Do you know what you need to do to be healthy? To be productive? To be fit? To be organized? Do you have a hard time actually doing those things??
Maybe it's getting more rest, or getting up the first time your alarm sounds. Maybe it's incorporating more movement in your day, like taking the stairs at work. Maybe it's organizing that closet, or tackling that project you've been dreading. Maybe it's actually working on making your goals and dreams reality. Whatever it is, sometimes even though we know we need to, we just don't wanna friggin' do it. Sound familiar?
Mel Robbins offers a solution to this problem in her book, The Five Second Rule. When Mel "discovered" the rule, she was in the midst of a dark time in her life. Her career, marriage, finances, and self esteem were all tanking, and she struggled to get out of bed each morning and perform her responsibilities as a mother/wife/friend. Watching a rocket launch one night on TV sparked an idea in her. The next morning when her alarm went off and her finger hovered over the snooze button, she counted backwards to herself: 5,4,3,2,1...and stood up. And just as simple as that, she discovered a method that transformed her life. She started to see opportunities throughout her day in which she could apply the rule.
Mel was intrigued why such a simple method yielded such profound results - especially when applied to multiple areas of her life. Upon researching it, she learned why it works. The rule leverages and is an example of powerful and proven modern psychology principles: the progress principle, starting rituals, a bias toward action, internal locus of control, behavioral flexibility, the Golden Rule of Habits, authentic pride, deliberate action, "If-Then planning," and activation energy.
- By counting backwards, you mentally shift the gears in your mind. You interrupt your default thinking and assert control.
- The counting distracts you from your excuses and focuses your mind on moving in a new direction.
- It is a "starting ritual" that activates the prefrontal cortex, helping change your behavior (the prefrontal cortex is what you use to focus, change, or take deliberate actions).
- By forcing yourself to act when usually you'd stop yourself by thinking/holding yourself back, you can create remarkable change.
The rule works because it is so simple! There are various ways your brain kills your urge to act. Research shows the moment you want to change/break a habit/do something hard or scary, your brain kicks into gear to stop you. Basically, your mind tricks you into thinking through things. The second you start doing this, your thoughts will trap you. Your mind has a million ways to talk you out of acting - that's why it's so dang hard to change!!
Change requires you to do things that are uncertain/scary/new. By design, your brain will try to prevent this. This hesitation happens really fast, so you have to act even faster to beat it.
The rule is somewhat flexible; if you need to shrink it to three seconds (which personally works better for me), then do it!
Here are some other ways you can apply it to your life:
- Raising your hand in a meeting at work and suggesting an idea
- Introducing yourself to that good-looking guy/girl
- Reaching out and making that business contact
- Lacing up your sneaks and exercising when you'd rather...not
- Intentionally redirect your negative thoughts into positivity
- Taking a class or starting a hobby