When it comes to health and fitness, workout routines, weight loss apps and meal plans tend to steal the spotlight. Even so, the psychology behind weight loss is just as important, if not more. Self-improvement hacks can help you move beyond pre-cooked meal plans to actual healthy meals that you prepare yourself. One such hack that you should know about is called the 5 Seconds Rule.

What is the 5 Seconds Rule?

“If you have an instinct to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill it.”

— Mel Robbins

That’s it, that’s the 5 Seconds Rule.

Developed by Mel Robbins, this rule drives you to take actions that bring you one step closer to your goals. The idea behind it is that when you experience an instinct or desire (like an idea or feeling) to act on something, you have a 5-seconds window in which to act before your mind shuts it down.

Once you learn the 5 Seconds Rule, you’re more conscious of the moments throughout the day when instincts arise and quickly dissipate due to inaction. A 5-seconds window provides the urgency you need to move, take action, and start prioritizing your goals. It makes you uncomfortably aware of the countless moments when we succumb to self-defeating behavior rather than move toward our objectives.

The Elements of the 5 Seconds Rule

The 5 Seconds Rule consists of the following five elements:

The Urge

The first part of the rule, “If you have an instinct…”, describes a trigger or urge that takes place. Sometimes it’s a physical yearning, like a craving, sometimes it’s an impulse, like the desire to share your feelings with someone you like. 

The Goal

The first part connects to the second, “If you have an instinct to act on a goal…” Here is where things become more meaningful. We all have goals, though some are more defined than others. The urge or instinct you experience must be significant; it must somehow connect to a personal plan.

For instance, say your goal is to be more assertive at work. You’re at a meeting and have a valid opinion to share, but you hesitate to express it. Instead of hesitating, the 5 Seconds Rule dictates you should act, speak up, and do it within 5 seconds! In doing so, you’re accomplishing your goal by acting more assertively at work.

The Push

We all know by now that discomfort is a necessity for personal growth, yet we aren’t very good at pushing ourselves outside our comfort zone. If it were easy, it wouldn’t require a push. 

After noticing the urge, recognizing that it connects with one or more of our goals, we need to shift gears and move out of auto-pilot mode. And just what are we pushing ourselves to do? Read on!

The Physical Move – “…you must physically move within 5 seconds…

Thinking about it isn’t enough; you must physically move in response to the urge. Society tends to compartmentalize pretty much everything, including our mind and body, which are intricately connected. By physically moving in response to mental stimuli, our bodies are telling the mind, “Okay, this is no longer just a thought; this is happening,” and our minds go along with it.

The 5-seconds time limit is arbitrary; what’s important is the countdown that occurs in the process. You could decide that the action must take place within 7 or 10 seconds and countdown from there. The important thing is to perform the countdown, which activates your brain’s prefrontal cortex and creates a sense of urgency, which induces action.

Read this article for a more in-depth scientific explanation behind this process.

Or Else

The 5 Second Rule ends dramatically, “…or your brain will kill it.” In other words, your brain nullifies good ideas. This doesn’t mean your mind is the villain; it just means your brain has learned some bad habits. Fortunately, it is also good at learning positive habits to replace the bad ones.

Once you start implementing the 5 Second Rule, you’ll begin noticing how quickly your mind picks up on it. Instead of sabotaging yourself, you become more driven. Until that happens, your brain is its own worst enemy, so you better act fast.

How can it help you transform your body?

What does the 5 Second Rule look like during weight loss? Here are a few scenarios:

Scenario 1

You’re lounging on the couch and notice it’s sunny out. You think, “I should go for a quick run; I only worked out once this week.” Within 5 seconds, you get up and put on your running shoes. 

You might not run out the door at that moment, but the simple act of putting on your shoes gets you one step closer (literally) to achieving your goal of exercising twice a week.

Scenario 2

You just started intermittent fasting, and it isn’t easy. There are temptations everywhere, and you’re pathetically susceptible to the pastries and donut bar at work, located next to the coffee machine. 

You’ve already had one cup this morning, but you could have another. 5 SECONDS RULE! “Nah, if I get more coffee, I know I won’t be able to resist a donut. I’m going to keep working until noon when my fast ends.” 

In the above scenario, you’ll notice that the physical move was to stay put.

The reality is that there is an endless number of brain hacks and tricks to affect actual change in our daily habits. Some might work for you, some might not, and it’s really up to you to test them and reach your own conclusions. 

Is the 5 Seconds Rule for you? You’ll never know until you try. 54321Go! (Please tell me you saw that coming.)

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