It’s a universal conundrum: you’re dead set on adopting a new habit that will inch you closer to the kind of life you’d like to have. Maybe you’re trying to lose weight and want to incorporate exercise into your schedule five days a week. Perhaps decreasing your anxiety is a priority and you know that a daily walk in the park after work would help you unwind. Or, maybe you’d like to spiritually reconnect through a morning prayer or meditation practice. Sticking to this new habit over the first few days usually isn’t too difficult and you may actually start to feel like you’re getting somewhere… but then something always happens that we like to label “life.” Your child comes down with the flu. A coworker’s been fired and you’re stuck holding the bag. Your partner is having a family crisis. The weather’s been terrible. You feel depressed and unmotivated. There’s simply too much to do.
When something always seems to be getting in the way of your goals, a change of strategy is required, as well as a shift in thinking. That’s where “non-negotiables” come in. So, what is a non-negotiable? A non-negotiable is something you incorporate into your life NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS. The boss just told you that you have to prepare a gripping, award-winning PowerPoint deck within the next 24 hours? You’re still doing your non-negotiables. In a foul mood and just want to hide under the covers? You’re still doing your non-negotiables. A UFO landed on the rooftop of Takashimaya department store and the aliens are giving out free Chanel handbags? Yes, you’re still doing your non-negotiables. Non-negotiables aren’t only about adopting healthier habits and organizing your day. Non-negotiables teach you the practice of honoring your desires, making time for yourself, and gratefully accepting that taking care of yourself should always be a top priority.
Non-negotiables are always on your calendar, and they are always marked “important.” Reminders about your non-negotiables should be posted on the fridge, your laptop screen, and your work desk. Non-negotiables automatically remove all guilt about having to turn down invitations or needing to postpone any family obligations, if only for a little while. Non-negotiables let the world know that you also matter, and that you’re sticking to your guns this time.
When you decide to set up new non-negotiables, start with one and only one. Once it becomes ingrained, you may slowly add more. As a general rule, practice your non-negotiable for at least 60 days before adding a new one. This isn’t just a habit, it’s a non-negotiable, and that’s a really big deal.
In general, non-negotiables should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Timely. Here are fifteen specific “SMART” examples of health and wellbeing non-negotiables to get your mind buzzing:
1. Engage in at least thirty minutes of moderate exercise every weekday before work.
2. Write one full page in a gratitude journal every evening before bed.
3. Meditate or pray upon waking each morning for twenty minutes.
4. Stretch in the living room for fifteen minutes each evening before dinner.
5. Input daily food consumption every evening at 8pm in a calorie counter (MyFitnessPal is a great tool and it contains nutrition information for nearly every single hawker stall dish available in Singapore).
6. Take a thirty minute walk in nature after work every weekday (the Japanese call this Shinrin-Yoku, or “forest bathing").
7. Call one friend every afternoon during lunchtime.
8. Sit down to eat a healthy breakfast every morning at 7am.
9. Go rock climbing every Saturday with your spouse at Climb Asia.
10. Bike to work every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
11. Participate in a boot camp every Saturday morning.
12. Have an adventure date with your significant other every Friday night at 8pm.
13. Spend one hour walking with your dog each evening after dinner.
14. Take a dance class every Thursday and Sunday.
15. Eat two pieces of fresh fruit each day- one with breakfast and one with lunch.
Now that you have a few ideas, I hope you’ll adopt a few “non-negotiables” of your own. I have three that frame each day for me: 20-30 minutes of meditation each morning after my shower, a minimum one hour of exercise six days a week, and a prayer of gratitude each night before I go to bed. They are the fuel of each day, and they ensure that I take good care of myself so that I can better care for others!
Do you have any non-negotiables? Would you like to establish some? Have any questions about setting up non-negotiables and keeping them? Leave your comments down below. I’d love to hear from you!