Whether it’s in life or work, we all have a core set of values that we don’t waver from. The way I see it, these inner values are what makes us, us. 

I like to call these inner values our “non-negotiables.” 

They’re our driving principles that we stick to, even if it's on a subconscious level. When you strip everything else away, these non-negotiables stand strong. We don’t challenge our non-negotiables. We protect these values and defend them. 

However, we might not even be aware of what those values are. 

That means that we are all operating in specific ways without the awareness of understanding why. 

Can You Name Your Driving Principles? 

If you can’t clearly define your non-negotiables, you’re not operating with the clarity you need to streamline your life. 

For example, if you don’t know what your values are, you might fall into conflict and confusion when those values are challenged. But, since you cannot clearly articulate what that value is and why it’s important to you, you might not understand why you’re emotionally responding to a certain situation. That means you aren’t really in control of your actions, inviting issues that stem from blind reactions. 

On the other hand, you’d be more grounded and confident if you were clear about your values in the first place. If circumstances arise that challenge your values, you won’t feel confused. You’ll know exactly where you stand, how much you can budge, and most importantly — what is pushing you to make certain decisions. 

In short, knowing your core values empowers you while not knowing them creates the burden of uncertainty. If you want more clarity in your life, defining your non-negotiables can help you develop your own self-awareness. 

The more you know about yourself, the smarter you can play work, life, and everything in between. 

Tips for Defining Your Non-Negotiables 

Here are a few tips that can help us tap into these non-negotiable values to figure out what they are. 

#1. Make a List of People You Admire

Who are your role models? Who inspires you during your darkest moments? What figures have guided you through your life?

Even if it’s cheesy, like Spider-Man or Wonder Woman, write out all of the people or figures that you admire. It can be your mother, your first-grade teacher, or your college football coach. 

Write out your list and then look at the people you named. Is there a common theme or characteristic? What do these people mean to you? What do they embody? 

Whether it’s dependability, honor, or success against all odds, think about the values hidden within your list. 

#2. Think of Moments You Were Proud… and Ashamed

What is your proudest moment? Chances are those accomplishments tie into your core values in some way. 

Then, think of the times you felt ashamed. It’s likely that you felt shame because you went against your core values.

Finding the hidden messages within your experiences can teach you more about yourself by uncovering what’s most important to you. 

#3. Observe Your Thoughts 

Watching your mental talk can help you pick up on themes that underlie most of your thoughts. Pay attention to your goals, worries, and concerns to identify the core motives for these ideas. 

This will teach you more about yourself, helping you take ownership of your non-negotiables.