It’s already Thursday. Time sure does fly so fast these days thanks to how busy we are. Anyways, I’m still reading Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and am on the eighty-ninth chapter of the book. In that chapter, entitled: If Someone Throws You the Ball, You Don’t Have to Catch It, Richard Carlson shares what he believes is another effective way to reduce stress. It also speaks of how we must learn to choose our battles.
Below is what he says about it:
My best friend, Benjamin Shield, taught me this valuable lesson. Often our inner struggles come from our tendency to jump on board someone else’s problem; someone throws you a concern and you assume you must catch it, and respond. For example, suppose you’re really busy when a friend calls in a frantic tone and says, “My mother is driving me crazy. What should I do?” Rather than saying, “I’m really sorry but I don’t know what to suggest,” you automatically catch the ball and try to solve the problem. Then later, you feel stressed or resentful that you are behind schedule and that everyone seems to be making demands on you. It’s easy to lose sight of your willing participation in the dramas of your own life.
Remembering that you don’t have to catch the ball is a very effective way to reduce the stress in your life. When your friend calls, you can drop the ball, meaning you don’t have to participate simply because he or she is attempting to lure you in. If you don’t take the bait, the person will probably call someone else to see if they will become involved.
This doesn’t mean you never catch the ball, only that it’s your choice to do so. Neither does this mean that you don’t care about your friend or that you’re crass or unhelpful. Developing a more tranquil outlook on life requires that we know our own limits and that we take responsibility for our part in the process. Most of us get balls thrown at us many times each day–at work, from our children, friends, neighbors, salespeople, even strangers. If I caught all the balls thrown in my direction, I would certainly go crazy–and I suspect that you would too! The key is to know when we’re catching another ball so that we won’t feel victimized, resentful, or overwhelmed.
Even something terribly simple like answering your phone when you’re really too busy to talk is a form of catching the ball. By answering the phone, you are willingly taking part in an interaction that you may not have the time, energy, or mind-set for at the present time. By simply not answering the phone, you are taking responsibility for your own peace of mind. The same idea applies to being insulted or criticized. When someone throws an idea or comment in your direction, you can catch it and feel hurt, or you can drop it and go on with your day.
The idea of “not catching the ball” simply because it’s thrown to you is a powerful tool to explore. I hope you’ll experiment with this one. You may find that you catch the ball a lot more than you think you do.