This great book by Mel Robbins shows the importance of listening to your instincts. Sometimes you have these hunches – moments when you have a sudden urge to do something that may be uncomfortable for you. Let’s say you know you need to become fitter and you’re walking past a gym. You suddenly get an urge to walk in and workout, but right away you come up with 10 reasons why this is a bad idea and dismiss it. This was your subconscious mind giving you a hint of what will get you closer to your goals. Mel introduces the 5-second rule as an instrument to help you take advantage of these hunches and achieve all your goals. Below I outlined the main points that I took from this book.
As with any summary, I believe it should be used as a refresher, as a list of guiding points that help remember the contents of the book. To fully understand and apply the following points, it is highly recommended to actually read the book. It does not replace the actual experience of reading the book, nor is it intended to.
“The moment you have an instinct to act on a goal you must count 5-4-3-2-1 and physically move or your brain will stop you.”
1. The 5 second rule.
People are used to living their lives on auto-pilot, so anything outside of your normal routine is considered dangerous by your brain, and it yanks the emergency brake as soon as you attempt to break from auto-pilot. You have only 5 seconds to take physical action to marry intention with the inspiration that just surfaced in your mind. Let’s say you notice an attractive woman at a party and you instantly have a desire to get to know her. You only have 5 seconds to start walking over to her or grab her attention, before your brain hits the emergency brake, comes up with reasons why this is a bad idea and talks you out of it. If you always take action within 5 seconds on such instincts, you will feel great amounts of confidence, as you are now taking control of your life. When you count backward, it distracts your mind from the excuses and focuses it on moving in the new direction.
2. Shining the light.
Shine a light on your own thoughts and pay attention to how many good ideas and instincts you have every day. They typically start with “I should”: I should jog, I should do 20 push-ups now, I should skip dessert, I should walk over to that stranger and introduce myself, I should start my book, I should just do a phone call, I should update my resume. Notice how you’re always putting off such ideas, and saying “later” instead of “now”. In response to them, you are supposed to “just do it”: push your plate away, set a reminder on your phone to write the first chapter of that book, start walking over to that stranger, pick up your phone and start dialing. With one tiny action, you take this instinct and put it in the world where it becomes real. You can also use the rule to break free of a negative thought loop.
3. The importance of taking action right away.
You are one tiny decision away from a completely different life. Our lives are made out of choices, that we make on a daily basis. Most of them are done subconsciously, as a part of your routine – this is called being reactive. You should instead take a proactive role and act on your good instincts. That is being true to yourself, to your heart and destiny. The difference between walking over to that person and striking a conversation could be the difference between being single or happily married, could be the difference between being stuck where you are and getting a promotion or a new job offer. It was just a tiny decision that you made that completely changed your life and made you into a different person. Every day brings a lot of opportunities to influence your life, and if you use the 5-second rule every time, you will take control of your life and achieve great things. It is entirely in your power to always choose higher.
4. Don’t settle for being fine.
Whenever you give up on yourself and settle for being fine, you are creating a loop of not taking action. Get out of your head and believe that you have ideas that can change your life and change the world – you’re just one step away from getting closer to achieving it. Get specific about your motivation, “losing the man boobs so you can hook up with someone” is more concrete than “getting in better shape”. When you’re dissatisfied with your life, it means that your need for change and growth isn’t being met and it is a signal that your soul’s need for exploration is being ignored.
5. Courage and confidence.
We grow up thinking that courage is something people are born with. We look at great people throughout history and believe that there is something different about them. But what do they say about it? They didn’t think they are going to be the one to do such great things, and all it took was one tiny step at a time, one action on their instinct. Courage is the ability to do something that is difficult and scary – sharing your ideas, showing up, speaking up, standing behind your beliefs, stepping out of your comfort zone, getting out of bed. Every time you will take action on your instincts and take acts of everyday courage, you will build your confidence and you will feel in control of your life. Confidence is not a personality trait, it is a skill. You create it by the small things you do every single day that build trust in yourself.
Whenever you get clear about what you want to achieve in life, you are setting a program for your subconscious. Its job is then to point out opportunities to you and get you closer to realizing your dream. You need to learn to bet on your goal-related impulses and instincts, as they are there to guide you. You will never know when your greatest inspiration will strike and where will it lead you if you never trust yourself enough to act on it. The difference between people who make their dreams come true and those who don’t is just their courage to start and discipline to keep going. And now we know that all it takes is 5 seconds to take care of your courage.
Depending on motivation will not get you far, as it varies greatly from moment to moment. Use it to instill the 5-second habit, which will, in turn, get you moving even when you don’t feel like it. The rule doesn’t make these things easy, but it makes them happen.
8. What do you feel about it?
It is our feelings that decide for us most of the time. It may seem that we are thinking about it, but we are actually feeling about it. You feel before you think, you feel before you act. Let’s say you want to talk to the CEO of the company you work for. You see him/her in front of you, and here is your chance. Logically, you should obviously go ahead and strike a conversation. But you get an intense feeling of fear, and come up with 200 reasons (I’m sure nothing good will happen, maybe he is busy, I don’t want to make things worse, who am I to do this…) why it is a bad idea within the next few seconds, and talk yourself out of it. How you feel like in the moment is almost never aligned with your goals and your dreams – if you only act when you feel like it, you will never get what you want. Just 5-4-3-2-1-GO and force yourself to start walking. “You can’t control how you feel, but you can control how you act”.
9. Wake-up challenge.
A great way to start using the rule is to set your alarm for early morning and put it in the bathroom. Then when it rings in the morning, simply say 5-4-3-2-1 and pull yourself off the bed and go turn off the alarm. Then proceed with brushing your teeth while thinking “I can’t believe this is happening” and start your day. If you can change your morning routine, you can change everything. Also, the first few hours after waking up are usually the most productive for your brain, so make good use of them. This is the best time to tackle those important personal projects you’ve been putting off.
10. Procrastination and productivity.
The number one thing that kills your productivity is a distraction. Mute your phone and put it somewhere where you can’t see it, catch yourself starting to browse pointlessly, catch yourself drifting away in a chain of thoughts – gently bring your attention back to the task at hand and focus on it. Your goals are more important than push notifications. As for procrastination, it is a behavior pattern which you use to cope with stress. Whenever you start procrastinating, ask yourself what are you procrastinating FROM and face your feelings. Quit running away from how you feel. If you’re putting off making 10 phone calls to potential clients, face yourself and ask why is it more important to wipe the dust off the printer right now than doing the thing that will bring you closer to your goals. Once you had that conversation with yourself and catch yourself procrastinating on the same thing again, just 5-4-3-2-1 and push yourself to start doing it. The key is not in finishing that daunting huge project, but taking the first step.
11. Stop worrying.
One of the most important habits to break is the habit of worry. When you are at the beginning of your life and at the end of your life, you are not worrying. You wish you hadn’t worried and that you took your chances more often, and tried to do all those things that you had a chance to do. Start with catching yourself drifting into worry, and regain mental control over yourself by using the 5-second rule. When you feel really nervous before a meeting, rewire yourself to feel excited about the meeting. The feeling will still be there, but you are instead feeling excited about a potential signed contract and getting closer to your dreams rather than worrying about things going wrong. To stop a negative loop, think about what you are grateful for in your life.
12. What will get you closer to your goals?
Ask yourself that question now. Now say 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and start doing it.