What are your Non-Negotiables? (January, 2024)

Non-negotiables of life are the self-imposed personal rules that one does not compromise on, no matter what may come. These are the foundational stones upon which the entire building of our life stands. All the great personalities we adore or worship have abided by their non-negotiables. For instance, one of the personal code of conducts Lord Rama had was that he would follow his parents’ words as an iron-clad directive. As was also discussed in the last few months, we plan to start the year by reflecting on and identifying our Non-Negotiables. As part of this month’s assignment, we expect kids (adults are welcome to join) to bring their non-negotiables.

Before I ask you to start identifying your non-negotiables, let’s understand wrong or harmful non-negotiables, which we must stay clear of. It is unfortunate that one can easily spot people carrying baseless notions and beliefs. For instance, some people will delay or cancel their trip if a cat cross their road. Rather than helping them, their misplaced beliefs hurt them. These are NOT the non-negotiables we should be establishing as our foundation. And, if you have some like this, break them.

The true non-negotiables that we are asking you to identify and start building are the personal code of conduct. They originate from a clear and deep understanding of righteousness and an unshakeable faith in its observance.

This means a character building non-negotiable is not an arbitrary behavior or stand; instead, it is an idea, a principle, a rule that is shaped by deep and profound understanding of right and wrong. In that regard, it is critical that we study scriptures, learn from knowledgeable and learned people, and reflect on our behavior. Only then will we be able to discern between the reasons behind our behavior: true knowledge vs. societal/peer pressure. Understand ingif our behavior is originating from sheer habit or solid reasoning helps us build sound non-negotiables.

The second key quality of the right non-negotiables is an unshakeable faith in their everlasting validity.  Much like timeless scientific principles, moral principles are free of time and space considerations. That is, they do not change with circumstances: what was right yesterday holds true today and will continue to guide our behavior tomorrow. We must know that we are not observing them to show it to others or they can change as the circumstances change.

Consider a scenario where a child shows respect to his parents. If this respect is solely based on his age and circumstances, it might diminish as he becomes more independent or faces changes in his life. In contrast, a child who treats paying respect to parents as a non-negotiable would maintain a consistent level of respect, unaffected by age or circumstances. Then, respecting parents will not just be a behavior dictated by external factors; it’ll be a deeply ingrained value. The child will have strong faith in the everlasting validity of the principle. This example illustrates how a principle, when vetted in true knowledge and fully internalized, becomes a non-negotiable for life.

Another great example is from the life of Lord Rama. He did not flinch upon learning that Kaikeyi asked King Dashrath to exile Ram for 14 years and crown her son, Bharat, in Ram’s place. Despite the fact that he was slated to be crowned the very next day, Ram left for the jungles, as any other behavior would have made his father ashamed of not keeping up with his promises. He was clear about his non-negotiables.

The self-imposed rules not only act as lifelong guide and moral compass but also offer a decision-making framework. Whenever we are in doubt, these principles help us make right choice with ease. They help us reduce stress and confusion. They promote consistency in our beliefs and actions, which help us stay true to ourselves.

Below are some examples of the non-negotiables that possess the above mentioned two qualities:

  1. Respect for parents
  2. Standing firmly for family
  3. Not taking (not even thinking) what is not mine
  4. Not hurting anyone – emotionally or physically
  5. Not smoking/not drinking
  6. Giving without any expectation from the receiver
  7. Staying away from drugs
  8. Never compromise trust
  9. Continuous growth
  10. Apologizing on realizing own mistake
  11. Seeking forgiveness
  12. Respecting and living in harmony with nature

Please use the above list as inspiration for coming up with your own non-negotiables. As a part of this month’s assignment, kids will

  1. Describe what Non-Negotiables are
  2. Describe what Non-Negotiable are NOT
  3. Share at least three Non-Negotiables they have or plan to build upon

As always, I am looking forward to hearing interesting and inspiring interpretations and views of our hawan kids. Make us proud!


Harsh Mendiratta