Tag Archives: Accountability

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 about 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.

How to 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!

Quit the Blame Game: Tag You Are It!

It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.

Excerpt from Invictus -William Ernest Henley
Hello, I Am Accountable-Name Tag-Image
Hello, I Am Accountable-Name Tag

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about accountability, specifically personal accountability, and the implications for when and where it does or does not exist. When people hold themselves accountable, it shows up as taking ownership of their jobs, acknowledging responsibility for when things go wrong, choosing to learn from failures and improve and simply saying I am sorry. On the other hand, when people fail to hold themselves accountable for their actions, behaviors, and choices, you end up getting excuses, procrastination, blaming, victim thinking, and the list goes on. Regardless of where you fall on the scale of personal accountability, the level of success you achieve, your sense of fulfillment and the overall quality of your life and relationships might very well depend on it.

What is Personal Accountability?

According to MindTools, management consultant Todd Herman defined personal accountability as  ‘ being willing to answer for the outcomes resulting from your choices, behaviors and actions.” Therefore, personal accountability starts with each of us and places us squarely in the driver’s seat of the vehicle we call life. Yet, for some people, the word accountability is a bad word, and the idea of it (in whatever shape or form) produces anxiety and discomfort. For those people, being held accountable raises thoughts and feelings of inadequacy, fear, failure, or the perception of accountability as a form of corrective action. For others like myself, being held personally accountable is empowering and liberating, as it gives me a sense of direction and control over my life, my choices, and the inevitable results.

For this purposes of this post, I wanted to explore personal accountability and the ultimate responsibility we all have for our lives. Now, I have never fond of excuses. Growing up without both of my parents, I learned very early and quickly that a lot of things were going to be up to me. I remember making decisions about which high schools I wanted to attend, which extra-curricular activities I would participate in, organizing to attend field trips and making decisions on who would pick up my report card because my guardian could not.

This mindset of individual accountability travelled with me throughout my childhood to adulthood and even to my current roles as a single parent and working professional.  So, it is safe to say that, I have had lots of practice and taking personal accountability is not hard for me. However, this is not the case for everyone. We all come from different backgrounds with varied experiences that have shaped and influenced how we show up in our personal and professional lives.

Two Persons Pointing Fingers-Image
Two Persons Pointing Fingers

When Personal Accountability is Lacking

Earlier this year, I was talking to a friend about some challenges that he was experiencing. Turned out that his 2021 had started with a bang. He shared how everything was happening to him at the same time as he was experiencing serious difficulties in both his personal and professional life. The challenges had impacted his health and well-being, his job, and his personal relationships. I listened to him share and empathized with his situation out of the deep regard I have for him and our friendship. After the call, I could not shake the deep feeling of worry and frustration I felt for him.

Some of the challenges he described were not new and the writing had been on the wall. So, I sent him a text expressing my renewed concerns and reminded him that things were not just happening to him but that he had played a role in them. I asked him to reflect on how his actions had contributed to his current situation and encouraged him to take accountability. I hoped it would lead to change.  Recently, I checked on him to see how things were going. I was hoping for progress but from what I heard, not much had changed. He seemed to have a problem for every solution I tried to help him with and could hardly commit to taking much needed action to help himself. The conversation left me tired and frustrated.

Coming to terms with the consequences of our individual actions, decisions and choices is never easy but we are sometimes forced to. And when many of are faced with challenging or difficult situations, our first thoughts are usually defensive or negative (See previous post on Automatic Negative Thoughts). From the example of my friend, when we fail to hold ourselves accountable for our actions and circumstances, our responses can range from thoughts of blaming, victim thinking, and procrastination as described below.

Blaming: What do you do when something goes wrong in your relationships, finances, health or on the job? Do you acknowledge your role or responsibility or are you quick to point a finger to someone else or something else that went wrong? Finger pointing or blaming shifts the responsibility from you to others. Over time, this blame shifting catches up with you and will break trust and damage your relationships.

Victim Thinking/Mentality: This is the tendency for some people to see themselves as victims of other people actions or as ‘stuck’ in difficult situations.  People who take on this mindset are usually unhappy and dissatisfied with their lives and feel a sense of powerlessness to do anything to change it.  People who see themselves as victims take on sense of helplessness which limits their ability to hold themselves accountable for anything.

Procrastination:  Statements likewhen this happens, I’ll do that” … or “one of these days, I am going to start …” are good examples of procrastination. I have watched people wait and hope for the “right time” and delay taking required action by finding a problem for every possible solution. Every time, we choose to delay or postpone a decision that can help to advance our goals and dreams, we undermine our growth and set ourselves back.

Play Your Part-Jigsaw Puzzle-Image
Play your Part-Jigsaw Puzzle

How to Improve Personal Accountability?

If you want to quit the blame game and practice greater accountability, here are five things you can do right now:

  1. Say sorry: We all make mistakes and from time to time will hurt and offend others. When you make a mistake, take responsibility, and show ownership. If your actions or words hurt or offend someone, apologize, and make amends. Listen and learn from all conflicts or disagreements.  
  1. Acknowledge your roles and responsibilities:  Start by reflecting on your different roles, what you responsible for, who are you accountable to and what is in your scope of control. While you cannot control all the things that happen to you, understanding and owing your responsibilities will help you to accept accountability and take required actions where necessary. Do not sit back and wait for your supervisor, friend, or family member to fix your situations. Personal accountability starts and stops with you.
  1. Be honest with yourself: Sometimes the most powerful conversations we could have are the ones we have with ourselves. At some point or another, we must assess our lives and ask ourselves tough questions such as- am I changing for better or worse? am I failing or making progress? what do I need to do differently? Also ask yourself, who are you blaming for the situations that are currently happening in your life? Sit with the discomfort of your answers and then decide to take action to change. Do not normalize your dysfunction, instead call yourself out and to thine own self- be true.
  1. Manage your time and your talents:  It is easy to look at others pursing their goals and to compare yourself to them. Avoid the comparison trap for there is always going to be someone with five talents to your one. You are not expected to be them. You are only required to use your one talent to become that  best version of you. So do not flirt with failure but making excuses about why or what you cannot do. Use your time wisely, set SMART goals and find an accountability partner who will support you as you work towards them day by day.
  1. Change your questions. Asking questions is one of the main ways that we make sense of our lives and the world around us. So, what does your questions sound like? Are they solutions based or are they more likely to cause negative thoughts and feelings? As the saying goes, if you want better answers, ask better questions. To practice greater accountability, John G. Miller suggest that we ask the Question Behind Questions (QBQs). QBQs always starts with a how or what (the objective), includes I (you can only change yourself) and an action (for the way forward).Take a look at the examples below: 

Question 1: Why is all this happening to me?

 QBQ 1: What can I do to change my situation?

 Question 2: Why do I have to do everything?

 QBQ 2: How can I proactively ask my family or coworker for help?

QBQs can help you to engage in thoughts that will drive your towards accountability and positive change rather than getting stuck in negative thoughts that can leave you feeling discouraged. So, as you reflect your own personal accountability and how you show up, try practicing one of the tips and let me know if it works for you. You are responsible for creating the life you hope to have. Practice personal accountability for your actions and choices

Until next time, Remember, It’s A Learning Life!

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