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  • Writer's pictureMen's Corner

What for You is Non-Negotiable?

Updated: Jun 18, 2019

By John Richards


One of the questions I ask clients to think about in the Awareness days that I direct is:


‘What for you is Non-Negotiable?’

In the introductory session of the day, I encourage delegates to think honestly and carefully as individuals about what might be the essential practices or elements in their life, work and relationships without which they would be unable to function or exist.

It is an endlessly interesting exercise because, of the many people from a whole range of backgrounds with whom I have worked, all without exception have to think intently for some time before journalling their answers. 

Furthermore, when as a group we discuss how it may have felt thinking in this way, delegates invariably confess that they have barely ever thought such a question through for themselves, or ever considered it’s implications for life and personal growth.

Often those keen to share their answers describe the most fascinating essentials on which psychological wellbeing rests and without which they would struggle to cope. 

Naturally there are many who are certain that time and closeness to their children or partners are the only thing that they couldn’t negotiate on, but others seem committed to agonising over this question - even if what is uncovered is uncomfortable - in an attempt to greater understand themselves and pursue personal change and growth.

One successful businessman shared quietly that after thinking intently for nearly five minutes, he ultimately challenged himself to write completely honestly and wrote about his addiction to the gym and his countless hours spent there, often to the detriment of his family life and the cause of much conflict in his marriage. 

Another delegate tentatively shared that without her hour of yoga and meditation every morning, she knew without any doubt that her marriage would quickly crumble as would her psychological health and her ability to do her job as a Senior Leader. 

I have been privileged to hear people both relay and grapple with the most remarkable and unexpected things when they really consider such a question deeply, bravely, honestly and with a view to exploring themselves and unearthing that which is hidden in their lives.

Often, when we are courageous with ourselves and are willing to look a little deeper into such questions, there is a wealth of truth and revelation waiting to be discovered that can lead to personal challenge, renewal and subsequent inspiration.

I ask my clients to consider 12 different personal ‘Life’ questions on the Awareness/Change days that I direct. All 12 are about individual values, thoughts, backgrounds, influences, relationships, hopes and personal ambitions. I have never yet had a single delegate either prepared with an answer or respond that they have ever thought about any of the questions raised.

I find this phenomenon endlessly fascinating.

Many of us seem to live a life that in the words of John Lennon, actually happens when we are ‘busy making other plans’. We often live carried along by the force of external events or by our unexamined actions, habits and choices, despite the fact that they have significant and far reaching consequences. 

We tend to spend little time reflecting on the deep questions, missing the fact that the answers to these questions actually underpin all that we do and feel, every moment, every hour, every day.

In the overwhelming information bombardment of our modern ‘connected' world, it occurs to me that in our constant busyness and the relentless challenge of balancing the multiple demands on us, we may be missing the element that in our humanity is most essential to our growth and wellbeing; personal time in which to reflect and challenge ourselves with a view to change.

The willingness and discipline to take time out to think about what we really feel and think and the values that underpin our actions and behaviours holds enormous power to bring healing, positive change and true growth.

We might do well to prioritise it.

(an extract from Deeper)


John Richards is an experienced business retreat facilitator, personal growth expert, author of 'Deeper', and director of​

He is a founding director of The Inspiration Programme.

Together with his co-directors Neil Laughton and Angus Wingfield, he leads adventure retreats in places around the world as diverse as Mount Everest and wild South Africa.



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