A few weeks ago my energy was low and I didn’t feel motivated to do even the things I love to do. I’d poured all my time, thoughts, and energy into the project I was working on and pushed everything else aside. I thought I could get back to taking care of myself and easily get started on the next thing once the more pressing project was finished. Instead, I was exhausted and couldn’t seem to find enough energy to do something fun, much less dive into another project.
I blamed my fatigue on the weather or lack of sleep or other obligations or just my own personal failings. Maybe some of those elements do play a part, but when it comes right down to it, I think the biggest factor contributing to my weariness was neglecting the activities I know help me manage my energy.
Certain things I do help me feel calm and grounded or energized and fully alive even through life’s inevitable ups and downs. These non-negotiables support me in showing up as the best version of myself. Of course, I still have rough days, but I’m less likely to be completely thrown off course when I make my non-negotiables part of my daily routine.
The funny thing is, when I’m feeling particularly anxious or lethargic it often seems like too much work to do the very activities I know will help me get back on track…even though most of them are things I genuinely enjoy.
When we’re stuck it seems easier to stay stuck than to do something about it. The good news is we don’t have to go from lying on the couch to conquering the world all in one giant leap. Often deciding to do one tiny thing is all it takes to start gaining a little momentum.
First things first. The point isn’t to do something just to do something. Let’s start figuring out what your non-negotiables are so you know which activities will be most effective in helping you maintain the energy you need to do the things you want to do or help you get back on track when you get in a rut.
Non-negotiables can really be anything from eating a smoothie to singing to yoga to wearing the color yellow. It doesn’t matter what your non-negotiables are as long as they work for you.
Non-negotiables don’t need to be complex or time consuming. The point isn’t to devote your days to your non-negotiables, but to do the little things that support you in living the life you want to live. In fact, the small, simple activities are the easiest to incorporate consistently into our daily routines.
Some of my non-negotiables include journaling, exercise, spending time outside (winter is a challenge!), getting enough sleep, making something with my hands, drinking enough water, connecting with another person, and so on. I don’t necessarily do all of these things everyday, but it’s important to keep them a consistent part of my life. Often when I notice things not going so well, I also realize I’ve been neglecting my non-negotiables.
The internet is filled with must-do lists for living a happy, productive life and some of those lists have great ideas—but there is no one right set of non-negotiables to meet everyone’s needs. Rather than looking out there for a magic formula to make your life run smoothly, I’d encourage you to learn from your own experiences. Reflect back on your own life to answer these two questions.
- What activities or practices help you feel peaceful, content, and at home in yourself?
- What activities or practices help you feel energetic, enthusiastic, and ready for action?
Likely your non-negotiables are included in your answers. Of course, some things—like skydiving or hiking the Grand Canyon—are difficult to incorporate into day-to-day life. Those specific activities may not be your non-negotiables, but they often hold clues about what to look for. Is there something about the essence of an activity you can bring into your life more often?
Over time you can refine your list of non-negotiables. As you pay attention, you may notice practices you hadn’t thought about before. Creating your list of non-negotiables is really about trying things and paying attention to what works and what doesn’t.
When you notice yourself feeling down or tired refer to your list and ask yourself whether you’ve been keeping up with the activities that help you feel your best. If not, don’t beat yourself up about it. Just gently start again.
Like so many things, we don’t have to do it all at once. Start small and build from there. Would you be willing to choose one thing from your list and commit to doing it everyday for the next week. At the end of the week look back. What do you notice?
What are your non-negotiables? How do they help you live as you want to live? What happens when you neglect them?