Of Boundaries and Values: Why Knowing Your Non-Negotiables Is Essential

Darren Kanthal
5 min readAug 8, 2023

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What are your non-negotiables? Do you even know what they are? And if you do, do you know why they’re non-negotiable?

If they’re non-negotiable, I’m curious how often you negotiate them and then compromise

There’s lots of talk about holding boundaries these days. It’s a trend — just like working fully in-office v. remote, quiet quitting — and even quiet firing, and whatever other cliché-du-jour we love to come up with.

For me, boundaries don’t need to be over-complicated — and yet, as humans, we do a magnificent job of just that. We make things more difficult than they need to be.

If you don’t already know, identifying, prioritizing, and understanding your values is a core element of my coaching, and I even have an amazing tool you can use to identify your own core values right here.

Understanding Your Values

The reason values are so foundational to me is because it gets us to the why. If you feel unhappy, stressed, anxious, sad, resentment, or angry, it’s probable that one of your core values is in misalignment or being dishonored.

For instance, if your family is a top value, and you don’t hold the boundary of being home for dinner because you continue to prioritize work, your boss, last-minute requests, or other people’s fire drills, I’m willing to bet you experience negative feelings about yourself for missing dinner with the fam (ie: not holding that boundary) and also towards the other person or situation for being a contributing factor.

So what do we do with all of this?

  1. You start by taking my values assessment. It’s free, it’s just 2 steps, and can be finished in 15–30 minutes.
  2. You define what each of your top 5 values means to you. This doesn’t need to be Webster’s definition. Rather, if someone asked what your #1 value is, you’d be able to fluently explain what it is, what it means to you, how it shows up in your life, and how you honor it (ie: hold a boundary so it’s not compromised).
  3. You begin to create action plans. Based on your top 5 values and how you define them, you start to create action plans, put blocks on your calendar, stop taking meetings outside ‘normal’ hours, and start honoring what’s important and makes you happiest with confidence.
  4. You start and/or continue saying ‘No.’ That means saying no to requests or demands that don’t fit within the boundaries you’ve created, and are required, in order to live a life that aligns and honors your top values and what’s most important to you.

“Life is often better, and you’ll be happier when your top 5 values are being honored and respected both at work and in your personal life” — Darren Kanthal

Connecting Boundaries and Values

What I’m attempting to do is to display how tightly woven your boundaries and your values are, they are inextricably tied together.

Too many people create a boundary because they ‘think’ it’s important. Yet, they can’t clearly articulate why.

When I ask why this boundary is important, I hear things like ‘just because’, or ‘I’m trying to achieve work/life balance’, or something vague and general.

When I ask what work/life balance means — guess what they say? More BS generalities.

If someone were to ask me that question, I’d tell them that my life is not defined by my profession. Yes, it’s an important element of who I am, but it doesn’t define me. I’m a Coach, a son, a brother, a friend, a partner, a biker, a music lover, a cook, a lover of mountains, and a traveler.

Work/life balance means that I have equal parts of play and work. It means I don’t typically take client meetings on Fridays. It means I have clients that I respect and enjoy being with, and vice versa. It means that I’m the same guy at work, at home, on the trail, and at Red Rocks. It means I honor the man I am, and respect those around me. It means I have a pretty clear idea of what I’m willing to say yes, and no to, without having to debate each and every time a request comes my way.

Knowing Your Non-Negotiables

My top values are adventure, freedom, comfort, flexibility, and health and wellness.

These exact values drive the boundaries I create and hold. If I find the need to define the boundary further or establish a plan to hold that boundary, I use my decision-making processes. Then, when something comes up that might be good reason to consider negotiating or compromising the boundary, it’s simple to evaluate and decide what to do. When I have a specific boundary that I deem non-negotiable, and you or someone else wants to take that time for whatever reason — I respectfully say no.

I mountain bike on Thursdays with an amazing group of friends — I say YES! to that every Thursday possible and do not waiver unless I ‘have’ to. And my ‘have to’ is based upon my assessment of priority — not yours or anyone else’s.

It’s that last sentence I want to highlight that many people adjust their boundaries based on another’s assessment. As if the other person’s evaluation of what’s important is more important than their own assessment.

If my conviction and ‘why’ wasn’t fully understood and appreciated about those Thursday rides, I might waiver pretty easily. I might decide — you’re right, I don’t need to ride bikes with my friends — your needs are more important than my own.

Let me also say I get that some people don’t like saying no and feel that’s somehow disrespectful to the other person. Yet, self-awareness means we fully understand the opposite to be true — by saying yes to them means we are saying no to us. And then the boundary is non-existent.

I say no to that — boundaries exist, they’re real, and I do my best to hold them.

How about you?

Are you ready to hold boundaries? If you said yes.. but you’re not sure how — give me a call and let’s talk.

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Darren Kanthal

Darren is a values-driven leadership and career coach who supports mid-career leaders with transformative career action plans and candid coaching conversations.