This is a word that has been stuck with me for many weeks now. I am fortunate enough to work in the fitness industry. There, surrounded by fitness professionals that want to contribute positively to people’s life, did I learn first about non-negotiables.

It’s a concept that we use at the gym when someone has to go through behavioral change in order to meet their health goals. Non-negotiables are actions/habits that are based on your goals. It could be as simple as: I need to move everyday. Because it’s a non negotiable, you hold yourself accountable to it no matter what. A lot of the times your mind tries to talk itself out of a new habit or task. E.g. “It’s raining, can’t be bothered to go outside and to the gym. Let’s go tomorrow.”

“Non- Negotiables are things you just do without having an internal debate about it. Things like brushing your teeth, drinking water or anything that truly resonates with who you are. These may also be things that stand in your way from you achieving your goals in the past or prevent you from feeling optimal.”¹

Throughout the last couple of months I came up with many non-negotiables, started many lists and forgot about them as fast as I came up with them. I very much get distracted and my mind takes advantage of that. I forget what my ambitions are and tend to get stuck in a loop no where closer to my goals than before initially starting. We all have our struggles in life and we all have goals we want to pursue. For some people it’s really easy to go for what they want. My husband is the perfect example for that. But I dare say that most people including me struggle a bit more with that. Non-negotiables can help you to stay focused on your goals and make sure that throughout all life’s distractions we stay on course. The key I found is that you make your non negotiables SMART. This is a tool I learned and used in nursing.

Goals as well as non-negotiables need to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.

If you’re not specific enough your brain can find loop holes and trick you. For example: “Drink enough water” This is not really specific nor is it measurable and therefore also not attainable. I think the biggest reason we don’t enjoy the process of attaining a goal, is because it doesn’t give us a tangible outcome until the very end. Our brain is conditioned to be craving instant gratification, especially in this time of age. If you make a non-negotiable specific, measurable and attainable, you will have the gratification of getting it done every time you do it. So the smarter way to word the previous example would be: “Drink minimum 2 liter of water a day.”

The next important aspect, is that it has to be relevant. You have to dig deep and understand what you need right now in this moment and what you need in order to achieve your goals in the future. The question is, which goals are important to you no matter what? Is it important to build up your buisness? Make it a non negotiable. Is it important for you to run a triathlon? Make it a non negotiable.

Non-negotiables are means to meet your goals and needs in the future. But that doesn’t mean you can’t adjust them once in a while. What you need today might be different tomorrow.

In goal setting we need the estimated time frame we want the goal achieved or evaluated by. Your non negotiables may not need to have a set date, but time frames might still be relevant within the task. For example: “No later in bed than 9pm during weekdays.”

To give you a better idea how it could look like, I’m showing you my personal list of current non negotiables in no particular order:

  • No more than 3 min face picking per day.
  • No more than 3 hours of television per day
  • Spend at least 5 min outside a day, wherever that might be and appreciate nature and your connection to it.
  • Say a prayer of gratitude and love each morning to yourself and the universe/world arround you- really mean it.
  • At least every 2-3 months make time to go dancing with your friends.
  • Follow the naturopaths protocol.
  • Make room for min 2 hours of professional development a week. Time can be split up in multiple blocks.
  • No later in bed than 9:30pm no matter what, except weekends. Desired bedtime is 8:30!
  • Drink min. 2.5 liter of water a day.
  • Move at least once a day. However that might be, but it has to be with intention. From an hour spin to weights or even gentle grounding yoga of 15 min is acceptable. But you gotta move every day.

This is a very concise list. Notice how some non-negotiables are determining a time frame for habits I want to reduce, like watching TV.

There are much more things I would like to have on this list, but I had to prioritize. This brings be back to the attainable part of SMART goals. When is comes to behavior change you really have to take it step by step. A lot of us fail to stick to a new routine because we overload ourselves. The brain really tries to automate as much as possible to reduce energy usage. If you push yourself into a whole new routine, it can be very depleting and you are prone to give it up or make an excuse at the first opportunity. If you pick a single habit at a time you are more likely to succeed. I struggled to follow my previous lists of non-negotiables mainly because they were to long.

What is on your non-negotiable list?

Remember dig deep, make them smart and take it step by step, day by day. The beauty with non-negotiables is, that every day is a new opportunity to get them done. Don’t let the past define what you can do for yourself and others today.


¹Junction Fitness Hub, Jump Start Junction Reset Pdf.

I'm a personal trainer and my life is all about physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Some of my passions are yoga, nutrition and photography.
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