Stop Compromising: How & Why to Set Non-Negotiables

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In honor of May being Mental Health Awareness Month, all month long the MBL newsletter will be dedicated to focusing on a variety of mental health & wellness topics. This week’s newsletter is focused on non-negotiables and the role they play in our wellbeing. We’ve all heard the term “boundaries”; we touched on them in last week’s newsletter where we discussed Embracing Our No To Protect Our Yes as a way to prevent mental and physical exhaustion and burn out.  Non-negotiables are like boundaries, but boundaries can be a bit more flexible and evolve over time. Non-negotiables in many ways is the bare minimum that we expect from others, and ourselves but they’re not flexible. They are exactly what they sound like, too. They’re a hard stop- a deal breaker, if you will.

Non-negotiables are a set of rules that are not open for discussion or modification and are grounds for no longer continuing a relationship, whether it be in a professional or personal setting. Many of us may not have ever reflected on what our non-negotiables are either in our personal lives or in the workplace. In fact, this may be the first time this concept has come up. Maybe we’ve considered them in our relationships, but never referred to them as non-negotiables- yet putting a label to them can empower us to uphold them. For non-negotiables to be truly effective, no matter the context,  they have to follow your own values and principles. Otherwise, it will be too easy to allow others, and ourselves, to skip them or cross them. Non-negotiables can be applied to several aspects of our lives: relationships, jobs and even how we take care of ourselves. Simply put, they are the foundation of our wellbeing, and are a very relevant topic as part of our Mental Health Month Series.

Personal/Professional Non-Negotiables

It’s quite easy to enter into friendships or relationships without first figuring out if that particular person or group of people meets your standards. More often than not we consider what we can bring to the table and how we will add value to others. It’s time we do the same for ourselves by identifying our individual non-negotiables. You may have heard the quote “surround yourself with people who are good for your mental health”– well, non-negotiables are certainly important to get clear on as we reflect on who and what is good for our mental health.

In thinking about non-negotiables, we should consider why they are important to our wellbeing. Why even bother thinking about this? In short, creating a list of non-negotiables is essential to one’s mental health when seeking out long-term connections with others… they let us know if the relationship/partnership is sustainable over time. As long as we enforce our non-negotiables, just like a boundary, they can protect us, and they can be used to inform us of relationships and roles that are or are or are not adding value to our lives, and instead may drain us (physically, mentally, emotionally, and even financially).  As we identify and learn to stand by our non-negotiables, we build trust within ourselves, too (another important component of wellness)! When it comes to selfcare and health behaviors, we can also use non-negotiables to determine what practices we will or will not engage in to better our own health and wellbeing.

Where does one start in figuring out their non-negotiables? There are three questions you will want to ask yourself when coming up with your list of non-negotiables. 

1.  What would absolutely, without question, cause me to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I can no longer stay in this relationship/in this job/role?
2.  What standard do I hold myself to when it comes to what I value in giving to others, or how I treat others?
3. What do I need to do for myself each day/most days (or what do I need to avoid doing) in order to feel like my best self?

Your answers to these questions are your non-negotiables, and they can be applied to personal relationships, professional relationships, your current or any future roles you take on professionally, and in how to take care of yourself.

As an example, I share some of my non-negotiables which can be applied both to my personal relationships and within the workplace/any company I am employed with. You may see that these are pretty much the bare minimum, which is exactly a great place to start. If any person, place or thing does not meet these minimum standards, it would be grounds for my exit. 

  • Respect: for my time, my culture/religion, my expertise
  • Consistency: regarding dependability, reliability, & punctuality
  • Safety: Psychologically & Physically
  • Accountability: owning ones own successes and faults/mistakes
  • Open & Honest Communication: not with-holding information or other feelings/feedback that should be communicated out of fear or wanting to “keep the peace” (walking on egg shells)
  • Autonomy & Healthy Space: Granted the right to self-govern, and take time to oneself to recharge, refuel and connect with other people/things that are also important 

Well-Being Non Negotiables

Just like we think about non-negotiables in our relationships with others and within our workplaces, we can and should also focus on our wellbeing non-negotiables to help us feel well in our bodies and minds.  In essence, they are promises that you make and keep to yourself. Forget about the things you think you should be doing, consider actions/practices/ behaviors you want to engage in for you. Because you’re worth it! Just like with the above non-negotiables that are simple and bare-minimum in a sense,  deciding on non-negotiable healthy practices can and should be simple too, so that you can commit to them (mostly) every day.These may involve the Four Pillars of Health: nutrition, movement, stress management and sleep. A good balance and healthy management of these four components can improve our sense of overall wellness. 

To determine what your wellbeing non-negotiables are, we’ve shared the four pillars of health below with some tips for getting clear on what you may want to consider as part of yours. 

Nutrition: Identify what foods make you feel good and prioritize them without negotiation. Take notice of what you eat and how it makes you feel. If the food you eat is making you sick and tired then it doesn’t belong on your plate. Prioritize the foods that fuel you and give you energy for you to get the most out of your day.
Movement: Movement is an act of love for your body and your mind. Identify what movement(s) you love and thrive off of, and prioritize them without discussion. Make time for them every single day. 
Sleep: How many hours of sleep you need each and everyday for you to function at your best? Make that amount a priority every single night. Establish a bedtime routine and turn your bedroom into a sleep oasis for nightly recovery.
Stress Management: Identify what needs your attention, block out your time to dedicate to it and don’t negotiate. Stress blinds us from experiencing all of the best things in life. If you’re stressed about a deadline — anything that you choose to do instead won’t feel good because you’ll still be stressed about a priority you set aside. If you need to be with your family, friends or significant others for you to be able to decompress, prioritize them. Identify what needs to be done for you to be happy and make time for it without negotiation. 

You’re encouraged to write your own list of non-negotiables to apply to your personal and professional life, and to your wellbeing. The reality is, we will not always be in a position to ‘exit’ a certain relationship or partnership or job immediately, so leaning on your wellbeing non-negotiables becomes even more important in those instances to ensure you are filling your own cup and prioritizing your health and wellness.

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