Science believes this 5-second rule is the secret to motivation

5-second rule

Mel Robbins is probably best known for being an incredibly powerful and influential motivational speaker, she rose to fame by her hugely popular TED talk on “How to Stop Screwing Yourself Over”.

More recently, Robbins authored The 5 Second Rule and sent the science and business world into a tizzy.

Her book, explains in simple terms why we have got procrastination all wrong. Robbins explains that procrastination doesn't come from a bad, lazy or undetermined attitude but instead it comes as a human defense to stress. The task we are avoiding is linked to something that is stressing us. Naturally, if you're stressed, you want to escape the stressor. So, we are not avoiding the task in itself but, the stress associated with executing the task.

The five-second rule and science

Robbins explains that chemists define ‘activation energy’ as the minimum amount of energy required to trigger a chemical reaction - (i.e for us to stop procrastinating and execute a task). Interestingly, scientific experiments have proven that the initial energy used to get a chemical reaction is always higher than the energy required to maintain the reaction once it's started. Therefore, we just have to mentally pull ourselves through the first hurdle of a task and the rest is smooth sailing - this might explain why it takes so much energy to get out of bed but when you're up you require a lot less effort to keep up.

5-second rule and stress

The key influencer between us and completing task X is stress. Put another way, without feeling stress associated to task X we wouldn't overthink it and then avoid it. Instead, we would impulsively complete the task.

Antonio Damasio, a neuroscientist focusing his research on human decision making, claims that our emotional decision making (gut reaction) is just as important as our rational decision making. We have evolved as humans with a capacity for gut reactions (counterbalanced by our rational mind), in order to speed up what could essentially be a very slow and ineffective decision-making process. So, we need our gut reaction, which relies on our brain's prefrontal cortex, to be in great working order otherwise, we become stuck making even the simplest decisions. And guess what happens to your prefrontal cortex when you're stressed? That's right, it pretty much shuts down!

That's where the beauty of the 5-second rule comes into play - it encourages actions before stress has the ability to prevent them from happening.

How the 5-second rule works

It’s a very simple 2-step process, triggered by one concept; "Make a 5-second decision that is directly contrary to the stress response".

So, when you feel stress attached to a task do the following:

  1. Count backward from five, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. By counting, you stop focusing on any excuses, fears or distractions and focus on the goal.
  2. The second you reach ‘1’ you take action, you move, you get started.

This rule can be used anytime you are facing uncertainty or fear. As soon as you start counting backward from 5 you’ll find that your mind will slow down, and you’ll be ready to leap into action. Robbins calls this a decision of courage: "When you act with courage, your brain is not involved. Your heart speaks first, and you listen.

So what are you waiting for? Try the 5-second rule today and see how it can change your life!

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