This High to Ride the Ride

“When you set high standards in your life and stick to them, there will be people who fall away. Let them.”

Remember when you were a little kid and you couldn’t wait to ride the roller coaster? But first you had to get past that little wooden man with a ruler. You had to be a certain height to safely ride the ride.

One of my friends, the artist Petersen Thomas, once observed that this vetting technique works beyond amusement parks. You can also use it to determine who gains access to your inner circle. You can use it to decide who receives your time, your thoughts, your feelings, your energy and your emotional involvement.

If you’re surrounded by people who bring unnecessary drama, excuses, blame or trouble, your life will be more peaceful if you revoke their roller coaster riding privileges until they grow up some more. You don’t have to judge them or harbor anger towards them. You can even hold love in your heart for them. But when they want to ride the ride, direct them over to the kiddie roller coasters. Or maybe the spinning tea cups.

In the years since Petersen first expressed this idea to me, I’ve been amazed at how often I rely upon it in my personal relationships, and also how helpful and clarifying it is. Other people’s drama is like a vortex, it tends to suck you in. On top of that, we seem to have a lot of social notions that a “nice” person gives others lots of chances, doesn’t make a fuss, and puts up with bad behavior in the hope that they will change.

We all have only so much of ourselves to invest in relationships. Knowing when to distance yourself can profoundly affect your day-to-day mood and overall happiness. While you continue to beat your head against the wall at someone’s behavior, you’re missing out on the true growth and bonding you could be having with someone who strengthens your mojo rather than depletes it.

Sometimes people are in a rush to cut people out of their lives, but that’s not what I’m advocating at all. It’s more about keeping your eyes open and modifying your involvement accordingly. As Maya Angelou once said, “When people show you who they are, believe them.”

It’s possible to be a loving, compassionate, understanding and sympathetic person. But make the height requirement non-negotiable. Keep the gift of you for those who deserve it.

Barbara Wayman writes about living your best life now. Connect with her on Twitter here.

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