The 5 Second Rule – Book Review


Success isn’t a quick path and there are no shortcuts. Getting better is a campaign, it’s a weekly, daily, hourly fight against weakness, temptation, and laziness. It’s a campaign of discipline, hard work, and dedication; waking up early and going to bed late and grinding out every second in between, every single day. Just start doing it, get up and get after it, here and now.

This book was so easy to read, the language Mel uses is super casual, almost like she’s giving a piece of heartfelt advice to a friend and you happen to be this friend.

It opens your eyes to how the simplest choices can change your life and you’re 5 seconds away from taking the right step or staying in your comfort zone.

Here are the most valuable things I got from Mel Robbins’ The 5 second rule:

    • Trust your instincts
    • What is the 5 second rule?
    • Why does it work?
    • How can you use the 5 second rule?

Trust your instincts

Mel talks about how our brain subconsciously tries to work with us when we decide to reach a goal, it opens up a task and it will be on our mind until completion, everytime you’re near something that will get you closer to your goal, you’ll feel an instinct to act.

And that instinct can take different forms like excitement as in your first day of college or shame as when you pass near a gym knowing you made the promise to get in shape and you’re not doing it.

You have to act on those instincts before your brain convinces you to stay in your comfort zone. Remember, nothing great grows in a comfort zone.

The 5 second rule works as a starting ritual for breaking bad habits and creating new ones.

What is the 5 second rule?

“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.”

We all know deep down what we have to do, but our brains constantly will try and sabotage us into staying in our comfort zone unless we act on that instinct faster than our excuses.

If you start counting backward, it will stop the default train of thoughts and you’ll recover control of the situation. Once you get to 1 there’s nothing else to do but to move towards that action, physically move, that first shot of energy is the biggest you’ll need when you try to do the hard stuff, then your body will follow along.

As simple as that, Mel describes it as a tool to help you get done what you know needs to be done, whether you feel like it or not (here’s a hint: you’ll never feel like it). You have to count backward, which activates your prefrontal cortex and gives you back control of the situation, and went you get to 1 start moving no matter what towards that action you need to complete.

Why does the 5 second rule work?

“The rule is a simple, research-backed Metacognition tool that creates immediate and lasting behavior change. Metacognition, by the way, is just a fancy word for any technique that allows you to beat your brain in order to accomplish bigger goals.”

It works on many levels of your life because the change is made on you, and then you are able to act on all these different levels that need improvement. It helps you shut down the negative self-talk, the paralyzing fear because it activates the rational part of your brain that knows what you should do to get you where you want to be.

It gives you back the power, the courage to start working towards your goals, no matter how small the action you decide to initiate. It can be as small as waking up on time, or as big as stepping up and asking for a raise at work, talking to your spouse about your silent issues, or saying “I love you” to that person you know you don’t say it enough.

How can you use the 5 second rule?

In the book she talks about 9 powerful ways to improve your life using the 5 second rule, I’ll just give you a hint about them but she goes detailed in how you can use it and gives you clear examples to follow

1. Use the 5 second rule to Improve your health

Getting healthy is hard; it will be hard because it requires your body to step out of your comfort zone, to deprive yourself of things you’re used to. And the rule can help you by beating what you feel, you’ll hardly ever feel like doing something that is hard, but the reward after that makes it worth it. So, whenever you find yourself giving too much thought to going for a run or chilling at the couch, just 5-4-3-2-1 and put on those shoes, start moving!

2. Use the 5 second rule to Increase productivity

I love how honest she is when she tells us that she hates mornings, and every day she has to push herself out of bed, it never gets easier. You don’t have to be a morning person to be the boss of your mornings, truth is, if you get done what’s more important for you before the daily errands take control you’ll be more productive than if you let the day go through you.

The advice for this is 5-4-3-2-1 get out of bed when the alarm rings, write down what’s important for you and get to do it before anything else.

Never hit the snooze button, because it screws up your sleeping cycle, it causes sleep inertia and you’ll need around 4 hours to get back to normal, this is the reason why so many of us go through mornings like zombies, feeling already tired before the day starts.

3. Use the 5 second rule to End procrastination

It’s interesting that she talks about the reason why we procrastinate is not to avoid work, but to release stress, and the stress can be related, or not to the activity you are delaying; not finishing your work on time builds up more stress and more reason to procrastinate trying to relieve it.

