The Power Of Having Non-Negotiables

In Tuesday’s blog post, we wrote about taking care of your mental health when you can’t afford therapy. One of the tips we mentioned specifically was laying out your non-negotiables and then following through with them.

Let’s elaborate on this today, because having non-negotiables is a POWERFUL concept. Simple (not be confused for easy), yet powerful.

Curious? Without further ado, let’s dive in. 

What Is A Non-Negotiable?

A non-negotiable is a commitment to yourself that you will not break. It’s quite literally something you avoid negotiating on- with others and with yourself too. 

When adhered to, a non-negotiable does all this and more: 

Defines what you will (and won’t) accept from others

Establishes what expectations you have from yourself

Helps you build trust in your ability to follow through

Aligns your behaviours with your values and principles

Signals what is truly important in your life

Non-negotiables are part of the long game. We don’t always see the results of sticking to them right away. However, over time, these habits can have exponential, life-changing effects. 

How is this possible?

Non-Negotiables Are Our Steady Anchor

A lack of non-negotiables leaves us floating through life without any real sense of direction, purpose, or clarity. 

Having flimsy boundaries and letting yourself off the hook with self-commitments adds up over time- it chips away at our ability to live with purpose and intent. 

This leads us to act in ways that are not aligned with our values and principles. As time goes on, we become vulnerable to low moods and our motivation, momentum, and belief in our ability to impact the world is stifled.

The truth is, we all need steady anchors in life. They act as signposts, telling us what we value, and how to live those values. Without non-negotiables, we can be easily swayed, overlooked, and even walked over.

By enacting our non-negotiables, however, we tell the world how we expect to be treated. We also show ourselves that it is entirely possible to find that steady anchor within. When you trust your  ability to show up for yourself, confidence follows.

And just like that, we are no longer at the whim of the world.

How To Come Up With A Solid Non-Negotiable

When figuring out your non-negotiables, there are a few things that will increase your chances of following through with them.

Start Off With A Select Few

Overwhelming yourself with a list of things you will have non-negotiable boundaries for is not a realistic way to make a change!

I like to suggest starting with one non-negotiable related to principles and one that requires daily (or even weekly) action

Boundaries around principles are slightly easier to implement because we usually don’t encounter situations where our values and principles are challenged every day. Here are a few examples:

  • When I feel like saying ‘no’ I will say ‘no’
  • I will speak up or excuse myself when people around me are gossiping or backbiting
  • If I don’t feel heard or seen, I will not make myself small: I will speak up
  • I will be kind to myself when I make mistakes

A non-negotiable that requires daily or weekly action helps us build trust in ourselves: 

  • I will not work on Sundays
  • I will work out on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays
  • I will turn off electronics, Wifi etc, an hour before bedtime
  • I will do my evening skincare routine 
  • I will stick to my daily religious observance or spiritual practice

Choose Things You Have Control Over

In order to follow-through with non-negotiables, they have to be under our control! In other words, we need to be in charge of action. We don’t necessarily have to be in charge of the outcome. For example, if you stand up for yourself and it doesn’t lead to the results you hoped for, you STILL followed through on your non-negotiable.

Following through creates ripple effects, regardless of the initial outcome. Others may have noticed you standing up for yourself and now they know what your boundaries are, making it less likely that you will be treated that way again.

Reflect On What Following Through Means To You

When coming up with your list, try reflecting on 3 things:

  • If you followed through on your non-negotiables, what does that tell you about yourself?
  • How would following through on the non-negotiable meet your needs?
  • What values and principles are guiding your choices?

A bit of reflection prior to jumping into the process helps you determine your ‘why’. Write it down! This way, when you find yourself slipping (or negotiating) you can come back to this and remind yourself why you started in the first place.

3 Tips On Laying Out Your Life’s Non-Negotiables

Now that you have chosen your non-negotiables, here are a few tips on making them work for you.

Communicating Your Non-Negotiables To Trusted Others

We all need some accountability. I wouldn’t recommend announcing your non-negotiables to the world. However, letting a few trusted people in your life know can help keep us on track.

Communicating your non-negotiables can also spark some interesting conversations and let others get to know us better. You may find that people are surprised you value certain things. What we are not willing to compromise on reveals a lot about who we are. 

Let Your Non-Negotiables Reflect The Reality Of Your Life

As our lives change, so do priorities. What was a non-negotiable a few years ago may no longer be realistic with a new career path, kids, changing relationships, or health issues. 

This does not mean you failed to follow-through. What it means is you need to adjust your non-negotiables to reflect your life.

For example, say you are going through a divorce. A non-negotiable you may have had prior to the divorce is eating dinner with the kids every night. This will likely have to be adjusted with the reality of co-parenting. 

Or perhaps you are taking care of your aging parents, and the added responsibilities leave less time and energy to work out 5 days a week. An adjustment may look like scaling proper workouts down to 3 days a week and committing to moving your body in some way on the other days.

Remember That You Will Slip Up

There is no such thing as perfection, even in something that seems as absolute as a non-negotiable. We will inevitably negotiate with ourselves or slip up. 

It’s important that we don’t allow our non-negotiables to become a source of guilt, shame, or anxiety. Be kind to yourself when you slip up and commit to doing your best, not to achieving an impossible standard of perfection.

Wrapping Up

I hope this post inspired you to show up for yourself. Really, no one can do this better than you! What I find the most interesting about this concept is that we are entirely in charge- no one necessarily has to know what we have deemed to be a non-negotiable. 

It’s a personal, but not private thing. By LIVING our non-negotiables, we live our values. We set our intentions, and put them into action by keeping promises to ourselves. Believe me, after 3 months of following through on your non-negotiables, the people in your life will notice. They may not know all the specifics, but they will know something has changed for the better.

I want to hear from you: What is at the top of your list of non-negotiables? If you don’t have any yet, what would you put there?

As always, if you have any questions about this topic or need some additional support, flip me an email, or book an appointment with anyone from my awesome team!

Until next time!

Sarah Ahmed electronic signature

Sarah Ahmed

Co-founder

WellNest Psychotherapy Services