What are Your “Non-Negotiables?”

By July 9, 2018Blog

A few weeks ago, I shared an article with you about my experience climbing Isthmus Peak in New Zealand, and its relation to my hockey experience of breaking down big, scary tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks.

Today, we’re going to take that concept a step further and talk about how you can use those smaller, more manageable chunks to inch your way towards your goals over time.

I guarantee if I asked anyone their biggest roadblock when it comes to completing any goal, they’d say it was time. And regardless of how many TV shows you can recite verbatim, it’s true that everyone is ‘busy’ nowadays.

There’s so much to be done and the expectations are so high of everyone that it sometimes just doesn’t feel like 24 hours are enough.

And if your emotional connection to that goal – the holy-shit-I-need-to-do-this feeling, isn’t strong enough, you’re going to have a real hard time leaving that exhausting board meeting and heading to the gym instead of going home to tuck into dinner, blackout to some shitty TV show and hit the hay.

So how do you dig into that deep, dark emotional goal? How do we get to the painful thoughts that keep you up at night, even if you don’t quite know what they are?

First, ask yourself what it is you want 3 to 6 months down the road.

Weight loss? Maybe…

Huge guns? I don’t know…

Less painful days after beer league games? Most likely…

Then ask yourself why that’s so important to you.

Then ask yourself again what reaching that goal will do for you.

Then ask again – why?

This often takes quite a bit of poking and prodding before you truly get to the emotional reason, but in most cases, it comes down to holding on to an identity.

For me, this was my identity as an athlete.

After you figure that out – and that may not be as easy as you think, you need to think of some smaller tasks that you could do every single day.

I’m talking like, your house is on fire and you’ve been fired from your job, and you can still do it. These are activities you need to stick to no matter what.

I’ll re-write my example from What’s Your Next Five Minutes?”

People think it’s really easy for me to workout because I literally live in a gym. But there’s something that’s just not appealing about working out where you work. Too many distractions and I’m already there for too long every week.

So some days, I need to trick myself into working out or at least doing something. My training non-negotiable on days I don’t want to workout is my warm-up.

I have to at least complete my scheduled warm-up for the day before I can get the fuck outta Dodge.

Then, I inevitably feel better (because I did my warm-up) and I start thinking about hitting my first big lift. Usually, the rest is history.


Why Does This Work?

It seems that each and every one of us is busier today than we were even a year ago. Responsibilities pile up, more people rely on us and the pressure cooker gets cranked up to ten.

The number one excuse for “staying the same” or “getting stuck in a rut” is lack of time. Hell, I’m a culprit myself, complaining that I can’t finish a module in a business coaching course that I paid a lot of money to be a part of.

Which is why non-negotiables work so well.

All you need for a non-negotiable, especially the ones I’ll outline below, is five to ten minutes. And you show me someone who doesn’t have five to ten minutes, I’ll show you someone who doesn’t have their priorities in order.

You’ll find that as you start to include these activities in your daily routine, those five minutes begin to stretch and all of a sudden, you have 15. You’ll also catch yourself thinking about it more throughout the day.

You’ll work on finding the time to complete part of it here and finish it off there. It will become sort of a game in that athlete’s head of yours and winning will become the first priority.

Then, you’ll start to feel better and that ball rolling down the hill will just get bigger and faster and continue picking up steam.

And it all starts with a five-minute non-negotiable.

I’ll provide a few examples to get the ball rolling. You don’t have to include each one of these, and you may find you’re already way ahead on one of them. Just food for thought, my friend.


Take Ten Minutes of Mindfulness Per Day

In Tim Ferriss’ book Tools of the Titans, he outlined common themes that kept popping up as habits among the most powerful, wealthy and successful people in the World. Right at the top of that list was some form of mindfulness every day.

I know us athletes have a bit of a stilted version of meditation, but it’s really just a technique for becoming more mindful.

I’m notoriously bad at sitting still for any period of time, unless I’m completely exhausted, in which case I’m most likely sleeping within approximately two minutes.

As such, I’m horrible at meditation.

But I’ve recently learned that I’m really bad at identifying and communicating my own emotions – which doesn’t serve me or the people I care about at all.

I also learned that by taking just ten minutes a day to literally think without interruption or distraction, I’ve learned a lot about myself.

So whether you download an app like Headspace and jump into their ten-day meditation intro, or you just put your phone in the other room while you have your morning coffee, taking some time to be mindful would be a great non-negotiable to insert into your life.

Fill Out a Gratitude Journal

I’m not even kidding when I say that using The 5-Minute Journal  every day when I wake up and every evening before I go to bed has completely shifted me into a more positive mindset.

The way I view the World and the situations I encounter has almost done a complete 180 since I now realize just how lucky for all that I have.

And I’ll tell ya something; it’s really fucking refreshing.

I would recommend this as the first step to becoming more mindful – even before meditation or anything like that. The 5-Minute Journal simply forces you to take a couple minutes upon waking and before sleeping to think about positive things that you have in your life or have happened to you recently.

And come on… you can’t give yourself 5 minutes or less?

Buy The 5-Minute Journal HERE.

Just Do Your Warm-Up

So I want to tell you a story about my friend, Evan.

Evan isn’t necessarily allergic to dairy, but his stomach definitely doesn’t like it. Like we’re talking running to the bathroom within an hour – feeling awful the rest of the day/night, doesn’t like it.

Nachos have not been a good scene in the past…

As such, Evan avoids dairy in all situations and, even though he loves cheese, knows that it just isn’t happening, unless he’s prepared to suffer the dire consequences.

So, this has become a non-negotiable that Evan was forced to live with.

As you see, I like to frame non-negotiables in a positive way, but I think you get the point I’m trying to make.

Evan doesn’t have the freedom to decide that he doesn’t feel like completing this task for the day. He can’t say he doesn’t have the motivation one day and just start burying cheese and crackers.

It’s the non-negotiable of all non-negotiables.

In the same vein, there are times when all of us just don’t feel like training. We’re exhausted, it’s been a long day, the AC in the gym is broken and there’s a new season of Last Chance U on Netflix (when is that, by the way?).

There will always be times when you lack motivation, but when Evan lacks the motivation to stay away from dairy, should he just throw in the towel and forget about it?

Do your warm-up.

Do 20 pushups.

Do five minutes of something active.

Make it so simple and so guaranteed to make you feel better that you know you need to do it. Here’s an example.

Deep down, you know that you cannot keep your “athlete” card if you don’t do this one little thing that you know will make you feel better.

This may stretch into completing your main lift for the day. Or maybe it will only become a quick gun workout.

Doesn’t matter. Just don’t do nothing.

As I said above, this will inevitably turn into more than just the warm-up and, on the off-chance it doesn’t, at least you did something for the day and probably feel better both physically and mentally.


Send One Text, Make One Phone Call

I’ll keep this short and sweet.

You know that one person who is really important to you and you haven’t spoken to them in too long?

Yeah, send them a 20-second text.

Better yet, pick up the phone.

Be an athlete. Get it done.

To finding, scheduling and actually doing your non-negotiables.

Coach Gav

If you want more exclusive content, access to lots of FREE shit, and to better understand the twisted mind of a former goalie turned fitness pro, sign up for the McHale S & C email list. Once you join the team, I will harass you with musings on hockey, lifting heavy shit, and fitting alcohol into your macros.


Gavin McHale

Author Gavin McHale

Online training and nutrition coach, retired semi-pro hockey goalie, and ex-skinny kid. Currently a beer league superstar, and lover of lifting heavy things, Gavin will help you reclaim that athletic, dead sexy body, and shrink your clothing budget. Because tarps are always optional.

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