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Home / Articles / Columnists / The 15 Second Principle /  Non-Negotiable Rituals
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Tuesday, September 4,2012

Non-Negotiable Rituals

By Al Secunda  
Non-Negotiable Rituals

It’s one o’clock in the morning and I’ve just come home from a very late and enjoyable dinner party. I’m exhausted and can’t wait to fall into bed and disappear under the covers. As my body yearns for this immediate escape, I know there is still one thing left to do. I walk into the bathroom, pick up a spool of dental floss, and begin a nightly flossing ritual that has been going on for decades. I finish up by brushing my teeth, walking into the bedroom like a zombie, and collapsing into the bed.


A Non-Negotiable Agreement

The action of flossing my teeth has become a nonnegotiable agreement. A non-negotiable agreement is some action (or non-action when dealing with addictions or compulsions) that you have agreed to do for yourself on a daily basis in spite of any feelings, thoughts, beliefs, excuses, or circumstances that may arise. Regardless of the scarcity of time or any internal screaming, feeling, pleading, debating, and/ or reasoning that may be occurring you agree to remain committed to a commitment that you have made with yourself for yourself.

Why Personal Non-Negotiables Are Challenging

In life, most of our daily commitments, positive habits and masterful actions are performed for others. We take care of our kids, feed our pets, go to work, pay the utility bills, write the report for our teacher or boss, help a friend with his/her dream or important project, etc. Regardless of how we are feeling or what we are thinking we show up and perform these actions because we have responsibilities, people are waiting, we gave our word to someone, and/or there are witnesses out there watching.

All of the above disciplined actions were put into motion because of someone else’s wants, demands and daily needs. In this respect, they are all reactive actions that, over time, due to repetition can become deeply grooved.

When this occurs, how can we become an active rather than a reactive person? How do we learn to groove empowering actions for ourselves so that we are able to accomplish our own dreams, personal projects and healthy regimens on a more regular basis? This is an important question because if we have no experience showing up on a consistent basis, it will become extremely challenging to face, engage, and complete a personal project for yourself.

To begin to strengthen our dream muscles we will need to develop the skill of taking actions on a regular basis, even when we don’t feel like it. If we can’t remain committed to our commitments what will occur is that our feelings, thoughts, beliefs and emotions will control, postpone or renegotiate what we want, but are unable to do. When this occurs, the things we care about the most can get trashed, frozen, or abandoned as we become reactive slaves to anything disempowering that may surface.

Specifically, if you listen to your fears, thoughts, feelings, discomforts, emotions and “reasons.”

- The walk or jog you promised you’d take will never occur because you are just too tired, busy, or depressed.

- The second chapter of the novel you are longing to write will not be started, because you weren’t in the right magical mood to start writing it.

- The musical instrument that you’d love to start playing again will sit untouched because you fear that too many years of “non-playing” time have already elapsed.

- The doctor’s appointment that should be made will not be made because you get frozen in place every time you think of how much time and money you are going to need for the appointment.

Why Make a Non-Negotiable Agreement

Because the body and mind resist being selfregimented on a daily basis, it is very helpful to develop the skill of taking at least one non-negotiable and self-empowering action on a daily basis. This habit will help you to become more disciplined in other areas of your life as well. Regardless of any “reasonable reasons” and feelings that may appear and attempt to pursuade you to abandon or ignore the things you care about most in your life, you will be able to keep showing up.

Be aware that unless you have mastered at least one personal non-negotiable daily action, your logic, beliefs and lethargy, usually in the form of fear, can have a field day luring you away from your dreams and getting you to abandon your passions by persuading you not to take “master-full” and “health-full” actions on a regular basis.

A non-negotiable action can become your mastery touchstone.

If I flossed last night or did my minimum of five push-ups this morning or touched the flute for one minute - even when I didn’t feel like taking any action two things will occur. First, it will be easier to live up to and return to this same agreement the next day. Second, other agreements will become easier to make, face and return to as well.

Doc Severinsen’s Non-Negotiable

Doc Severinsen is one of the greatest big band trumpet players ever to come along. For many years he was the band leader for Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. A few years after Carson, McMahon, and Severinsen left the show, Doc was having a late dinner with my friends Marv and Fran Kaplan up in the Santa Inez Valley in California. At some point, Doc looked at his watch, realized how late it was getting and said, “Oh boy, I’d better get home. I still have to practice the trumpet before I go to sleep.”

It is obvious to me that Doc (and most professional musicians) had developed a non-negotiable and master-full agreement between himself and his trumpet.

How to Develop Your Non- Negotiable Skills

If you are interested in developing your non-negotiable muscle, below are some suggestions 1) Pick some action or thing that you would like to have more would like to have more discipline in. It can be a dream or a health-full project.

2) Start small and be gentle with yourself. Agree to take the action at least once a week for a month. (At the end of the month you will have logged in at least four of these actions.)

3) For the second month, agree to take the action at least twice a week. (At the end of the month you will have logged in at least eight of these actions.)

4) For the third month, agree to take the action at least three times a week for a month. (Twelve actions per month.)

5) I’m sure you are getting the picture. By the seventh month, you will be taking the action every day.

6) If and when you, drop the ball and neglect to take a non-negotiable action, forgive yourself. Beating yourself up will usually make it more difficult to return to your agreement.

Once you develop a non-negotiable action what you will discover is the following:

1) When that fear-full voice attempts to convince you not to take the action, do the following. Thank the voice of fear for sharing and caring and still take the action.

2) Do not engage and / or debate the voice. What you resist will persist. Instead, let the voice speak while not granting it the right to vote.

Remember, once you let your feelings, moods and thoughts dictate what you do and what you don’t do, what gets accomplished and what doesn’t get accomplished, you will let your values, dreams and commitments get trashed and controlled by your feelings, thoughts, beliefs and fears. Instead, stay committed to your Non-Negotiable Habit(s) — and see how much more control you have over your life.


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