The Never Zero Commitment5 min read

A Never Zero commitment is uncompromising. You decide on the minimum acceptable version of your habit and commit to do it for a specific time period, no matter what

Never Zero is taking full responsibility and control of your life. You decide what you will do, who you will become, and close the door to excuses.

Don’t try to make a Never Zero commitment around every habit. Instead, create a Never Zero commitment around one or two keystone habits that will advance your goals. Examples:

  • I will meditate for five minutes every day
  • For the next 100 days, I will write from 6am to 7am
  • Until the end of this year, I won’t go to sleep without showing appreciation to my partner
  • I will study 20 minutes of Spanish daily until my trip to Spain
  • I will not drink beer or eat sweets until the day after my marathon

Once one of your habits is fully integrated, you can then add another one to the stack. When you develop the skill of Never Zero in one area of your life, you can then apply it to other areas. With each habit added, self-discipline becomes easier.
There are three elements of the Never Zero commitment: Timely, Small, and Uncompromising.

A Timely Commitment 

A Never Zero commitment represents a new phase of your life. It is a big deal, so it needs a proper start date—whether next Monday, your birthday, or tomorrow. This builds expectation and focuses energy. Mark it on your calendar, put notes to remind you, and look forward to the new beginning!

You also decide on the length of your commitment: the days, weeks, or months that you will maintain it. It could even be lifetime—if we are talking about a core habit, or also for breaking an addiction.

On March 21, 2000, I made my first Never Zero commitment, toward meditation. After a workshop, I committed to meditating at least five days a week for the rest of my life. It worked for me. After a couple years I increased it to seven days a week, and have been meditating daily ever since.

It’s not always best to make your first Never Zero commitment a lifetime one. Perhaps start with a shorter period of time, such as “going sugar-free for 50 days” or “facing my social anxiety every day for three weeks”. Choose whatever makes sense to you, and stick to it for that timeframe, no matter what.

After that time can you reevaluate. You may want to go on another Never Zero sprint, tweak the time commitment, or to make the habit permanent.

A Small Commitment

In the beginning, I highly recommend that you choose a small Never Zero commitment, so that it’s easy to it. Since the commitment is immutable (for the time period), it is better to not be too ambitious in the beginning. Remember the Baby Steps concept—start small, and only add new habits, or increase the difficulty, after you have mastered the basics. If you try to commit to everything, you commit to nothing.

For example, if you don’t regularly exercise, don’t commit to running an hour every day. This creates undue pressure and would likely end in disappointment. Instead, start small, and stay with it no matter what

An exception to the “small commitment” rule is for “not to do” commitments, such as quitting smoking or alcohol use. If you are brave enough or desperate enough, then go cold turkey. Committing to complete abstinence may be better than trying moderation and playing with fire.

An Uncompromising Commitment

During the timeframe of your commitment, there are NO acceptable excuses. The commitment is non-negotiable. You make your commitment, you start, and you finish it. No matter what. 

Even if you don’t feel like doing it, take action. Even in doubt, fear, pain, exhaustion, or confusion, take action. Even if there is a death in the family, an economic crisis, a new pandemic, or the beginning of a third World War, take action. You may tweak the amount of time you are committing, or the size and difficulty of your habit, but not its uncompromising nature.

That is the full meaning of “never” in Never Zero.

A 100% commitment is actually easier than a 99% commitment—because you avoid decision fatigue. When the rule is flexible (99%), any day could be an exception day, and so every day you need to consider that possibility and make a decision. But when the rule is uncompromising (100%), there is nothing to think about. Your mind is freed from the burden of weighing your options every time. This saves you energy and gives you peace of mind.

Never Zero is almost a do-or-die commitment. This may feel exaggerated, but it is how inner strength is forged. This strength of determination leads to self-respect, self-confidence, and self-love. And with that you can achieve anything.

It may feel scary to make a commitment like this, because it’s powerful and unapologetic. Take this fear as a good sign. You are moving out of your comfort zone. You are placing a big bet on yourself. Many good things will come out of it.

One of the meditation masters I most resonate with, Swami Vivekananda, used to say, “Believe in yourself and the world will be at your feet.” You don’t need to have any ambition for world domination to feel the power of that statement. He is not talking about regular self-confidence; he is talking about having faith in yourself and absolute trust in yourself. This kind of faith moves mountains.

But how can you believe in yourself if you break your promises to yourself?


At the end of the day, self-discipline is much more than achieving your goals—that is just its training ground. Self-discipline, mindful self-discipline, is about developing this type of inner strength and power. Yes, with it you can achieve great things; but this inner strength, in itself, is already its own reward.

Don’t let your fire die out through excuses, exceptions, or mood fluctuations. Let it be that, at least in one area of your life, for a small period of time, your willpower is absolute and knows no exceptions. Burn brighter.

Draw the line that you will not cross. And then don’t cross it, no matter what.

This is integrity. This is willpower. This is your higher mind.

This article is a summary of key ideas taken from Chapter 6 of Mindful Self-Discipline. To dive deeper, get the book or audiobook.


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