In her book The 5 Second Rule, Mel Robbins does two things: First, she explains what’s holding us back from doing the things we want to do. Then, she offers a solution to help us overcome those obstacles and help us take the first step toward getting everything we want in life.
Think about what you want right now. It can be anything; maybe you want to lose weight, make more money, move to a new place, or start a new business. Whatever it is, one thing we all have in common is the desire for change. We all want to improve ourselves, our relationships, and our lives.
So, why don’t we? We know what we want, why don’t we go out there and get it?
What’s holding us back?
We all have that one friend who complains about everything (or maybe you are that person!). Their jobs, their relationships, their families, it seems like every part of their lives is up for criticism. It never fails; they complain and complain, and sooner or later we all have that same thought:
So why don’t you do something about it?!
The answer comes in two parts:
We’re afraid of change
Robbins explains that our brains have two speeds: Auto-pilot and emergency brake. For most of our day-to-day activities, we run on auto-pilot. Have you ever driven to work and, upon arriving, realized you have no memory of your commute? That’s your brain running on auto-pilot.
Unsurprisingly, our brains love auto-pilot. It’s easy and safe; we know what to expect and we don’t have to work hard to prepare for things. We just go through the motions.
The problem is, auto-pilot is boring! Change is what wakes us up and excites us, but change is also scary. Change takes us out of our comfort zone and into a realm of uncertainty. What if we don’t like it? What if we fail? What if we get hurt?
If we have an impulse to change, our brain pulls the emergency break and feeds us doubts like these to psyche us out until we retreat to out comfort zone, where auto-pilot can resume.
We’re waiting until we “feel like it.”
“I’ll do it when I feel like.” “I’m waiting for the right moment.” “I’m just not ready yet.” If you’ve ever used an excuse like this to put off a change, you’re not alone. It goes back to our fear of change: Instead of just jumping in, we trick ourselves into believing if we just research more, spend more time preparing, wait for the perfect moment, we’ll be ready to do what we need to do.
Unfortunately, Robbins has some bad news: You’re never going to feel like it. Ever.
Think back to when you were a kid. Your parents had to tell you to clean your room and eat your vegetables, otherwise you never would have. No one wants to be responsible! It’s boring, hard, and sometimes even scary. But our parents made sure we did what we needed to do so we could grow into the best versions of ourselves. Now that we’re adults, we still have that childlike aversion to responsibility, only now we don’t have our parents enforcing our discipline for us. We’re never going to feel ready to get married, or go to graduate school, or start a non-profit. Instead of waiting for the right moment, we need to make right now the right moment.
But how do we do that?
The 5 Second Rule: Countdown to Awesome in 5… 4… 3…
We all have little impulses to change the parts of our lives that make us unhappy. We feel a tug of insight to go out for a run here, a pull of inspiration to search for a new job there, but if we don’t marry those impulses with an action, we’ll never do them.
Enter the 5 Second Rule. Not to be confused with the rule that allows you to justify eating food off the floor, Mel Robbins’s Five Second Rule forces us to turn our thoughts into tangible actions. It’s a simple idea: When you feel that tug of inspiration to act, count down from five. Just like a rocket during takeoff, once you reach zero, it’s time to act. Strap on your running shoes, update your resume, initiate some sort of action before your brain can pull the emergency brake and send you tumbling back to comfortable mediocrity.
When you get ready for bed tonight, set your alarm 30 minutes earlier than you would normally. When it goes off in the morning, count down from five and, once you reach zero, throw the covers off, get out of bed, and start your day.
How do you feel compared to when you snooze your alarm and sleep in?