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The art of setting rules: Define your non-negotiables

by | Success + Mindset

Do you know what really matters to you?

Have you honestly figured out what is important?

Not like ‘I have to watch Downtown Abby’ important, but I am prepared to fight tooth and nail important.

If the shit-hit-the-fan tomorrow would you have no problemo making decisions because you have mentally prepared yourself on what ultimately guides your decisions?

Having set principles to guide you will make you feel empowered and in control.

This life is YOURS. You must set the rules.

What are Non-negotiables

Non-negotiables are the things you will not negotiate on. They follow your values and principles and define not only what you will and won’t accept from others, but also what you will and won’t accept from yourself. They are the big-time deal breakers. They are the promises you keep to yourself, your family and your team.

They are unique to you and your situation, only you can determine what they are, and only you can manage them. They are there to guide you through hard times when decision making is difficult. With predetermined rules set in place, your focus won’t waiver from what you truly believe. Non-negotiables can be anything. Here are a few examples:

  • not working on weekends – family time
  • a weekly massage
  • scheduling exercise each day
  • getting up early to meditate
  • picking your child up from school
  • being in bed by 11 pm
  • having dinner with your family
  • analog Sunday (no email, no cell phone, no Facebook)
  • donating 10% to a charity or your church

One example of strong non-negotiables is those of Chik-fil-A and Hobby Lobby.

Although I do not agree with the views of either of companies all the time, I do appreciate their stringent non-negotiable of being closed on Sunday. To them, Sunday is for family, and they want their employees to have this time to enjoy.

Being closed on Sunday, every Sunday is a huge financial loss, but one that they are willing to take for their values.

Whether you agree with them or not, you can see that the money doesn’t matter, the non-negotiable does.

Could you stand behind your values if it meant losing millions of dollars?

When you clearly define what is important to you and are prepared to follow through the money won’t matter. Any judgment from others won’t matter. These are promises you are prepared to keep, no matter what. (Powerful stuff here.)

So how can you start to define what your non-negotiables are and implement a plan that works for you?

Try these steps to get you going.

1. Get clear

Identify what your non-negotiables are, write them down, and ensure you are clear on what is non-negotiable and the ‘nice to haves’ in your life.

Start by brainstorming what matters most to you. What values and principles guide you? What things do you refuse to budge on?

Go through this list and separate what is truly a non-negotiable and what is just ‘nice to have’. This list is YOURS, it will be different for everyone. Don’t feel apologetic about anything on it. Own each item, and stand up for them as they truly define what matters to you.

2. Keep current

As your life changes, so do what is important to you. Review your list a few times a year, to make sure your non-negotiables still resonate with you.

Major life changes such as having children, getting married or changing careers are all times that your non-negotiable list must be reviewed and updated.

3. Get aligned

How do your non-negotiables align with your values and your goals? Check in on these key points and you will make sure your actions are aligned with what really matters.

4. Communicate it

It is one thing to decide on your non-negotiables, but its another thing to actually live by them. Communicating with people that matter in your life – like your team or family – is very important.

Do not run your life in a bubble! Letting people know what is important to you and why will allow others to support you and help you stay on track.

Getting clear on what matters most to you, setting your non-negotiables around that, and then following through on them can really make a massive difference in all aspects of your life.

So learn the art of setting rules. It might just change everything.


Do you already have a few non-negotiables set, and didn’t realize?

Go through the exercise and define your non-negotiables and come back and share at least one with us.

Printing them out and putting them in a space you will see daily can help solidify your promises to yourself.

Good luck, and come back and share with us.



Torie Mathis helps entrepreneurs get from where they are to where they want to be by working smart.  She is a best-selling author, Army veteran, speaker + trainer, and your mentor to creating the business+ life you love. She has cracked the code for creating a lucrative, independent business + an amazing lifestyle. She can help you with your marketing and business growth, your clarity and purpose and help you reach your vision of success. 🙂

Torie hosts SMART AF, a show for non-techy, non-marketers looking to grow their business, with her husband Sean and is the creator of SMART AF Magazine.

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  1. Penelope Arnold

    Hey Torie. I was the marketing director for Chick-fil-A back in the day ( I’m retired now) we did a survey to see what amount of money we were loosing by closing on Sunday. The spread sheet and work that went in to this is too much to go over in an email but we were surprised to find that we were not loosing any money by closing on Sunday. Bottom line is people made up the extra day of not coming by doubling up there visits on the week days!

    • Torie Mathis

      Thanks for sharing that Penelope, that is amazing. I had never lived near a Chick-fil-A until recently. I didn’t realize the grand scale of their customer loyalty. It seems the line is wrapped around the store day and night. I can understand why, though I don’t eat much fast food, the service and quality have always been on point when I visited. How do you find (or train) the nicest people ever? And when your values as a company align with your customer’s values that loyalty seems to compound. I am sure the same holds true for Hobby Lobby as well, which I do frequent often. 🙂 Thanks again.

  2. Ashley Evdokimo

    Thank you so much for sharing this! Non-negotiables are important and sometimes we can lose sight of them. I actually just spoke about non-negotiables in one of my blogs. How fitting 🙂

    • Torie Mathis

      Hi Ashley! I am excited when others speak about non-negotiables too! I am looking forward to reading your take on them. Thanks!

  3. Rachel Grace

    I just love this article! It helped me learn and define what’s most important to me (especially for the new year)! I hope you don’t mind me sharing it on my own blog 🙂 Thank you for your insight!

    • KJ Strong

      I was asked to make a list as a personal growth exercise. Your article has helped me understand exactly how to go about a non-negotiable list for my life! I’m super excited to begin! The very one that I know for sure is that I will honor God in all I do!



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