The 5 Second Rule


A catchy title, right? I thought so when I watched an interview with Mel Robbins, author of The 5 Second Rule. 


The tag line is that you can change your life in 5 seconds. It's simple, actionable, and it works.


Think about it. We change our lives all the time, one decision at a time. We choose vegetables or ice cream at dinner. We choose to spend time on our resume or LinkedIn or we watch YouTube videos of cats. 


And maybe you think that is baloney. We make lots of decisions that don't have a big impact. We take a new way home from work, or we go to spin class instead of going for a run. On the surface those things don't seem to have that big of an impact.


But here is the thing that I find fascinating, and something that really hit home when I read the book. Even the mundane choices have an impact on your brain. 


What I really loved about The 5 Second Rule was that Robbins includes a lot of information about how the brain works when we are in fear and stress. 


And let me tell you, I really love understanding the brain. It feels like a game to me. How can I understand the rules of the game so that I can work this to my advantage. 


Before I get into what I learned, here is a little bit about Mel Robbins. Mel is an ordinary person that created some extraordinary opportunities for herself. She doesn't really talk about it in the book so much, but she does discuss it in interviews. She worked for CNN and hustled to work on a number of TV shows. It sounds pretty awesome to me, but apparently that life is quite hard. Money isn't just rolling in, it all depends on it getting picked up and being a hit with the network. And she had very little say in what she worked on. 


She is also very open in interviews about the financial difficulties she had with her family. This makes it seems really relatable. She's just like us- she had money problems even though she was trying to make something of herself! She talks about her anxiety and depression and how this simple tool helped her (and her kids who also have anxiety) pull herself out.

Here's how the 5 Second Rule works. When you feel an impulse to take action, you need to take that action before you reason yourself out of doing anything. The naturally habit is to create all kinds of reasons not to do something. Our brain would rather us remain in inaction. It seems like the safer way to remain safe. It's our reptilian brain doing what it needs to do to keep us alive.


But the problem is that most of the time our safety is not in danger. Introducing ourselves to a cute guy or girl, going to the gym, pitching an idea to your boss is not life or death. It just seems like it is in our brain. 

So how do we stop this thinking and get into taking the action that we need to take? Robbins says we simply need to do a countdown and then launch into action. 5- 4- 3- 2- 1 GO. 


Simple, right? And strangely effective. Sure there is some brain science that backs up why it works but the point is that it works.


Test it for yourself. Tomorrow set your alarm for 15-30 minutes earlier. When it goes off, you will probably not want to get out of bed. You won't feel like doing it. But when that alarm goes off, try counting down 5- 4- 3- 2- 1 and LAUNCH yourself out of bed. No thinking, just act. 


I bet if you do the countdown and then act, you will see yourself shifting. It's a small win, and then you can build from there. 


It's a fantastic, simple strategy and a simple book with lots of actionable information. It's a quick read, especially if you are good at skimming. I like good stories scattered into my self-help books but there were just too many examples of Tweets and other people's stories for my taste. But the information is still useful and potentially life changing if you actually take the small actions and use the momentum from those wins to keep going.