A tool for action: how the 5 Second Rule can change your life

Anna Brech

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that we wait to be “ready” before doing things in life. But, says motivational speaker Mel Robbins, this hesitation is “the kiss of death”.

A few years ago, Robbins, a US-based entrepreneur, found herself in a rut. Things in her life were going wrong, and she couldn’t seem to find the willpower or energy to fix them.

Instead, she was caught in a downward spiral of blame and denial. Often, she struggled to even get out of bed.

It was this last problem that prompted Robbins to invent her 5 Second Rule.

Before she knew it, not only was she on a better path, she had also hit on what was to become a global tool for success.

What is the 5 Second Rule?

The 5 Second Rule is a metacognition device that rewires the mind to positive action.

Robbins used it to help herself get out of bed, back in those tough days. She found that if she counted backwards; “5-4-3-2-1 and ACTION!”, she would stop making excuses and jump right up.

By the simple act of counting backwards, she got her brain to focus on the task at hand. She distracted it from its default setting of procrastinating, and making excuses.

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According to Robbins, that moment of pause before you do things is critical.

“You might hesitate for a just nanosecond, but that’s all it takes,” she says. “That one small hesitation triggers a mental system that’s designed to stop you. And it happens in less than—you guessed it—five seconds.”

The 5 Second Rule is a shortcut tool: it overrides the tendency we all have to talk ourselves out of things.

How does the 5 Second Rule work? 

Says Robbins, “The moment you have an instinct to act on a goal you must 5-4-3-2-1 and physically move or your brain will stop you.”

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Initially Robbins used the 5 Second Rule to get out of bed on time, but she quickly adapted it to improve all areas of her life: having a difficult conversation at work, being kinder to her family, getting fit; even writing a best-selling book.

The crux of the 5 Second Rule is in direct action:  “Your feelings don’t matter. The only thing that matters is what you DO”.

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The 5 Second Rule recognises that YOU are the biggest barrier to achieving your goals: but you are also the solution.

“We are all so afraid of uncertainty that we want a guarantee before we even try,” says Robbins.

The 5 Second Rule short-circuits that wave of doubt. It makes you follow through on your ambitions (however small), regardless of how unsure you feel about them.

Feel scared about speaking up in a meeting? 5-4-3-2-1 and do it. Don’t think about the fear. Want to take up running? Count down and get those trainers on.

You make it happen, simply by giving yourself the prompt with zero room to think.

How can the 5 Second Rule change my life? 

Outdoor action and loads of endorphins at the highest commercial abseil in the world - operated by Abseil Africa on Table Mountain, one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World and part of the Table Mountain National Park, in Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa, RSA

The beauty of the 5 Second Rule is that it creates a virtuous circle of action.

When you learn to do rather than feel, you make stuff happen. Instead of merely pledging to change, you endorse your ability to do so with positive action. And so, your confidence grows.

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Don’t wait to be ready because — newsflash, you never will be.

“Success is a numbers game,” says Robbins. “You are not going to win if you keep telling yourself to wait. The more often that you choose courage, the more likely you’ll succeed.”


When you use the 5-4-3-2-1 rule in your life; whether in jogging every day or booking that life-changing adventure; you kick-start your goals. Suddenly, they move from that dusty shelf to being within reach. And from there, you make success a habit.

“Champions don’t do extraordinary things,” writes Charles Duhigg, in his productivity bible The Power of Habit. “They do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking … They follow the habits they’ve learned.”

So, what are you waiting for? Count 5-4-3-2-1 and start your journey to fulfilment today. Here’s to No More Not Yets!

This story is part of Flash Pack’s No More Not Yets campaign. Our mission is to eradicate two powerful words that can stop you achieving your dreams: “not yet”. The not yet seen, not yet swum, not yet sat in the suns. Not yet met, not yet tried, not yet climbed, braved or conquered. What’s your Not Yet? Find out more here.

Read more about Mel Robbins’ 5 Second Rule right here

Images: Shutterstock, Flash Pack, James Hall

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