Tobe Brockner

The Non-Negotiables

My alarm goes off at 5:00am. I roll to my back and slowly open my eyes. I count to 5 and then sit up, swinging my legs over the side of the bed. I sit up straight and breathe deeply for a few moments. In and out, in and out. I arch my back and stretch. I stretch my arms, my back, and my neck.

I close my eyes and go over things I am grateful for. Sometimes I list a dozen things. Sometimes just one or two. Whatever the number, I allow myself to feel deeply the gratitude for those things.

I get up and move to the pantry where a pot of coffee is waiting to be brewed. I grab my big water bottle from the refrigerator and make myself comfortable at the kitchen table, water and coffee at the ready.

I’ll spend the next hour alternating between reading (currently it’s Extreme Ownership and The E-Myth Mastery) and journaling. My journaling isn’t very structured. It’s more a stream of consciousness…just thoughts that are top of mind, maybe a recounting of my previous day. I just let the thoughts flow.

After that hour I will spend the next hour or so writing a blog article for my website (like this one!). Once that’s published it’s time for my walk and the gym. That takes about 2 hours all told. By now I have exercised both my mind and my body. I am feeling really good at this point and it is about 9am.

I am ready to face the day.

My Non-Negotiables

I wasn’t always so disciplined when it came to my mornings. In fact, it was common to go to bed at midnight or 1am the night before and sleep until 9am or even later. I always wondered why I would awake and still feel soooo tired and groggy.

Once I decided to make serious life changes I knew that I would need the structure of an early morning routine to help me win the day before it even began. I decided to implement a series of “non-negotiables” for each day. These are all the things I HAVE to do everyday or run the risk of derailing all my progress. For some, they may seem restrictive, but for me, they are liberating. 

We are the only known creatures on earth that have the capability to negotiate with our future selves. We can sacrifice the here and now for a better future version of ourselves. This is such an underrated and powerful concept. It allows us in large part to determine our own destiny. Of course there are always going to be things that hit us that we can’t control.

An illness in ourselves or a loved one, an accident that incapacitates us, the loss of a job, a breakup…the list goes on and on.


For the most part we are in control of our future selves. We can establish the habits of today that will mean the freedom of our tomorrow. If I pass on the cupcake sitting in the display at my favorite coffee shop I can more effectively control my weight and therefore my overall long-term health.

If I decide to humble myself when arguing with my spouse and try to make amends, I can assure our relationship will last. If I decide to save a bit of my paycheck and not buy everything I want right now, then I purchase the freedom of being debt free and financially secure in the future.

We are constantly making these types of bargains with ourselves. These bargains are necessary to order our lives properly and live a life by our own design and not one subject to our own weaknesses and ambivalence.

So, back to the non-negotiables. Here are a few of mine…

  • eat fewer than 75 carbs per day
  • walk at least an hour daily
  • lift weights at least 2x per week
  • journal at least 4x per week
  • read at least 30 minutes per day
  • have a weekly date night with my wife
  • have one-on-one time with each of my kids at least monthly
  • schedule out time for my hobbies each week
  • read my Vision Statement at least twice per week
  • stick to my monthly financial plan
  • pay all of our bills on time each month
  • attend my weekly Responsibility Call
  • get at least 7 hours of sleep per night

These are things that I have determined to be non-negotiable. They HAVE TO BE DONE or I know that my life can quickly (and alarmingly easy) descend into chaos. These daily, weekly, and monthly tasks bring an order to that chaos and help me craft a life on purpose. It puts me in control of my future self to a large degree. It isn’t perfect, but it’s better than the alternative. Chaos.

What are some of your non-negotiables? 


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Tobe Brockner

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