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How The 5-Second Rule Can Change Your Life

by Michael Leonard on July 13, 2021

What if I told you all it takes is five seconds to change your life. Yes, only five seconds.

If it sounds too good to be true, trust me, I get it. Products like “Six-minute abs” and other marketing gimmicks make it easy to be skeptical about things like “The 5-second rule.”

But when you learn more about it and the effect it has on your psychology, it’s pretty impressive. If you’re struggling with motivation and doing the things you know you need to do, this one hack could help tremendously.

 

What is The 5-Second Rule?

If you’re unfamiliar, the 5-Second Rule is an incredibly easy but strangely efficient way to get yourself to take massive action. According to the creator of the rule, Mel Robbins, “The 5-Second Rule is simple. If you have an instinct to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill it.”


For example, when you know you need to do something like speak up in a meeting, talk to that stranger, call that client, simply count backward 5–4–3–2–1 and take the necessary action.

Counting backward will shift the focus on your mind from hesitating, and taking action will almost instantly build courage. This is known as a starting ritual, which Mel has said, “Starting rituals interrupt your bad default patterns and trigger new, positive patterns.”

Essentially, this simple habit can help you interrupt your old, outdated, default patterns, and help you create new, more empowering patterns.

 

How The 5-Second Rule Started

The 5-Second Rule started when Mel Robbins saw a NASA rocket launch on TV. At the time, her life and career were falling apart and she was desperate to turn it around.

As she said in a podcast interview, “Subconsciously, my brain was signaling me to pay attention to this rocket launch on TV.”

Thankfully, she listened, started taking action, and realized how this rule could help so many more people. Here are seven of the biggest lessons I learned from reading this bestselling book to help you finish the year strong.

 

1. Listen to Your Inner Wisdom

Mel listened to her inner wisdom all those years ago during that seemingly innocent rocket launch.

She acted on a hunch, applied it to her life, wrote a book about it, and has gone on to help tons of people. But none of it would have happened without listening to her inner wisdom.

As she said in the book, “When it comes to goals, dreams and changing your life, your inner wisdom is a genius. Your goal related impulses, urges, and instincts are there to guide you. You need to learn to bet on them.”

The next time you have a gut feeling to do something that could help you achieve your goals or dreams, don’t wait, act on it!

 

2. Manage Your Distractions

If you want to act on your hunches or inner wisdom more, sometimes you need to get quiet enough to hear it. As Mel said in her book, “Managing distractions is like following through on health goals. You’re never going to feel like it; you just have to make yourself do it.”


Don’t be afraid to put your phone in airplane mode, especially the first part of the day. Keep your social media time to specific times of the day so it’s not a habit when you’re bored at work.

The more you manage distractions, the easier it is to push forward and work on your most important tasks.

 

3. Focus on The Hard Stuff First

According to an article published in Neuro-Image, your brain shrinks over the course of the day before returning to its full size the following morning. This is why you should tackle the hard stuff first.

For example, if you wake up at 6am, understand that 6:30–9:30 am will be your most productive time. Spend the first few hours of your day working on things that will help you accomplish your personal and professional goals. Focus on the hard stuff so you can get them out of the way early and build momentum for the rest of your day.

Most people start their day off reactive instead of proactive. Instead of going to your inbox when you wake up, read a book, meditate, or spend time journaling to create your future.

 

4. Stop Making Decisions on How You “Feel”

How often have you found yourself saying…

"I need to…

  • Go to the gym, but I don’t feel like it.”
  • Clean my house, but I don’t feel like it.”
  • Read that book (that could change my life), but I feel like watching Netflix instead.”


We’ve all been there.

But instead of making decisions based on how you feel, use the 5-Second Rule and take action. Count backward 5–4–3–2–1 and do what you need to do!

Life isn’t about always doing what you love, sometimes you have to do things you hate to achieve greatness. Plus, the more you do stuff you don’t love but start to get results, the easier it will be to persevere.

 

5. Master Procrastination

According to Mel Robbins, there are two types of procrastination; productive and destructive procrastination. Let’s start with productive procrastination, as most people tend to think of procrastination as a bad thing, not a skill of high achievers.


Use Productive Procrastination

While Mel is all about taking action to make your goals come to life, she says you need space to make them happen.

For example, big projects at work or things like writing your first book can take a lot of time and energy. If you stare at the project over and over again, it’s easy to feel like you’re going mad and not making any progress. Sometimes you need to step back and take a break from the problem to let the answer find you.

Don’t be afraid to use “productive procrastination” to help you solve a big problem. It might take a few days or even a few weeks, but oftentimes a break is just what you need to get clear and find a new solution.

 

Avoid Destructive Procrastination

While productive procrastination can be helpful on tough, thought-provoking projects, destructive procrastination is an entirely different beast. As Mel said in her book, “Procrastination is not a form of laziness at all. It’s a coping mechanism for stress.”


Dr. Timothy Pychyl of Carleton University has studied procrastination for almost two decades and said, “The main thing driving procrastination is not avoiding work. It’s avoiding stress. Procrastination is a ‘subconscious desire to feel good right now’ so you can feel a little stress relief.”

Sometimes the reason you are avoiding the little things like going to the gym, calling your family or not starting your business is that you might feel a larger stress in your life. Usually in the form of money, relationship problems or how life is in general.

Instead of going to Facebook for another viral video and dopamine hit, use the 5-Second Rule to get moving! Forgive yourself for procrastinating (as we all do it) and use the starting ritual to push through.

 

6. Confidence is an Acquired Skill

When you see Mel talk live at an event or watch her incredibly popular TED talk, it’s easy to think she was born with an insane amount of confidence. But, as she says, “Confidence is a skill I’ve built over the years by practicing acts of everyday courage.”

And that’s usually true for most people.

For example, Steve Jobs seemed like the most confident human alive when he gave his epic speeches for new Apple products, but it wasn’t always that way. Early interviews showed him wanting to leave mid-way through as he thought he was going to get sick.

It just goes to show that confidence is earned, not given. The people you look up to the most likely weren’t confident at one point, but put in the work to get better over time.

The good news is, you can do the same. Acting on the 5-second rule can help you build confidence over time by consistently taking action!

While some people may have more natural confidence than others, ultimately it is something you can gain over time. The more little decisions you make, the more you will build your confidence.


There will never be a right time to do the big things in life. Sometimes you have to act on faith and see what happens. It’s better to take a risk and fail than end up with the regret of never trying.

When you use the 5-Second Rule enough, you can gain courage and increase your confidence to make it happen.

The more frequently you start to do things out of your comfort zone, the stronger you can become. Remember, as Mel Robbins said, “You are only one decision away from a different life.”

Use the 5-Second Rule and these lessons to make it happen!

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