Mel Robbins explains how to control your mind and direct it somewhere positive.
The 5 Second Rule That Tricks Your Brain Into Taking Action
Transcript – The 5 Second Rule – USE THIS TO CONTROL YOUR BRAIN
There are so many people in the world and you may be watching this right now and you have these incredible ideas and what you think is missing is motivation and that’s not true.
Because the way that our minds are wired and the fact about human beings is that we are not designed to do things that are uncomfortable or scary or difficult. Our brains are designed to protect us from those things because our brains are trying to keep us alive. In order to change, in order to build a business, in order to be the best parent, the best spouse to do all those things that you know you want to do with your life, with your work, with your dreams you are going to have to do things that are; difficult, uncertain or scary. Which sets up this problem for all of us, you are never going to feel like it. Motivation is garbage, you only feel motivated to do the things that are easy right?
Tom: Why do you think that is?
Mel: I know exactly why that is because I’ve studied this so much because for me one of the hardest things to figure out was why is it so hard to do the little things that would improve my life. And what I’ve come to realize is that the way that our minds are designed is our minds are designed to stop you at all cost, from doing anything that might hurt you. The way that this all happens is it all starts with something super subtle that none of us ever catch and that is with this habit that all of us have that nobody is talking about.
We all have a habit of hesitating. We have an idea, you’re sitting in a meeting, you have this incredible idea and instead of just, you know, saying it, you stop and you hesitate. Now, what none of us realize is that when you hesitate just that moment, that micro-moment, that small hesitation it sends a stress signal to your brain. It wakes your brain up and your brain all of a sudden goes, “Oh, wait a minute why is he hesitating he didn’t hesitate when he put on his killer spiky sneakers, he didn’t hesitate with the really cool track pants, he didn’t hesitate with a NASA t-shirt now he’s hesitating to talk something must be up.”
Then your brain goes to work, to protect you. It has a million different ways to protect you one of them is called the spotlight effect. It’s a known phenomenon where your brain magnifies risk, why? To pull you away from something that it perceives to be a problem. And so, you can truly trace every single problem or complaint in your life to silence and hesitation, those are decisions.
What I do and what’s changed my life is waking up and realizing that motivation is garbage I’m never going to feel like doing the things that are tough or difficult or uncertain or scary or new. So I need to stop waiting until I feel like it. And number two, I am one decision away from a totally different marriage, a totally different life, a totally different job, a totally different income, a totally different relationship with my kids. Not like one decision I’m divorcing you in a marriage example but one decision on, you know, could be having a conversation with your spouse and you feel your emotions rise up and within a tiny window those emotions can take over and can impact how your marriage goes or you can learn how to take control of that micro-moment and make a decision to act in a way that actually shifts your marriage. Your life comes down to your decisions and if you change your decisions you will change everything.
In the scheme of life hitting the snooze button is not that big of a deal but here is the thing about life; none of us wake up and say, “Today is the day I destroy my life.” What we do is we kind of check out because it feels overwhelming or we check out because we’re afraid or we check out because we start listening to self-doubt and then we make these teeny-tiny decisions all day long and we don’t even realize it. Decision to not get up on time, a decision to not eat the right thing, a decision to snap at your kids, a decision to not speak at a meeting, a decision to not look for a job, a decision to not deal with your finances, a decision to not call your parents like whatever it is.
All day long these tiny decisions that take you so far off track and then you wake up like I didn’t… And you look at your life and you think, “How the hell did I get here?” And more importantly how do you get back over there and you have no idea.
And so, I was so trapped and I know from your story you felt the same way. Like, you knew that there was more in store for you but you couldn’t figure out how do you close that gap. How do you find the power that’s in you, how do you discover your greatness, how do you solve these problems I feel so overwhelming. When you can … I mean, I would go to the grocery store and the items would scan and I would be sitting there readying my excuse because there was no way that my check card was going to clear.
I got in this struggle with myself that a lot of us find ourselves in and that is you get trapped in what I call the knowledge-action gap. You know what to do but you can’t seem to make yourself do it. Right? I mean every one of us is one Google search away from a list of instructions that if you follow any of them it will change your life.
But how do you get out of your head and stop thinking about what you need to do and actually do it? And in my case this stuff was pretty easy; get up on time, make breakfast for the kids, get them on the bus, start looking for a job, don’t drink so much. Instead of isolating yourself pick up the phone and call a friend, get yourself out into the woods and go for a walk, start running again. Like all these little things that I was capable of but I couldn’t get out of here, could not get out of here and if you are stuck that’s the problem. The problem is you are in your head, your thinking. That is the universal problem and it all starts with this knowledge of what to do and then you hesitate and you think about whether or not you feel like doing it.
When you set goals when you have an intention on something that you want to change about your life your brain helps you. What it does is it opens up a checklist and then your brain goes to work trying to remind you of that intention that you set. And it’s really important to develop the skill and I say that word purposefully, the skill of knowing how to hear that inner wisdom and that intention kicking in and leaning into it quickly.
So for me, my brain is saying, “That’s it right there move as fast as rocket, Mel.” I wanted to change my life. And I think most people that are miserable or that are really like dying to be great and dying to have more; we want to change, we want to live a better life, we want to create more for our families, we want to be happier. The desire is there again it’s about how do you go from knowledge to action. So the first thing in this story that’s important is realizing that the answer was in me and my mind was telling me, “Pay attention.”
