Book Review: The 5 Second Rule

By Mel Robbins

About The Author: 

At the age of 41 Mel Robbins felt like she was losing control of her life.  She was unemployed, facing bankruptcy, and dealing with a downward spiraling marriage rooted in resentment.  To cope, she had turned to alcohol and avoidance to the point where getting out of bed every day was a struggle.  In an act of desperation, she counted backwards “5, 4, 3, 2, 1”.  She didn’t know why it worked.  Just that it had and she was able to take action despite feeling trapped.

Since developing The 5 Second Rule, Mel has been able to bounce back from rock bottom.  Her career made a turn for the better she has been able to help countless others who struggle a place similar to where she was.  Her marriage has been revitalized and is now thriving.

Today Mel is a best-selling author, keynote speaker, and TV host in addition to working as a legal correspondent for CNN.  Her TEDtalk, “how to stop screwing yourself over” has been viewed over 19 million times. In addition, she inspires millions of people daily through her social media channels.

The Big Idea:

        The 5 Second Rule is a tool that can be used to transform your life by taking action and overcoming self-doubt, fear, and uncertainty.  And while it doesn’t make things easy.  It does make things happen by creating a 5 second window between an initial instinct and the brain’s efforts to stop us.

The Details:

We all want changes in our life.  Better health.  Improved finances.  Stronger relationships.  Frequently we know what we need to do but we can’t make ourselves take action.  This is why change is so difficult.    Change requires us to do things that feel hard, scary, or uncertain.  And that takes a lot of courage and confidence to step outside of our comfort zones and make changes in our daily lives.

Part 1 focuses on what the 5 Second Rule is and why it works.  Change comes down to the 5 seconds right after you have a thought or instinct to act on a goal.  It’s during this 5 second window that you must physically act or your brain will stop you.  This is because we have developed a habit loop that is designed to keep us safe from fear and uncertainty.

Regardless of the instinct, we stop ourselves from taking action by following the same sequence of events.  We have a thought and then instead of immediately taking action, we hesitate.  This hesitation locks ourselves in mental jail by sending a stress signal to the brain.  It’s a red flag that sends our brain into a “protection mode.”  We rationalize all the reasons why we shouldn’t act.  It’s becomes paralyzing as we get stuck in our current reality.

By counting backwards. “5-4-3-2-1” we are interrupting our brains focus as we are mentally having to shift gears.  The counting distracts us from our excuses long enough to refocus our attention on what we need to do.  This interrupts the habit loop long enough to give us a push toward action.

Part 2 of The 5 Second Rule examines the power of courage.  Everyday life is full of moments that are scary, uncertain, and difficult.  And facing them to unlock opportunity requires a certain amount of courage.  Courage is a push toward taking action that is inside all of us.  We just need to give it the chance to work.

We all have been guilty of thinking about something we should be doing that is line with our values and beliefs.  But then we fail to take action.  This is the push moment when you have 5 seconds to take action.  Otherwise our brains will talk us out of it by telling us “it’s not the right time.”

Change is simple.  But it is not easy.  Logically, we know what we should do, but our feelings about taking action make the decision for us.  The truth is we seldom will feel like taking action by doing something that seems scary or uncertain.  And how we feel in a specific moment is almost never aligned to our dreams and goals.  You can’t control your feelings.  But you can always chose to act.  And by taking action confidence is a skill that is developed over time.

The final three parts of the book detail how having the courage to act can change your life.  Self-confidence is built through acts of everyday courage.  It builds when you act by strengthening your belief that you are in control of your life.  And over time momentum will compound your actions develop into increased confidence.

The Bottom Line:

        Stop thinking about how you feel.  Because your feelings won’t allow you to change into your “future self.”  The only thing that matters is what you do.  Thinking about getting healthier by itself doesn’t make you healthier.  You must act.  Count backwards, “5-4-3-2-1” and let courage give you the push you need before your mind can talk you out of it.  Start small.  Take action.  Build momentum.

My 2 Cents:

Since reading The 5 Second Rule I have been able to overcome my fear of uncertainty and the possibility of failure in my own life.  Sharing my story through my social media has been difficult.  Often I want to write a post or share a story that I know can inspire others who are struggling at a place in their life where I once was.  But my fear of judgement wants to hold me back.  Do I still get scared? Absolutely.  I’ve learned that courage isn’t the absence of fear.  But the ability to take action in the face of it.

During the past two decades since graduating from college I have dreamed about improving my health and fitness to a point where I was proud of who I saw in the mirror.  That I was confident to be at the beach or pool in just my bathing suit.  And I was inspiring to those around me.  Along my journey I made more than my share of mistakes.  I started and quit on myself many times.  And doubt would set in that maybe it wasn’t the right time or the right circumstances.  Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.

I can tell you that reaching my goals was 100% mental.  The body won’t go where the mind doesn’t tell it to go.  For several years I let my feelings dictate my actions, especially when it came to my nutrition.  I would procrastinate, rationalize, and sabotage.  It wasn’t until I got the support I needed from a coach and a group of others that I was able to build momentum and gain confidence as I started to see results.

I believe that’s why over 95% of people fail when they try to change their health and fitness.  They try to go at it alone before they have built up the courage to overcome how they feel and take enough of the right actions for long enough to see the results they desire.

Do you need help getting started?  If you would like to connect with me on Instagram and Facebook I’d love to be your “guide on the side” through your personal journey.