Non-negotiables for optimal health

In today’s world, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the readily available and conflicting information on what is best for optimal health and well-being. This overwhelming feeling may be preceded with these questions;

  • Do you often suffer from low energy?
  • Are you looking to make a major change in your life?
  • Are you feeling stuck and don’t know where to start?
  • Are you chasing after another quick fix?
  • Are you tired of failing and trying again and again?

If you’ve had any or all of these questions run through your mind, it’s because you can probably relate to at least one of the problems below.

Problem #1 – Not knowing & not doing

Every week, it seems like there is a new dietary or lifestyle trend, fiercely competing for your attention and money. All promising to get you quick results as it did for that other person. Here is something to ponder on; The wellness market is now a 4.2 trillion global industry. The New Global Wellness Institute research reveals the wellness market is growing at a historic rate: nearly twice as fast as the global economy.

This can leave you with constant feelings of FOMO (fear of missing out), like there is “something” out there and once you get on that next “best trend”, you’ll achieve your goals, and everything would finally be perfect. Unfortunately, that’s the idea many programs are designed to sell, and many often fail to produce lasting change because they don’t deliver habit change.

Problem #2 – Knowing but not doing

If somehow, you managed to find that “something” that resonates with you, you might get stuck in this second trap. You probably know exactly what habits you need to adapt to achieve results but aren’t doing it right now. Why? It’s either because you’re missing an important three-ingredient recipe. The ingredients are the right system, the right support, and true accountability.

The right system means the right steps in the right order. The right support and accountability is something or someone (which could be a partner, a community, or health coach) to assist you when you’re feeling stuck or have fallen off track.

Problem #3 – Doing but doing too much

The third problem is doing too much all at once. If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority. As humans, we are all restricted by finite currencies: time, energy, and money.

As one of my favorite bloggers Paula Pant from Afford Anything would say, You can afford anything…But not everything. You might be doing the right things to optimize your health, but lack the consistency or longevity needed to deliver results because you are doing too much at once.

I struggled with fatigue and low energy which caused me to experience mood swings and low motivation for several days a week. In my quest to resolve this during the course of several years, I encountered all three problems presented above at one point or another.

Fortunately for me, I spent the first half of 2020 advancing my knowledge of holistic health & wellness and habit change. And over and over again, I encountered the same solution. The bad news is that there is NO magic quick-fix strategy! But the good news is that the strategies that work are quite basic and often free.

These strategies are the fundamental steps necessary to improve your health and well-being and deliver long-lasting results. You can always add on to them, but you need to start with the basics to build a solid foundation.

Solution # 1- I created a list of non-negotiables

A list of non-negotiable habits is an essential first step to optimize your health. These are habits that would always be prioritized first. Think of it as a written contract you have with your current self and your future self that has already achieved that goal. This “contract” contains your list of non-negotiables you will commit to.

I came up with my list based on strategies that (1) are backed by scientific research (2) provide multiple benefits (3) cost little to nothing (4) lay a foundation to build other habits on. My non-negotiables are not optional. They are things I strive to do every day, no matter what.

Here are my six non-negotiables 

  1. Sleep (7-8 hours every night)
  2. Hydration (1.5 – 2.5L of water every day)
  3. Magic plate with every meal (created a balanced plate “magic plate” with every meal and snack)
  4. Mental nutrition (incorporating one or more of the following; mantras, meditation, mindfulness, and music every day)
  5. Movement (created a movement menu that includes one or more of the following exercise routines, walking, dancing, and yoga every day)
  6. Connection (connecting with one or more: family, friends, community, nature, and that which is greater every day)

Solution #2 – I started small and layered more

I did not adopt these strategies all at once. It took several weeks to months. I started with hydration, then the magic plate, before I continued unto the additional items on my list. Since my goal was to turn them into lasting habits, it was imperative for me to start slow.

Solution #3 – I established specific goals and tracked them

When creating goals, or in this case healthy habits, it’s important to make them SMART. SMART in this context, is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. It is often applied when setting goals and can be applied to habits.

The second part of this solution is tracking. Because I had created SMART goals, it made it easy to track them. I recently became a huge supporter of tracking my habits because it works as my accountability partner and cheerleader all in one. I played around with several habit trackers and I ended up with one that is simple, visually appealing, digital, and readily available. Plus I feel a sense of accomplishment clicking those checkboxes every day.

So, I have presented three potential solutions for things that you could start with today. But this post will not be complete without the “don’t do that” list.

The “don’t do that” list

  1. Don’t try to do too much at once. It’s a recipe for failure and is not sustainable. Start with one and layer on the next one.
  2. Don’t pursue the next expensive new thing without first trying the basics. Obtaining good quality and quantity of sleep consistently will probably provide you with as much energy as that $500 bottle of energy juice made from the Himalayas.
  3. Don’t just copy another person’s list. First start with the outcome you want, then walk backward and identify the specific habits that would get you there.
  4. Don’t be afraid to adjust your non-negotiables as your life changes. My non-negotiables are not dogmatic. They can and will be adjusted as situations in my life change.

Everyone has unique needs, situations and lifestyles, so your non-negotiables might look very different from mine and that’s totally okay!

To wrap up, here is my one action step for you. Well, it’s three steps in one.

Ask yourself…(1) What is ONE thing you want to improve RIGHT NOW in your life? (2) Make a list of non-negotiables that would solve that specific problem, or optimize your overall health and wellness. (3) Select ONE that you are most excited to try and make it SMART, along with a tracking system. Record it daily. Review and reflect your progress weekly, and repeat. This way, you will set yourself up for inevitable success.

Click here to download a free habit tracking pdf template

If you’re still feeling lost, overwhelmed, or stuck and need additional help to get started or unstuck, you are welcome to try a different approach. You can start with reading a book, taking an online course, and only if necessary invest in your future self by hiring a health coach. You can learn more about what health coaches do, who needs one, and how to find one by reading my article health coaching demystified.

Here are some resources that I have personally found useful

  1. Atomic Habits by James Clear (Book)
  2. The Power of Habits by Charles Duhigg (Book)
  3. The Science of wellbeing on Coursera by Dr. Laurie Santos (Online Course)

I am curious to know, do you already have non-negotiables? If so, what are they? Share them with me below along with any strategies that you have used to make them long-lasting.


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