Most of the time I consider myself to be one of the most fortunate people on the planet. I have a wonderful life—I’m healthy and have a great relationship—I also get to work and write about things that matter to me on a consistent basis. But every now and then something pops up that makes me pause and wonder if my writing and work is making any kind of positive difference. Other times things happen or people do unexpected and unpleasant things that catch me by surprise. That’s when it is SMART for me to remember the words of a wise woman named Byron Katie. One of the solutions she suggests for when we are feeling stressed out or unhappy is to “Stay In Your Own Business.” In fact, she is very clear that most time when we are struggling with a situation we are in someone else’s business—and the simple practice of recognizing that fact is usually all it takes to bring us back to ourselves.
What does Katie mean by “business?” (FYI…she goes by Katie in spite of the fact it’s her last name.) In most cases the “business” that Katie is referring to are those things in our lives that we can actually control. In her opinion there are only three kinds of business in the universe: mine, yours, and God’s. (Katie clarifies what she means by God as, “For me, the word God means “reality.” Reality is God, because it rules. Anything that’s out of my control, your control, and everyone else’s control, I call that God’s business.”)
So basically, any time we are unhappy or fussed up Katie believes it is because we are either in someone else’s or God’s business—which are two categories where we are completely out of control of what happens and when. Things like earthquakes, the weather, the economy and politics are all completely out of my control and clearly God’s business. Meanwhile the decisions and choices my friends, family, neighbors and even FaceBook friends make in their lives, are very simply “their” business. The only place I have much control over is my world, my emotions, and my actions and reactions. Unfortunately, according to Katie, that’s not where we live much of the time—even the best of us!
So what threw me off base this time? Last week I posted one of my articles on another website that links blogs and articles for exposure. I purposely made the article somewhat provocative because it was my hope that it would make others think and generate interest. I got my wish. While some people responded to the article in ways that I expected, there was one person who was downright nasty in his comments. Not only did he seem to miss the point of the article entirely, he also attacked me personally. I’ll admit that my first reaction was rather self-protective, but I calmed down within minutes and thought about how best to respond before writing a return comment. Unfortunately, that response seemed to spur him to even more snarky comments. Again I responded calmly saying I was fine that he disagreed with me and wished him well. Finally this morning he came back at me with what made his early comments seem mild in comparission. Yeah, he got to me and I definitely wanted to get right in the middle of his business.
About the only thing that kept me from reacting with anger or curling myself up in a ball on the bedroom floor was a little voice from Byron Katie that said, “Be about your own business.” She’s right. A big part of me knows that I can’t control what other people do—and I certainly can’t control what they think. Frankly, I’m lucky if I can control what I think most of the time!! Instead of spending any more time thinking about what this other person thinks or does, my peace (not to mention my sanity) demands that I let him go and focus on those things that are within my control. I must be about my own business.
But I think this idea goes even further. Like I wrote about in the last article about “making it up,” what we put in our unconscious on a regular basis largely guides our life. That means, of course, that if we are dwelling on snarky people who attack us on a regular basis, then we will begin living life from that perspective and always be on the defensive. If we focus on what we think others should do, other than what they are doing—that too will grow and expand in our world. Instead, if we continually stay focused on what is working in our lives and what we hope to accomplish, then that will be our automatic response in the future. Naturally, that’s what I want to experience, but in order to do that I must take full responsibility for what I allow in my mind and what I choose to focus on consistently.
Okay, so it isn’t always easy. If we feel we are being unjustly attacked or we are concerned about others that we love, it is really easy to get caught up in other people’s business. I suppose that would even be harder if you were worried about your children, or spouse, or someone else you loved. But Katie is also very clear about the fact that our spouse, our children and everyone else are equally responsible for their own business—and although we might think we know best and want to “save” them from themselves or the world, that is actually impossible. So instead of really having much influence, we often make ourselves miserable trying to take something on that doesn’t belong to us in the first place. Katie has an amazing personal story with kids and family that drives that point home for anyone who is interested.
Or what about taking on the weight of the world? We all know people who are constantly worrying about (God’s) things that they cannot control—everything from the climate, to poverty, to the government, or to war itself. That’s not to say we can’t work to change things—in our immediate sphere of influence—but worrying seldom does more than plant ideas of frustration and unhappiness in our unconscious—and like I mentioned above, that isn’t what I want to experience
I personally like how Katie addresses the issue when she says, “If I am mentally in your business or in God’s business, the effect is separation. I noticed this early in 1986. When I mentally went into my mother’s business, for example, with a thought like ‘My mother should understand me,’ I immediately experienced a feeling of loneliness. And I realized that every time in my life that I had felt hurt or lonely, I had been in someone else’s business. If you are living your life and I am mentally living your life, who is here living mine? We’re both over there. Being mentally in your business keeps me from being present in my own. I am separate from myself, wondering why my life doesn’t work.”
