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Everything You Need To Know About The 5 Second Rule

Everything You Need To Know About The 5 Second Rule

I’ll be the first to admit it, I’m a bit of a procrastinator and there are times where procrastinating just isn’t going to cut it. I stumbled upon the book, the 5-second rule by Mel Robbins while looking into some behavioural patterns I can change to reduce my procrastination. In the book, Mel Robbins talks about the magic of counting down from 5 to 1 and getting on with it.

So here’s the one-liner behind the 5-second rule: if you have an impulse to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill the idea (

Sounds simple right?

Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of it.

If you wanted to wake up at 5:30am every single day, the 5-second rule demands that the minute your alarm goes off, you start counting down from 5 to 1 in your head and jump out of bed before you change your mind or hit the snooze button. 

So what’s the magic behind the number 5? Well, science says it takes about 5 seconds for the momentum to kick in the prefrontal cortex. Anything longer than 5 seconds and the prefrontal cortex loses the momentum necessary to take action. And that’s where procrastination comes in. With procrastination, you’re essentially delaying action as long as you can and the longer you wait to take action, the harder it actually becomes to get into it.

Still unsure about it, let’s get down into the science behind how the prefrontal cortex functions. The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is essentially the cerebral cortex – the largest part of the brain – and it is located beneath your forehead. This part of the brain is responsible for decision making, problem solving, memory, language, sexual and social behaviour and so forth. This means that you can use the science on how the brain functions to break bad habits and create new ones.

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Just so we’re clear, using the 5-second rule won’t make you enjoy waking up at the crack of dawn, exercising or doing something you currently don’t like but you know is beneficial for you. What it can help you with, if you choose to take action after 5 seconds, is training yourself to develop a new habit that you know is good for you in the long run. 

Other than helping me with procrastinating, the 5-second rule has also been beneficial in helping me break negative thought patterns. In the past, when a negative thought comes to mind, I start struggling to find a positive thought to replace it with. But the process of thinking of a positive thought would sometimes get me in a cycle of negative-positive-negative…you get the picture. Now when a negative thought comes to mind, I count down from 5 to 1 and it forces me to be aware of my thoughts AND what mood/situation led to the negative thought in the first place. The second half of that process is SO important and I can’t stress it enough as it allows me to control what I think about next.

What the 5-second rule hasn’t helped me with is the stress that comes with the migraines I get. We’re working on that.

Have you read the 5-second rule? What are your thoughts? Do share in the comments section.

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