Monday, March 1, 2010

What Are Your "Non-Negotiables"?

An equally important aspect of setting your life purpose is to define the non-negotiable things in your life. Some define that as family, or faith, or integrity. Others define it as freedom, power and prosperity. How do you define your non-negotiables?

Non-negotiable things in your life are like Stop signs that prevent you from going to places of absolute regret.
Photo Credit: "Stop" by Frank Fani

Non-negotiable things in your life are things you would never exchange for anything. You wouldn't want anyone to touch it. When someone wants to take it, you'd say, "Over my dead body, Mister!"

Some call these things as principles. Some call it values. Whatever name you call them, they're absolutely not for sale! No compromises.

What's the big deal about knowing what your non-negotiables are?

Two things:
First: So you'd know what circumstances to avoid
Second: So you won't feel guilty for making compromises on the rest

Let me elaborate.

Non-negotiables tell you what to avoid

Have you ever been in a situation wherein sheer pressure pushed you to make drastic decisions that you regretted later? When you know that a drastic decision would lead you to clash with your own non-negotiable, you can avoid it. 

Someone I know counts loyalty among his non-negotiables. He was happily working for his father's business when he began to feel a rift between them because of their diverging styles. Father and son were passionate about what they thought was best for the family business.

Those who are familiar with what's happening in a family business would see the picture here. Here's a guy wanting to assert himself with his "new school" methodologies in a family business that is governed -- by his Dad -- with his "old school" methodologies.

Had it been someone else's business, he could have easily resigned. But loyalty to his family was non-negotiable. Yet, neither could he stay and clash with his Dad almost everyday. It was equally unacceptable.

When he saw that loyalty was a non-negotiable thing for him, he clearly saw the next thing that he needed to do: swallow his pride and talk to his Dad, heart-to-heart. He poured out to his Dad about his frustrations, at the same time assuring his Dad of his loyalty.

The next day, his Dad came up with a brilliant idea. He gave his son his own division to run. They would then both look at best practices in their respective styles and come up with a third unified style -- that's synergy defined.

Looking back, it was talking to his Dad that he feared the most. He drew courage from the knowledge that loyalty to his family was central to the issue. It was the inspiration that powered him to move on.

Non-negotiables tell you where you can be more flexible

When you know you could compromise a bit on the rest, that takes out a lot of guilt, right there, because you know you retain something of greater value.

Let me illustrate.

A very successful and passionate advertising executive shocked the whole company one day with her resignation. This well-liked outgoing go-getter told everyone that she made a decision to stay home. Everyone understood the pressures of parenting and advertising career, but ... resign and stay home? Everyone wondered why she would have the gall to give up a shining career.

Let me tell you why.

One day he saw his son's Christmas card project. There was a line drawing of a man marked "Daddy" and a little boy marked "me." She asked where "Mommy" was in the picture.

The boy said, "Oh, there's no more space for Mommy."

That innocent reply sent electric shocks all throughout her spine. That's when she knew that motherhood was a non-negotiable. After a moment of seeming paralysis and tears, she talked to her husband and they both made a decision.

She still missed her advertising career. But she said that was something she could always come back to in five or ten years. The chance to be there for his son was something that could not wait.

The examples I have given are modified versions of real stories I have encountered. I have not made them up. But true as they are, the people involved are different from you.

They have found their non-negotiables. Have you found yours?

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