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The Five Second Rule

5 second rule

The 5-second rule is a technique that was developed by an American lady Mel Robbins.
This technique helps you to stop talking yourself out of doing something that you want to do.

The basis of the technique is to close the gap between having the thought of doing what you want to do and then the thought of talking yourself out of it. Mel Robbins came up with this method at a time in her life when she was finding it very difficult to get up out of bed early enough in the morning to get herself organised and get her life back on track.

It is easiest to explain this technique using her own example of getting out of bed as soon as the alarm goes off. When you need to get up early in the morning and are finding it hard to get out of bed and so repeatedly hit the snooze button, what is actually happening is the alarm is going off and your conscious mind is waking up with a thought of: ‘Time to get up”, but there's a small gap of a few seconds before you have that thought of: “I’ll just stay in bed for five more minutes” and then you hit the snooze button.

Many times in life we choose to do something or say something to somebody or just even get ourselves out of bed in the morning but then we talk ourselves out of it.   We sabotage our own actions and then later we end up beating ourselves up because we didn't get up on time, or we didn't say what we needed to say to that person or we didn't get done.

The 5-second rule shows that there is a gap between the rational conscious thought of doing something and the subconscious thought coming in to talk you out of it, and how to stop this happening.

How to apply the 5-Second Rule

Once you've had the conscious thought to do something, for example, once the alarm goes off, you immediately begin to count backwards 5-4-3-2-1.   

By counting backwards what do you are actually doing is keeping your thoughts in the conscious part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex where you have all your conscious thoughts. You are not allowing the subconscious thought that would arise to stop you.  By not allowing the subconscious thought to come forward and keeping your thoughts in the conscious mind you will activate the energy needed and will continue to consciously do what it is you want to get done.

When to use the 5-Second Rule

The 5-second rule can be used in many contexts when you are likely to talk yourself out of doing something. For example, if you wanted to speak up during a meeting in work but felt that you were not in a position to raise suggestions or questions as more senior people are present. Use the 5-second rule. Once you have the thought consciously count backwards 5-4-3-2-1 and then add ‘speak up’.

Many of us talk our selves out of speaking up at meetings where there are more senior or more knowledgeable people around us because we tell ourselves we might look stupid or they might laugh at our suggestions. By stopping this sabotaging thought, by the counting backwards from 5 to 1, you are keeping your conscious mind alert so when you speak up at the very least you will have your thought or your idea out there.

It will then be up to management to decide whether to take it forward or not. This means that when you leave the meeting you have no cause to beat yourself up afterwards for not speaking up.  You have said what you needed to say and have left it with the people in charge to take it forward.

You can use the 5-second rule in many areas of your life to get you over that moment of talking yourself out of it.  You can use it for getting more active, for getting up earlier, for speaking up your truth for or for asking that person out. 

All you have to do is think “5-4-3-2-1 do it” and you are much more likely to do it.

Good Luck and please let me know your experiences of using the 5-second rule.


Dympna Hannon Founder of The Distraction Process

Dympna Hannon is a specialist in chronic pain and mental health recovery. Dympna has worked with hundreds of people helping them lead full, pain free and balanced lives. She understands that all pain is personal and her whole person approach to determine the cause means the pain can be addressed and cleared. Dympna is the founder of 'The Distraction Process', developed to help people control and change their thoughts and is used extensively in mental health recovery and moving on from long term chronic pain.

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