So it’s been a transformative time for me.
For starters, it’s my second year of being consistent on WordPress. Never missed a single week’s post, nor a single day’s comments on other blogs.
I’d maintained this momentum through the highs and lows of life, from quitting my job, to falling sick, to publishing a novel, to getting injured. And while I did falter in some habits, my blog has always been a non-negotiable.
New post every Tuesday, twenty comments every day.
What began as an experiment quickly turned into a way of life, and you know what’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned?
It’s that the consistency matters more than the actual task.
What are we talking about again?
Today, we explore the topic of non-negotiables. What is it? Why do it? And more importantly, will it grant you x-ray vision and spidey senses?
No, you won’t get superpowers, I’m afraid. But you will supercharge your life!
In its most basic form, non-negotiables are tasks that you choose to undertake, come hell or high water. By hook or by crook. Or whatever other idiom you prefer.
Let’s say you want to be a novelist. For that to happen, you have to finish writing a book. And for that to happen, you have to write. Regularly, if possible.
Maybe you dedicate 250 words per day to this quest (which, by the way, can be any arbitrary figure of your choosing). And you plan to do this every day.
And once you set those terms as your non-negotiable, you’ll have to honour your word, even when life throws a couple curveballs your way.
So you don’t get a break even if you’re down with COVID (not like it’s personal experience or anything) or if you pull your back playing with your dog (nope, not personal experience at all).
And that, my dear reader-writer, is a non-negotiable, which shall henceforth be known as an Annie, because I’m a rebel like that.
Why should you even bother?
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you probably think you could do more with your time. Perhaps if you cut that extra episode of Bridgerton, you’d have an extra hour in your day to write. Or sing. Or draw.
But you’re a busy person. You need your time to unwind. And maybe you have children to take care of, or a dozen presentation decks to prepare for work. Surely, there’s no way you could fit a couple more Annies into your life, am I right?
To that, I present to you this question: Would you do it for a billion dollars? Or at least try? How about if someone pointed a gun to your head?
Yes, we’re entering hyperbolic territory, but humour me. The question is, can you do more of what benefits your life?
Because if you’re anything like me, you can whine for eight years straight about not having the time to write a novel, only to learn that you can, and that you could’ve written eight novels in the time it took you to complain about why you couldn’t.
That’s why you need Annies in your life. Not merely to achieve goals, but to change your outlook on your abilities.
“But it’s no different from goal-setting!”
Sure, what you’re doing is setting goals and trying to reach them. Big whoop, right?
Well, goals are nice to have, but they can remain dreams if you want them to. Annies are different. Annies are sacred. And you find a way to uphold your end of the bargain no matter what. Because that’s where the growth occurs.
Oh, you can very well break the promises you make to yourself. No one’s stopping you. In fact, nobody even needs to know about that time you caved in to ice-cream on your third day of your no-junk-food diet.
But these are the exact moments where you forge your new self. Your conscience keeps tabs, and it can be your worst critic or your best cheerleader. Which side it takes depends on the decisions you make. Even the mundane ones.
Affirmations don’t come from staring in the mirror and telling yourself you’re worthy. It comes from knowing that you’re worth it, and that comes from actually doing the work.
Ask yourself this: Whom do you respect? And more importantly, why?
I’ll bet it’s not because they learned a trick or two from The Secret.
You’ve felt the benefits before
You know the days where you zoom from task to task, and the day passes without you noticing? You remember that feeling of flow? Chances are, that wasn’t Zeus bestowing you with the motivation of the gods.
Instead, you probably surfed the momentum of tasks that snowballed into a boulder big enough to flatten the entire population of Bakkafjörður (that’s 80 people. Surprise trivia!).
You know how the cliche goes—it’s harder to start pedalling than it is to continue cycling.
This is how non-negotiables can help you. Yes, your feelings could fluctuate, and waking up at six o’clock on Wednesday could very well be a different beast come Sunday, but do it enough and you learn to hone the power of consistency, despite outside circumstances.
And one good thing may very well lead to another. One good day will lead to a good month, to a good year, to a good life. You’ve felt this feeling before. Don’t you want to feel it every day?
That wasn’t really a question, because your only option is ‘yes’.
Expect to take the long way round
Perhaps the biggest benefit from having Annies in your life is learning to adapt, because nothing ever goes as planned.
Maybe it’s rains during the only hour you have to run. Are you going to let the weather dictate your fate? Or are you going to flip life the middle finger and take matters into your own hands?
Achieving tasks when all’s well is one thing. Overcoming them through obstacles is another. Remember how I said that the consistency matters more than the task itself? This is it. This is where you foster your self-confidence.
It doesn’t matter if you choose to meditate, write, or study chess. Life will happen, and your plans will go awry. What will you choose to tell your conscience then? That you wilt at the first sign of trouble? Or that you’re unstoppable?
How to start
So you’re interested in adding an Annie or two into your life. Maybe you already know what you want. Maybe you don’t. Here are some questions you should ask yourself anyway.
What major goals do I want to achieve? Do you want to write a book? Lose some weight? Learn a new language? These answers can act as a compass for when you’re lost.
How much can I commit daily? Don’t be afraid to start small. If you can’t even write a hundred words a day, then don’t aim for a thousand just yet.
When can I meet my Annie? There’s a reason why waking up earlier helps. That’s because it’s the most distraction-free part of the day. But it’s up to you to find your own pockets of time, even if that’s midnight.
What can I NOT do? Annies don’t always need to be tasks that you do. It could be something you forgo as well, like social media or fried food.
Does anyone else need to be on board? You might need your spouse to watch over your toddler when you run, for example, or your housemates to leave you alone during your writing hours.
Extra tidbits for your success
Frequency: Your Annie does not need to be an everyday thing (though it would be preferred, just for the sake of habit building). There are weekly or monthly non-negotiables too.
Failure: We all fail from time to time. Remember that we’re aiming for an overall average instead of a perfect score. Suffered a setback? Forgive yourself and try again.
Choice: Still unsure where to start? Try picking from these universal categories: learning, exercise, mindfulness, hygiene, diet. You’re bound to have something there.
Mindset: Focus on execution, not perfection. Another lockdown preventing you from going to the gym? Opt for bodyweight workouts. Really strapped for time and can’t write? Try voice memos while you drive. The goal isn’t to complete your tasks. It’s to execute, regardless of what life throws your way.
Novelty: Even non-standard routines count. Want to wear only black tees every day, or dance the moment you wake up? Go right ahead. Again, it’s not so much the activity than it is the consistency. But of course, it’s better if the habits actually improve your life.
Discipline equals freedom
You know how you become more creative when you apply constraints to your writing? Annies are exactly like that, only in real life.
Too many of us think that by incorporating something as inflexible as non-negotiables, that we’re doomed to live a life of mundanity.
But just like this subheading says (a Jocko Willinks trademark), discipline does equal freedom. Because when you live your life doing what you need to instead of what you want, you’ll find that everything else will fall into place, and you’ll be free of your burdens to continue with your other pursuits.
So what do you say? Ready to lock yourself up so you can be free?
My newsletter is a personal non-negotiable too. Exclusive content right in your mailbox every fortnight, no exceptions. Also, you’ll get a free guide on how to grow your WordPress blog as a welcoming gift, so that’s cool too.