One of the challenges military spouses I surveyed mentioned either explicitly or within the context of their comments was the “unexpected struggle with maintaining your identity as a military spouse.” Our military partners have similar struggles with identity outside of their work roles as well. There are a multitude of factors that contribute to this struggle, but arguably it is the disruptive nature of military life that can feel like an inhibitor to personal growth and how we define ourselves as individuals. Identity is important because it is the “center” that we return to that reassures us of who we are and what we stand for amid change and chaos. In this third episode of JTF Homefront, Jamie talks about a strategy for maintaining and further growing your identity through the disruptions in our lives. It involves identifying and setting boundaries around what many over the years have called the “non-negotiables”.
A Non-Negotiables Strategy (note several people have written about non-negotiables, this is one approach)
- Get comfortable with the disruption. Disruption is a popular term in business thanks to a book by Clayton Christensen published in 1997 called The Innovator’s Dilemma. In business it is associated with anticipating the future needs of customers, getting ahead of their needs and wants, and creating something innovative.
- Identify your non-negotiables. Brainstorm and write down the answers to these questions – What do you stand for, what are your values, and how do you live them? For example, I value time with my family, so dedicated a set time daily or weekly to give them my full attention is non-negotiable.
- Communicate your non-negotiables with your partner. You may not know that your partner has a non-negotiable 4 workout week, for example. When it’s communicated, you can help support the other person with encouragement and flexing your own non-negotiables around that or even incorporating them into a shared activity.
- Align your actions with your non-negotiables through the disruptions, being flexible and gracious with yourself. If my non-negotiable is family time set aside 1 hour a day, but we’re PCSing or in chaos in some other way, make it 5 minutes a day until the new “routine” emerges. The value and the action are non-negotiable, but how and when you execute your values and actions can be flexed.
- Reevaluate and set plans and goals with your non-negotiables in mind after a disruption. Use a smart planner (my favorite is the Best Self Journal* and companion tools like the Weekly Action Pad to make your non-negotiables actionable. You can check out a recent webinar Best Self recently hosted detailing a 10 step process to planning your year.
*Note that this is an affiliate link. I will use these from time to time to promote products either myself or our community find useful.
Personal Blog Post on the SELF as non-negotiable (Brene Brown’s work is mentioned here):
How to deal with major disruptions to your routine