You are one five-second decision away from a completely different life.
Mel Robbins, a successful television host, author, and motivational speaker, discovered this concept in what was probably the worst moment of her life. She had lost her job, her husband’s restaurant was failing, she was relying on bad habits to get her through the day, her marriage was suffering, and she could not get herself out of bed in the mornings.
One day she made a snap decision to count backwards from five and essentially launch herself out of bed in the morning like a rocket at takeoff, instead of hitting the snooze button over and over. In her words, “In five seconds flat, I stopped thinking and started moving forward. I stopped listening to the garbage in my mind and started thinking positive. Over time, I not only gained self-awareness and self-confidence – I discovered the simple secret to changing your life. I call it the 5 Second Rule.”
The 5 Second Rule closes the gap between thinking about what needs to be done and actually doing it. It helps you activate your prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain in charge of decision making, strategic thinking, acting with courage, learning new behavior, and working towards goals. To change, you’ve got to override habits. To change, you’ve got to get out of your own head. Counting 5-4-3-2-1 acts as a “starting ritual” that overrides your bad habits and draws focus to your prefrontal cortex so you can take immediate control of your thoughts and actions. It helps you create positive new habits. Researchers call this nifty brain trick “meta cognition”.
Mel calls it life-changing.
You already know exactly what you need to be doing in order to get what you want. You already know what steps you need to take to reach your goal. You already know that the opportunity for growth and expansion lies in your ability to step outside of your comfort zone, but you still won’t do it, and here’s why:
Knowing what to do will never be enough.
It’s not as simple as “Just do it.” If it were that simple, we would all have everything we want. There’s something really foundational that has to happen before we can act, and that is that we must learn to conquer our own feelings. Because of the way your brain is wired, when your thoughts and feelings are at war and when there is a discourse between what you know you should be doing and what you feel like doing, your feelings are always going to win. If you don’t feel like doing it, you won’t do it. If you don’t feel like working out, you won’t. If you don’t feel like sending that difficult email because it will rock the boat, you won’t. If you don’t feel like speaking up for yourself because it’s scary, you won’t. That’s why you need the 5 Second Rule.
Here’s the one-liner definition of the 5 Second Rule: If you have an impulse to act on a goal, you must physically move within five seconds or your brain will kill the idea.
If you have a goal of gaining more respect in the workplace, you have to raise your hand the next time you’re in a meeting and you have a great idea. If you have a goal of losing weight, you can act right now by researching healthy meal options and setting daily reminders on your phone that will prompt you to go to the gym. Get serious about it and put your intentions in writing. Whatever your goals are, show the world, and yourself, that you’re serious by acting right now, however insignificant that action may seem.