Finding Balance: Identify Your Non-Negotiables

Do you have difficulty saying no? Many women suffer from the “good girl syndrome.” We are raised to be good daughters, good students, good employees, good wives, good mothers, and good adult daughters. We work hard to be helpful and nice because we were raised to be that way and we come to believe that is what others expect of us. And often it is. But when we don’t say no, we can end up overcommitted, overbooked and overtired.

So what do you do if you can’t say no? Stop trying. Say yes instead. Does that advice sound counter intuitive? It’s not if you are really clear on what it is that you want to yes to.

I call my yesses, my non-negotiables – the things in my life that absolutely are not open to negotiation. I got to my list by being crystal clear about what is most important to me at this phase in my life. Here’s what is NOT on my list: anything other people think I should be doing (Click here to learn why you should erase the word “should” from you vocabulary.), personal goals that don’t fit in my life at this time but that I plan to tackle later in life, housework, and trying to be anything that ends in “est” (I don’t need to be the richest, thinnest or smartest.)

Your non-negotiables may include spending time with your children and/or your parents, prioritizing your health, focusing on your career, or serving a cause you care about. The list shouldn’t be too long – maybe three to five things that truly matter to you.

Your non-negotiables are what you say yes to; everything else is optional. And when you start saying yes to your non-negotiable list, saying no to other requests becomes simple. For example, if daily exercise is on your non-negotiable list, the next time someone asks you to do something that interferes with your workout, say yes to your non negotiable and your no becomes clear cut. If spending time with family on Sundays is on your non-negotiable list, say yes to that instead of saying no to a request from the PTO to volunteer or from a neighbor for a favor or for the opportunity to work overtime for that that day. It may feel selfish at first, but you’ve decided, in this example, to put your family time first, and that deserves a yes.

The more you say yes to what truly matters, the easier it is to find your own version of balance in your life. Why continue to struggle with saying no? Instead, get better at saying yes.

So, what’s on your non-negotiable list? Download our “Finding Balance” worksheet.

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14 comments on “Finding Balance: Identify Your Non-Negotiables”

  1. Carla Reply

    These days I fear I have swung too far the other direction and NO too much identify as not a priority 🙂 at some point I will find my happy medium 🙂

    • Marilyn Reply

      I do pretty much everything for my dad but sometimes I feel it’s not enough when I say I’m busy, then feel guilty, my other family member comes around for visits only, not really supporting him ,more like having a social visit which is good fir him but feel she can do more maybe or not, I send her message I need her support for me, to help me,can she help? Not sure. Feeling alone and kinda tesentful

    • admin Reply

      Thanks Wendy. And we always need to reevaluate our priorities as our lives change.

  2. Rena McDaniel Reply

    Great ideas Liz! I am horrible at saying yes when I shouldn’t. I am getting better and these simple tips will help a lot!

  3. Haralee Reply

    I am much better at my time management of what is important for me and my family than in the past. I still get suckered into some family things, but I negotiate better.

    • admin Reply

      Yay Haralee! I love that you are mastering it and owning it. Of course we all stumble. That’s why this is a process.

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  5. Karin Reply

    (So late to the game on finding this website and these fantastic posts, but so very thankful I have! :-)) Excellent post that really makes us stretch and reframe our thinking – thank you!

  6. Emily Gaffney Reply

    I too am late to your party! Great stuff Liz! I like the simplicity of “non-negotiables”. I tend to live too much “in the moment” which often throws my balance off kilter – I’ll say “yes” to something (caretaking or other), and then realize I’ve overbooked on something else (happens al the time….). Although I’ve been good about putting some things first (exercise), I haven’t really considered them as non-negotiable – a much stricter parameter! Thanks for the insight! Emily

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