Of course all this takes mental discipline. If we have gotten in the habit of trying to live other people’s lives for them, then the practice will seem very unnatural. Any time I think someone else “should” be doing something different than they are—I am in their business. We don’t get to decide how anyone else behaves or chooses to live their life—especially once they are adults—only they do. I also agree with Katie when she says it is arrogance to assume you know what is right for anyone else but yourself. Katie says, “If you understand the three kinds of business enough to stay in your own business, it could free your life in a way that you can’t even imagine.”
One of the best things about writing continually for a blog like SMART Living 365 is the continual reminder to stay focused on those things in my life that bring happiness, peace and a sense of wellbeing. To do that I must do my best to stay focused on what is important to me and what I care about–essentially my own business. I also believe that in order to be a positive influence in the world or for others, we must first be at peace with ourselves. So no matter what you plan for yourself today—make sure to make it about your business!
“When you think that someone or something other than yourself needs to change, you’re mentally out of your business.” ~ Byron Katie from Loving What Is
“How would your life be different if…You stopped worrying about things you can’t control and started focusing on the things you can? Let today be the day…You free yourself from fruitless worry, seize the day and take effective action on things you can change.” ~Steve Maraboli
virginia sullivan says
What a great post about reacting to the snarky commenter. There is a blog I write for and sometime I imagine that there are old grumpy guys sitting their just waiting for my blog to be published. They never have anything good to say and love to tell me how I don’t know anything. Your words reminded me that it’s worthwhile to take a moment and pause before answering. Virginia- FirstClassWoman
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Virginia! Thanks for stopping by SMART Living and leaving a comment. Ha! I think your idea of “old grumpy guys sitting around” is a good way to keep it all in perspective. Of course, sometime I think I know some of them personally. The good news is that the longer I blog and the more comfortable I get in my own skin, the less those grumpy old guys bother me and I’ll bet you too! And yes to both of us for remembering to pause a minute before we answer! Thanks again for stopping by and now I’m coming over to see what a First Class Woman writes about! ~Kathy
Sharon Greenthal says
The one thing I’ve learned about not getting involved in other people’s business is that there’s so much more to learn from observing and listening than there is from intruding and criticizing. Some of the best lessons in my life have been from watching how other people navigate the rough waters of their lives.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Sharon! Thanks for joining the conversation. I so agree that we can learn a great deal if we stop talking and listen–but unfortunately when I find myself sucked into other people’s drama about what they ARE doing and how I maybe think that should be different–there’s a big difference. That difference is usually evident in my life when I continually use other people as an excuse not to get going with something I say I want, or blaming them for not allowing me to live the life i want. Now that I think about it, blame, excuses and drama are all distractions that show me when I’m not in my own business. But as you say, if someone is demonstrating something powerfully good to me–then observing with admiration can be extremely helpful. ~Kathy
Karen D. Austin says
B-b-b-but it’s HARDER to focus on my own crap, dangit! Love this. Thanks for the invitation to saner living.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Karen! B-b-but YES! I do agree that it is MUCH easier to focus on other people than ourselves…just like it is so much easier to see other people’s issues rather than our own. Thanks for stopping by! ~Kathy
This is really terrific, and quite a bit of food for thought. I have been thinking along these lines lately. One question I have is, where do acts of kindness fit in? Where does helping others fit in? I would imagine I would have to project into someone else’s business in order to asses whether or not some of the things I consider resources would be helpful. How does one stay in ones business, yet provide help for others?
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Annie…I’m glad you like the post. In answer to your question about where acts of kindness and helping others fit in—I think it is important to do those actions because you feel that it is your purpose (your business.) If you are doing it because you have expectations about how others are supposed to react or whether they even appreciate it–then you are either in their business or God’s. Staying detached with an open and willing heart is not easy–but it would be one of the most kind and generous things we could do. Again, not easy, but a powerful way to be in the world….Kathy
Thank you for this post. I believe everything happens for a reason and stumbling upon this article came at just the right moment today.
Cheers and happy writing!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Michaela….I too believe that everything happens for a reason. Thank you for your comments and I’m glad that something in this post was helpful to you. Please come back often…. Kathy