I often spend a lot of time with my clients talking about the three ‘C’s’ – Change, Choice and Control.
While there will always be times in life that events happen which are outside of our control, there is one thing that we always get to have control over – ourselves. Our actions, reactions, and what I like to call our ‘pre-actions’ (the things that we do in our lives which prepare us for any eventuality).
When clients come into therapy they have usually got to a point where they want to make changes. Sometimes they know what these changes need to be, other times they don’t - they just know that they no longer feel ‘right’. Sometimes the change is obvious, i.e. they want to have more energy, and in order to do that they know that they need to change their eating habits, so we look at how to make those changes. Other times it’s less obvious, i.e. they are feeling lonely and isolated despite being married and having friends, and we might look at how they are functioning in relationships and whether the relationships they currently have are working for them.
Choice comes into play once we know what the changes are that need to be made. Sometimes we know what needs to change, and why, but we just don’t seem to be able to make the choice to. For example, we might know that we want to do more exercise, because we want to feel stronger, fitter, more supple and to improve our mood – but when it comes to it, we just don’t do it. We know that the yoga class that we want to attend is on a Tuesday night, we know that when we go to it we feel great, but sometimes we don’t get to it; - because a friend was upset and wanted to talk on the phone, or we were tired, or someone invited us out, so then we don’t go for two or three weeks and we feel like we’re out of routine, or too embarrassed to go back, so we don’t. Hey presto! We didn’t make the choices that we needed to, so we didn’t make the change that we wanted, and now not only are we back at square one with our physical fitness, we feel even worse emotionally because we feel as though we failed. Making choices is really hard.
Now onto non-negotiables. These, in contrast, are really easy. They are about NOT making choices – because we know how bad we are at those. We have hundreds of non-negotiables in our lives, but we don’t even notice them – (because they make life really, effortlessly, easy). A non-negotiable is a pre-made choice that we do not deviate from under any circumstances. For example, I don’t smoke, I never have to ‘choose’ not to smoke, I just don’t smoke. I could be offered a cigarette in a hundred different ways and I still wouldn’t smoke. Non-negotiable. I brush my teeth every day, without thinking about it, without consciously choosing it. Non-negotiable.
The more things that we have in our lives that are non-negotiable, the easier it is to make changes. The list of non-negotiables will be different for everyone; for some it might be that Tuesday night yoga is a non-negotiable, for others it might be ensuring that they finish work by 6pm on a Friday, for others still it might be getting out of bed by 9am every day, or washing their hair. Non-negotiables aren’t about having rigid rules and laws to live by; they are about recognising the things which truly support us in our lives and help us to move towards our goals without the pitch and toss of having to make choices.
When we commit ourselves 100% to our choice, it is no longer a choice, it’s no longer a process, it’s no longer a struggle, it just is. Like Nike says, we ‘Just Do It’.
What needs to go on your list of non-negotiables?