Anyway, the next morning the alarm goes off and, I pretended NASA was there. It’s the stupidest story I literally went; five, four, three, two, one I counted out loud and then I stood up. And I’ll never forget standing there in my bedroom; it was dark, it was cold, it was winter in Boston. And for the first time in three months, I had beaten my habit of hitting the snooze button. I couldn’t believe it and I thought, “Wait a minute counting backwards, that is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life.”
Well, the next morning I used it again and it worked. The next morning I used it again and it worked. The next morning I used it again and it worked. And then I started to notice something really interesting, there were moments all day long, all day long. Just like that five-second moment in bed where I knew knowledge, what I should do. And if I didn’t move within five seconds my brain would step in and talk me out of it. Every human being has a five-second window might even be shorter for you. You have about a five-second window in which you can move from idea to action before your brain kicks into full gear and sabotages any change in behavior. Because remember, your brain is wired to stop you from doing things that are uncomfortable or uncertain or scary. It’s your job to learn how to move from those ideas that could change everything into acting on them.
When you understand the power of a five-second decision and you understand that you always have a choice to go from autopilot to decision maker everything in your life will change. You will be a different negotiator, you will be different in sales, you will be unstoppable in the gym because you will realize the amount of garbage that you put in the way; of your hopes, of your dreams, of your potential, of your confidence, of your courage. Everything comes down to the decisions that you make. We all know what to do none of us know how to make ourselves do it. I started researching it why does something so stupid work, why? Why does something so silly create such powerful and profound change? Well, here is why; The rule is a form of metacognition. Metacognition is a fancy-pants term that means something really simple. You can outsmart your own brain in furtherance of goals.
There are tricks that you can use that actually outsmart the tricks your brain plays on you. In furtherance of a higher purpose we all know this, you can restrain yourself if you are in a situation that calls for it. You can jump into a raging river to save your dog or your kid, you can direct yourself in ways if it’s important to you. And so, the rule what it does is it does something really remarkable.
When you count backwards; five, four, three, two, one what you are actually doing is you are interrupting what researchers call habit loops that get encoded as closed loop patterns in your basal ganglia. That’s the part of the brain where your feelings, where your emotions, every habit that you have which is nothing more than behavior that you repeat that you don’t even think about.
And so when you go; Five, four, three, two, one it interrupts what’s going on here that’s spinning without you thinking and it moves and awakens your prefrontal cortex. So when you hit one, your habit has been interrupted so you’ve interrupted self-doubt, you’ve interrupted maybe snapping at your kids, you’ve interrupted the desire to grab for a drink, you’ve interrupted procrastination. You’ve also by counting backwards done an action, it’s awakened your prefrontal cortex that is the part of the brain that you need that’s awake when you are changing behavior when you are learning new things. When you hit one it’s also a prompt. So, in the language of research, you’ll hear people talk about starting rituals, that is something that’s proven to help you learn a new habit. The five-second rule when you repeat it becomes a starting ritual that triggers you to act with confidence, that triggers you that this is a moment for courage, that triggers you to shift gears. And because you’ve also done the manual work of awakening the part of the brain that you need to change, you’ve set yourself up for success. It doesn’t work if you count up because you can keep going and also counting up doesn’t require focus. If you count backwards; Five, four, three, two, one it again awakens the prefrontal cortex and it prompts you to move. When you start to use it and then you read about it you’ll see that it’s being used all over the place; they use it in the armed services in order to align troops and get them to start an exercise, they use it in elementary schools; five, four, three, two, one at big assemblies to get a huge room full of kids to stop talking.
Tom: Simple and interesting example, yeah.
Mel: Because it requires you to focus it’s not a habit. It will become a habit that prompts you to have confidence and courage, but in the beginning, it interrupts patterns of behavior that you do on autopilot, it helps you assert control and it teaches you how to become the kind of person that moves from thinking about something to actually doing it.
I think we are all flawed and that’s the beauty of who you are. And instead of trying to make yourself perfect in every area it’s so much easier when you accept the things that you are terrible at or that are your weaknesses or that are things about your wiring.
Look if I were diabetic I would take insulin I happen to be somebody that’s wired for anxiety no big deal. Figure out how to, instead of fighting those things actually trick it, because the truth is that you are never going to feel ready to make these changes. You are never going to feel like doing them but you can always make a decision that’s always in your control. Staying with somebody that treats you like garbage is a decision, it is. Staying at a job that you hate is a decision. Staying in the body that you are not proud of is a decision. Is it going to be easy? No, it’s not going to be easy to change it’s simple, do a Google search and then use the five-second rule to force yourself to do that stuff.
Change comes down to five-second decisions and this is why the five-second rule is important for everybody to know. It’s your job to push yourself. And I don’t care if you are Dr. Martin Luther King Junior or you are Michelangelo or you are Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote Hamilton you will struggle with self-doubt.
And everybody that you admire, everybody, and the list is the same; Oh, Oprah Winfrey and I want to be like Tom and I want to be like Branson and I want to be like Jay-Z and I want to be like … Everybody is listed, Bill Gates.
Do you know what those people do? They do not have the habit of hesitating they trust themselves.