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I often say it jokingly: if I want to go for a run, I should do it first thing in the morning, before my brain wakes up and keep me from doing it with all kinds of ‘valid’ reasons. Turns out that this ‘tactic’ is actually backed by science! I learned more about this when I heard Mel Robbins talk about her 5-second rule. She also used this tactic and it changed her life.
5-second rule: what?
This might be the first time you heard about the 5-second rule, so allow me to explain the principle. Your brain is wired to help you and to prevent you from harm. Not only actual harm, but also perceived harm. So if you are about to do some scary shit you’ve never done before, your brain will do all it can to stop you from doing it.
Even if it’s something that would vastly improve your life. It doesn’t know that, it’s just wired to protect you. However, according to science, we all have a small window to do whatever we want to do anyway. This is approximately 5 seconds.
How to apply the 5-second rule
When Mel Robbins wasn’t the successful motivational powerhouse she is today, she had a hard time just getting out of bed. She was going through severe post-partum depression and her family was struggling financially. That situation motivated her husband to take action and do something about it, but all she could do is lie in bed. What’s the point in getting up if you’re already screwed?
At some point, she saw a video from NASA, launching a rocket. She decided to launch herself like a rocket: ..5..4..3..2..1.. GO! And that was the first day she actually did something. Next day, same thing. And then she also started using it to do stuff.
Two powerful aspects
The 5-second rule has two powerful aspects. First: it is about counting down. There is an end to counting down. When you get to zero, action usually follows. It is that way with rockets, but also in sports. Your brain is wired to do something if it counts down and gets to the zero. So whatever you are doing, you can create a reset by just counting down.
Second: according to Mel, motivation is bulls***. You don’t need to find a reason to do something, you need to know how you can get yourself to do something. And this is it. If you want to do something, applying the 5-second rule will activate the prefrontal cortex of the brain that will allow you to do stuff. Once you’ve done it and didn’t die, your brain will be less powerful at blocking you next time.
What can I learn from this?
As I mentioned, I did know about this rule, without knowing it was a ‘rule’ or actual thing backed by science. Now I know, I can apply it more effectively. Earlier, I learned from listening to Tony Robbins (I only noticed that they share the same surname just now!), that you can reset your brain, to start doing something you didn’t really feel like. However, that involved jumping up and down to activate your brain. I did that a couple of times in my office, but that’s much harder to do when you are around other people. Counting down is something you can always do.
I already applied it a couple of times this week, actually just now, to get me started on this article. Coming week, I’ll start by using this rule to get out of bed at 6, when my alarm goes off. And then next week, and the week after that, so it’ll become a habit.
If you are interested in finding more about this rule, you should definately watch or listen to this interview. I listened to it when I was running and was actually dissappointed that I could not take notes. It tells you what you need to know about the 5-second rule and it will show you what it can do for you:
And if you really want to get active in implementing it in your life, I would certainly recommend reading Mel’s Book, The 5 Second Rule. It’s easy to read, very practical, has great Instagram-worthy page views and – best of all – it shares a lot of real-life experiences, from people who actually let her know via e-mail or social media how the rule has impacted their lifes. You can buy her book here.
Did you know about the 5-second rule? Do you think it can help you? I’d love to hear from you!