Decision Making, Managing Self, Personal & Professional Development, personal growth, Thought Leadership

Want to Take Decisive Action? Try The 5 Second Rule!

Compass Pointing to Take Action
Compass Pointing to Take Action

Typically, when you hear about the 5 Second Rule, it is talking out the amount of time you have to quickly pick up a piece of food that has fallen to ground. This article is not about that 5 second rule but my latest summer book pick – The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins. In her book the 5 Second Rule, Mel Robbins offers up a new tool that we can use to take decisive action, overcome procrastination, hesitancy, and self-doubt to improve our lives, relationships, happiness, and work. Robbins points out that the 5 Second rule can be particularly helpful in situations where people are struggling with changing behaviors, finding the courage to do things that are new and scary and with controlling emotions and negative thoughts.

What is the 5 Second Rule?

The 5 Second Rule  is based on the idea that “there is a window that exists between the moment you have an instinct to change and your mind killing it. This is the 5 second window and it exists for everyone. She explained that “the moment you have an instinct to act on a goal (See post on SMART Goals) you must count down 5-4-3-2-1 and physically move to act on it or your brain will stop you. This is because when you need to act or have important decisions to make, your brain will kill the idea or impulse to act as you become overwhelmed by fear, doubt or become paralyzed by overthinking.   

To overcome this, Robbins recommended that you count backwards (5-4-3-2-1) as this mentally shift the gears in your mind. This mental shift then interrupts your default thinking and do what psychologists call “assert control.” By counting, you distract yourself from your worries, excuses and you can focus your mind on a new direction. And when you physically move instead of stopping to think, your physiology changes and your mind falls in line.

So, think of that one thing you truly want to do, that goal that you know you should be pursuing or that decision that you have been hesitating on and use the 5 second rule to count down 5-4-3-2-1 and then act. You can apply the 5 second rule to something as simple as making the decision to get up off the couch and exercise, to applying for a job, speaking up in a meeting, having that difficult conversation or deciding to move forward in your life.

 5 Second Countdown
5 Second Countdown

How to Use the 5 Second Rule

According to Robbins, you can use the countdown of 5-4-3-2-1 to push yourself to take simple actions towards your goals which will create a chain reaction since each actions improves your productivity and builds your confidence. This in turn increases your belief in your ability to control your life and make meaningful progress with your goals. So, whenever you feel an instinct fire up to act on a goal or a commitment, or the moment you feel that yourself hesitating to do something you know you should do, use the 5 second rule.

So how do you apply the 5 Second Rule?

According to Robbins, here is how you can apply the rule to change your life:

  • First: “The moment you have an instinct…”

The first thing to note is that “An instinct is not a rash, irreversible decision. It’s not destructive, illegal, or harmful behavior.” Mel Robbins defined an instinct as any urge, impulse, pull, or knowing that you should or should not do something because you can feel it in your heart and gut. These are instincts of the heart. They are moments when your heart speaks to you. We all have our own unique brand of wisdom, made up of our experiences, intuition, and DNA. In those small, 5 second moments, when this wisdom bubbles up inside of you, the urges are your instincts. They are the “knowing” that you should do something even if you don’t “feel” like doing it. 

  • Second: “To act on a goal…”

The second element of the Rule that is critical for you to understand is that it’s not just about acting on any instinct, it’s an instinct that’s tied to a goal. For example, you might have an instinct at get from the couch and go for a run. In this case, if you act on this instinct, you bring yourself one step closer to your dream of transforming your health. Research has shown that our gut is our “second brain.” Do you ever get a feeling in your gut telling you what to do? We get these “gut feelings” when our hearts and minds are trying to tell us something. And usually, these gut impulses are tied to greater goals.

  • Third: “You must push yourself…”

The third element of the 5 Second Rule is that you must push yourself. The Rule is about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone even when you don’t want to. It’s about taking control of your own life, one push at a time. When the moment comes where you feel the instinct to do something related to that important goal, this becomes your window of opportunity. But if your brain senses fear or doubt, it will shut this instinct down in an effort to protect you. Nevertheless, you can take control to do what you need to do to change your life and move towards your goals.

  • Fourth:  Move within 5 seconds…”

Physical movement is key. All you need to do is move in the direction of your instinct. If you do not take physical action within 5 secondsyour brain will kill the instinct. So just start your countdown at 5 and then go take action. Robbins also stressed that while the rule is simple, it isn’t easy and will only work if you do it.

  • Fifth: “Or your brain will kill it.”

If you don’t physically move within 5 seconds, your mind will kill your dreams. According to Robbins, your brain is like an overprotective, irrational, “helicopter” parent. It thinks it’s keeping you safe when in fact it is keeping you from growing as a person, stretching yourself in your business, and fully experiencing life. One of your brains most basic job is to protect you. It does this by keeping us away from anything that feels scary, hard, or uncertain.

Final Thoughts on the 5 Second Rule

If you are struggling with procrastination or are prone to overthinking like me, the 5 Second Rule offers a valuable tool for us use our courage to take decisive action. And while it might seem like a simple or a rash way to make decisions that can have a life changing impact, the rule does not advocate that you do this “blindly” or that you use it to make quick decisions that might harm you. Instead, the rule urges us to consider those long-standing goals that we sometimes get stuck with because of overthinking and doubt and to be intentional about doing the things that we know will make our lives better off. So, the 5 second rule should be applied to those small and incremental steps you need to take to get to that all important goal.

In the words of Mel Robbins, “Life is already hard, yet we make it so much harder when we listen to our fears and convince ourselves to not take action.” So, the next time you feel overwhelmed by fear or doubt about something you know you need to do – give the 5 second rule a try.

Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!

6 thoughts on “Want to Take Decisive Action? Try The 5 Second Rule!”

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