Happy New Year from Chiang Mai, Thailand! 

I originally posted this article over on my personal website, but I thought it would be appropriate to share here as well. If you’re suffering from retroactive jealousy, I believe that getting serious about owning your condition and overcoming it should be one of your “non-negotiables” for the new year.

. . .

This is not a year-end, motivational, “Be awesome! Be epic! YOLO!” blog post.

Which is to suggest that I’m not going to pump you up, and write that you can achieve anything you set your mind to in 2015.

I’m not going to tell you that you are the master of your own destiny.

I’m not going to encourage you to set a laundry list of goals and aspirations for the new year.

I’m not going to tell you that you should chase your dreams, and find your golden dragon, or whatever.

Instead, I’m going to ask you a simple question:

What are your non-negotiables for the next twelve months?

Like most people, I usually write up a list of New Year’s “goals” toward the end of every year. Unlike most of my friends, I considered myself above sharing my “New Year’s resolutions” with others, and took comfort in the fact that, instead, I kept a simple, private list of “goals” on hand at all times. (Call me a self-improvement hipster if you must.)

Over the course of the following year, every year, I’d accomplish many of my “new year’s goals.” Others, I wouldn’t. Some would keep me motivated year-round; I’d forget about others after a month or two.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been visualizing what I want to achieve in 2015, and, in between riding my motorscooter through Thai mountains and putting a serious dent in the national rum supply, started to put together a list of goals for the new year.

But this month I’ve come to an important conclusion:

The word “goal” just isn’t doing it for me anymore.

To my ears, the word “goal” sounds like “Gee whiz, I sure would like to do this thing at some point! That’d be swell. I surehope I can do it!”

A “goal” sounds laid-back, not assertive enough. It’s more Richard Simmons, than Richard Branson.

And so a different word has begun to appear, over and over, in my thoughts, as I think about what I want to am going to accomplish in 2015. I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it. I keep asking myself:

What are my non-negotiables?

Non-negotiables aren’t goals; they’re simply things that are going to happen. End of discussion. Come hell or high water and all the rest.

Here are a few of mine for the new year:

  1. I will double my income between now and December 2015.
  2. I will publish two new books this year.
  3. I will get into the best physical shape of my life in 2015.
  4. I will upload my first 30-minute mixtape to Soundcloud by April.
  5. I will contribute an article to my favourite online magazine by August.

I recently completed Chris Guillebeau’s excellent Year in Review exercise in which I broke down these, and my other non-negotiables for the year, segmenting them by theme and getting specific about the necessary actions I need to take to make sure they are truly non-negotiable.

I want to emphasize another crucial distinction between “goals” and “non-negotiables.”

A “non-negotiable” is an aspiration that has been simmering in your consciousness for quite some time, as opposed to a more recent consideration.

For example, I’ve wanted to become a better DJ for years. I bought some new mixing software for my birthday a few months ago, have loved to dance and go to electronic shows since high school, and have DJed many house parties and small gatherings with friends. (Several of those friends have called me a “music Nazi,” and not without reason.)

Which is to say: this is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but have never really gotten serious about.

And while I have no aspirations of becoming the next Daft Punk, it’s long been a dream of mine to perform at a bar, small nightclub, or restaurant, where a captive listening audience is forced to submit to my impeccable taste, and shake their moneymakers accordingly. And so, I’m finally going to be proactive, and take specific steps to make it happen in 2015. (Visual approximation below.)

Another example:

There is a certain up-and-coming online publication that I read just about every day. They have a crack team of media personalities, the content is always funny, smart, and engaging, and unlike most online magazines on the ascendance in 2014, the writing is excellent; the prose is clean, the writers respect their audience as intelligent people with above-average attention spans, and they don’t feel the need to resort to hyperbolic headlines, and other types of clickbait to entice would-be readers.

And I’m going to write an article for them this year.

I don’t know anyone at the company; I don’t have an “in.” I’m bad at pitching. Frankly, over the next several months I need to work very hard to prove myself as a writer worthy of working with them. But it’s going to happen, damnit. It’s my decision, and it’s final.

I’m not just fiddling around with semantics, here, in distinguishing between “goals” and “non-negotiables.” In my experience, something significant happens to your brain, and your level of motivation, when you commit to others, and yourself, that you will achieve something, rather than merely aspire to it. If you’re stubborn like me, pride, ego, and a constant quest for self-satisfaction will keep you focused and motivated to accomplish when you change the terminology you employ in pursuit of your ambitions to reflect a higher degree of commitment. Which is to say…

When you deem something “non-negotiable,” instead of a “goal,” your mentality shifts into an increasingly pro-active direction.

Because there’s no way out of a “non-negotiable;” that’s what makes it non-negotiable.

For example: the sun will rise tomorrow. Sure, there may by a 0.00000000001 % chance that it won’t, and we’ll all freeze and die in our sleep tonight, but really, only someone abusing some potent hallucinogenics would argue that the world is going to end in the next twenty-four hours. The sun rising tomorrow morning is something that is just going to happen, end of discussion.

I must re-emphasize that a non-negotiable has to be something you’ve been thinking about for a while, because chances are that it’s something really important to you, and something you actually need to do. If you’ve wanted to lose 20 pounds for the past five years, you need to make it non-negotiable in 2015. And then you need to break down exactly how it’s going to happen, and follow-through no matter what.

Feel free to keep a separate list of goals that you want to work toward over the next twelve months, but also take the time to get clear about your non-negotiables; the most important things that you want to will accomplish in 2015, whatever it takes.

Of course, your tactics for accomplishment may change over time, and you may pivot and iterate as necessary, but however you proceed in manifesting the change you want, keep your “non-negotiables” at the forefront of your consciousness, always.

And so…

What have you wanted to accomplish for a long time, but keep putting off?

What do you want to do, more than anything else, in the new year?

What are your non-negotiables for 2015?

Zachary Stockill
Zachary Stockill

Hi! I'm a Canadian author and educator whose work has been featured in BBC News, The Sun, The Huffington Post, and many other publications. I'm the founder of RetroactiveJealousy.com, the author of Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy, and the host of Humans in Love podcast.