the boss since it’s not up to you to make sure everyone does their work.

Does that mean that I advocate for people to be carefree, take no responsibility, and make no attempts to change things for the better? No, not at all.

But what I’m saying is that you have limited influence when you’re at the same level of the social hierarchy at work. This means that you have no power over your colleagues and thus, consequently, you can’t directly control how well they do their work.

What you can do is set a good example. Practice what you preach, and hope that the people around you are inspired by your perseverance and quality of work. They might just copy your work attitude as a result.

An example of, “not my circus, not my monkeys in the social circle”

Regarding our social circle, not my circus, not my monkeys can stand for the fact that you’re all equals. A group of friends that act like a band of brothers.

Yes, indeed, there is typically 1 unspoken leader, even if it isn’t explicitly spoken out loud. Yet, nobody likes being bossed around, even if the other person is right.

This means that while you should try to help your friends as well as you can, they’re still responsible for their own lives. This means that they’re accountable for their happiness and successes, but also for their failures and unhappiness.

You can give them advice, but if they aren’t willing to listen, then they will have to bear the consequences of their actions, and not you. You aren’t the one that’s responsible for their misfortunes if they choose to ignore your good advice.

Example of, “not my circus, not my monkeys in life”

Woman standing in front of the sun outside.

No matter how much of a responsible person you are, you can’t control everything in life. Likewise, it isn’t up to you to control and regulate everything going on in our society, either.

If you’re worried all the time about what other people are thinking or doing, you’re not going to find contentment and happiness in life. That’s why you need to learn and practice the ability to let go of the unimportant things and the stuff you can’t control.

Say your piece. Give out good, truthful information. If they’re willing to listen, great. If they don’t want to listen, that’s on them, you shouldn’t lose any sleep over it. Remember and repeat after me, not my circus, not my problem.

This way, you’ll be happier, and your life will be a lot easier as a result.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Advantages and disadvantages of the “not my circus, not my monkeys” attitude

A thumbs up emoji in green on the left, and a thumbs down emoji in red on the right.

Like with everything in life, there are benefits, but also detrimental effects of applying this particular mindset.

I would say that there’s a time and place for everything, as long as we don’t overdo it.

Without further ado, let us look at the possible benefits and negatives.


  • It can help us to wind down by reducing stress and anxiety.
  • Informs us that not everything that goes on in life is our problem.
  • Reminds us that we can’t solve every issue in life.
  • Reminds us that everyone should take personal responsibility.


  • Can cause us to not take personal responsibility for events.
  • It can lead to not attempting to solve important concerns.
  • Can prevent us from being empathic towards others. Can stimulate apathy.

Is not my circus, not my monkeys offensive?

A woman feeling offended by another man.

Some people find not my circus, not my monkeys an offensive quote.

Calling someone a monkey is typically deemed offensive. And thus, this way of saying can also have a negative connotation.

Yet, it’s a metaphor, which means it shouldn’t be taken literally, and is just another manner to describe a situation, or object.

In this instance, it isn’t about actually offending anyone, it’s just another way of saying that not every issue in life is yours to solve.

Not my circus, not my monkeys origin

“Not my circus, not my monkeys” quote in both English and Polish languages.

The origin of the popular quote, “not my circus, not my monkeys,” is of Polish descent.

In Polish, The saying goes as following, “nie mój cyrk, nie moje małpy.”

The meaning remains the same in both languages, though.

Not my circus, not my monkeys is also a book written by Lance Gibbs about what he learned after transforming the employee experience at his own company.

Not my circus not my monkeys synonyms

Synonyms for not my circus, not my monkeys include:

  • Not my show, not my monkey
  • Not my business, not my monkey
  • Not my circus, not my problem
  • Not my circus, not my clowns
  • Not my circus, not my monkeys but I know the clowns

And while these wordings may vary slightly, their meaning does not. That’s because they’re considered similar sayings.

Call to action

Goal, plan, action text on light box on desk table in home office. Business motivation or inspiration, performance of human concepts ideas.

Learn to say this is not my circus, these are not my monkeys in your daily life if others won’t take your good advice, or if you can’t do anything about the situation. Be it in your social life, or your professional life.

When you’re not in control, or not higher up in the social hierarchy, then there’s not much you can do to control those around you except setting the right example and hoping that others follow your lead.

Not every issue in life is your responsibility to solve, nor can you.