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Guilt-free Living: Identifying Your Five Non-neogitables | Keli Gwyn
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Keli Gwyn
Guilt-free Living: Identify Your Five Non-Negotiables

Do you sometimes feel out of balance?

Do you have trouble keeping things in perspective?

Does the constant struggle to juggle leave you feeling stressed out?

Woman Juggling Clocks


Then you might find the following exercise as freeing as I did.

A month ago our pastor delivered an enlightening message, saying our lives reveal our hearts. He challenged us to choose our priorities wisely.

At the end of his sermon, Pastor David asked each of us to take a minute to list our top five non-negotiables—those items in which we invest ourselves—and rate them one to five.

I’m constantly bombarded with messages about how this or that should be my top priority, but I’d never taken time to decide for myself. Instead, I performed a stressful and ultimately unsuccessful balancing act as I attempted to juggle everything on my plate.

So I did as our pastor suggested. Here’s my list:

1. Faith
2. Family
3. Friends
4. Fitness
5. Writing

What a difference naming and numbering my non-negotiables has made. Almost immediately the burden of guilt I’d been carrying slid from my shoulders. It became far easier to make decisions.

For example, when our daughter moved back here for the two weeks prior to her recent move to France, I chose to focus on helping her prepare for this major transition.

Sorting everything Adri owns.

Sorting everything Adri owns.

Adri to France 2

Getting Adri’s first car ready to sell.

Adri to France 3

We enjoyed several mom-daughter lunch dates.

Adri to France 4

We used our Saturdays for family trips. This was taken at the Gold Rush Days in Old Sacramento.

Adri to France 5

Taking French-themed pictures for Adri’s blog was fun.

Because family is high on the list, I set my writing aside, knowing I would have plenty of time to work on my story once Adri got on the plane. I missed a couple of Curves workouts because we had appointments to attend and time-critical errands to run, but I was OK with that. After all, what good is being in shape if I sacrifice my relationships?

Adri to France 6

Saying good-bye was tough, but I kept my tears at bay until Adri was gone.

Adri to France 7

I knew we’d done a good job helping Adri prepare when she left without looking back.

In the past, I would have battled some resentment at setting my personal goals aside. I don’t like admitting it, but it’s true. As it was, I wholeheartedly embraced the opportunity to spend the two weeks with my gal. I didn’t add a single word to my story, but I made memories that will last a lifetime.

Our gal made it to France without a hitch and is doing very well. And me? I’m OK. I miss her, of course, but we’re staying connected via email, Skype, and Facebook. I’m looking forward to visiting her at Christmas.


• • •

If you made your non-negotiables list, what five items would be on it?

When’s a time that having your priorities straight served you?

Keli Gwyn


  • Tammi T. says:

    My top 3 would be the same as your top three. I’ll need to think about the other two. Fitness should be one but hasn’t been for a long time. Reading will probably fill one of the slots. Possibly cooking or writing for one of the others.

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Tammi, reading used to take the place of writing for me. These days it’s hard to separate the two. I consider reading part of my writing research. 🙂

      What kind of cooking do you most enjoy? Are you a baker as well?

  • Great post, Keli! My top 3 priorities are exactly the same as your list–but fitness and writing would be swapped (sadly, I guess fitness would be #5 *sigh*). 😉

    You won’t regret for a second spending that time with your precious daughter–what priceless memories. 🙂

    Thank you for sharing those photos with us–I especially like the one of Adri with the beret–she’s so cute! 🙂

    Since you stay busy I’m sure that’s helping you since she’s been gone–plus I know you’re looking forward to your visit at Christmas. How exciting! 🙂
    Hugs, Patti Jo

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Patti Jo, I understand how hard it is to work fitness into one’s schedule. I pretty much ignored that aspect of my life until I got my osteoporosis diagnosis. That forced me to take action, and now I actually enjoy working out. I figure I had to put fitness that high on the list because of my increased risk of fracture if I don’t do everything I can to combat the osteo. It’s far too easy for me to lose myself in my story world and forget to workout otherwise.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the photos. I love the one of Adri in the beret. Her camera is great. Plus she knows how to pose. I was a scrapbooker for years, so she got used to having a lens aimed at her. 🙂

      Adri has really embraced the French culture, which I’m happy to see. Her blog posts are wonderful and show how much she’s enjoying her experience. I do miss her, but I know I’ll adjust to our new situation in time, just as I did when she went away to college. I’m eager for our visit. I want to see her, I want to meet the wonderful people who’ve been helping her, and I want to see the beautiful town she’s now calling home.

  • Beth K. Vogt says:

    Love this post, Keli. The funny thing is, I tossed out the whole “top 5” priorities a long time ago. It’s more like my “competing #1” priorities. (And that’s what makes it so challenging.
    Relationships (Family/Friends)
    … and I’m debating on #5. But you’ve got me thinking.

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Beth, I hear you on the difficulty assigning priorities can be. For me, it was freeing. For others it could be constricting.

      I’m not at all surprised to see relationships on your list. You’re a friend to many and are always reaching out to others. That’s one of the many things about you that I admire. 🙂

  • This was enlightening to me, too. I often get things out of order and feel guilty, resentful, or out of control…:( I’ll have to see what my list looks like, and if I’m putting things in order of how I would like them to be, or how they actually are…then adjust.

  • I learned from hard experience that the #1 slot has to go to God and spending time with Him. Everything else falls apart otherwise. I loved seeing these photos! 🙂

  • Susan Mason says:

    A very wise decision, Keli! I’m sure you’ll never regret those 2 weeks!