How do you end this cycle? Forgive yourself for procrastinating, don’t put any more pressure on yourself, and the moment you start looking for easier things to do instead of your work just 5-4-3-2-1 and get to work.

4. Use the 5 second rule to Stop worrying:

“Worrying is a default setting your mind goes to when you’re not paying attention, the key is catching yourself when you’re drifting into worry, and then regaining control by using the rule.”

We worry about things that we can’t control and that we think might happen (but most probably won’t) in the future, that’s when you have to stop your train of thoughts 5-4-3-2-1 and focus on the present, on the things you are grateful for, the positive things that you care about.

5. Use the 5 second rule to End anxiety:

Anxiety builds up when your body prepares for a situation of imminent danger, your heart races, you get sweaty, and if your mind can’t find an explanation to what triggered this reaction it will force you to start moving and leave the room, this is the protection system of your body.

When you know the reason why you are getting anxious, you need to reframe the feelings, for example: if you’re anxious about an exam, 5-4-3-2-1 and reframe it into excitement about finally getting to show your hard work and knowledge. It won’t make the feeling go away, because anxiety and excitement feel the same way but your brain won’t escalate into a full-blown panic attack.

6. Use the 5 second rule to Beat fear:

She advises to have an anchor image of you after the reason for your fear has passed, if you have a fear of flight create an anchor image of what you’ll do when you get to your destination, the places you’ll see the people you’ll meet.

When the fear starts to build up just go 5-4-3-2-1 take control of your thoughts and get that image of you getting to your destination and doing all these great things. If you’re already there the plane didn’t crash, your fear didn’t come true, so having this vision of success after you’ve gone through what makes you fearful reassures your brain and gives it some calm.

7. Use the 5 second rule to Build real confidence:

“Confidence means that you believe in yourself, your ideas and your capabilities. Anyone can learn how to become more confident, it’s not a personality trait. It’s a skill”

You build up confidence by doing little things for yourself, that you know will get you to a better place, the small acts of everyday courage are what make you feel confident, that you can trust yourself on getting things done. Pushing yourself to 5-4-3-2-1 read that chapter of the textbook before your lecture, in the long run, will give you the confidence that you have what it takes to be an A+ student.

8. Use the 5 second rule to Pursue your passion

Mel encourages us to explore, to let our curiosity lead us, pay attention to those things that intrigue us. If you can’t stop thinking about something make it a hobby, learn about it, take classes. This is how you’ll discover your passion, you 5-4-3-2-1, and let yourself explore and learn new things, amazing things can happen afterward.

9. Use the 5 second rule to Enrich your relationships

This is as simple as 5-4-3-2-1 and leave nothing important unsaid. You know what it is that you need to say, don’t think it too much. When you keep important things inside of you there’s a dissonance between what you feel and what you do, that is unhealthy for you and your relationships. Start saying how you feel when you feel it, talk about your problems, ask what’s wrong, say I love you every time you feel it, and you’ll see an improvement in your relationships just 5-4-3-2-1 and say it.

The 5 second decision that changed my life

Five years ago I made a decision that changed my life and looking through the pages of this book, I recognized that was the real everyday courage Mel was talking about.

My parents were having such a hard time paying for my university life away from home that I felt it was unfair, and my sewing side hustle wasn’t very helpful.

I made the decision to go out to the nearest market in my hometown and sell coffee to the vendors there; I’m talking about a small town in Venezuela where this is permitted and common. I remember standing in the mirror with my backpack and a thermo full of coffee and thinking to myself, am I really going to do this?

I took a deep breath in and just started walking out, that moment changed everything for me. Long story short, I was able to get enough money to fly away from my loved but chaotic country, start over in Buenos Aires, Argentina, financially support my dad with my waitress job and continue my studies here.

Courage can be seen in such small things, you can find examples everywhere, you can start small and grow big, the 5 second rule is just the push you need to make it happen.

Final thoughts

If you want to jump straight to the facts and skip the testimonials you can read this book very quickly. The main ideas are almost highlighted for you to digest and then reassured with social media posts of people who’ve followed the rule and succeeded in a certain aspect of their lives.

Do you need motivation? Read it all through with the social media posts and the writer’s comments about them, it’s encouraging to know how many people’s lives have changed with such a simple tool.

If you just need to know the facts, why the rule works and start applying it into your life skip the clearly pointed testimonials and use Mel’s tips to apply the rule on the desired aspect of your life that needs a change!

I highly recommend this book, it is an easy and light lecture, super inspiring, and invigorating.

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