The 5 Second Rule


Mel Robbins’s mega bestseller details how you can gain courage, overcome procrastination and improve your health just by saying five little words.

Readers have bought more than two million copies of acclaimed motivational speaker Mel Robbins’s self-help classic, The 5 Second Rule. It has been translated into more than 30 languages, and received, across a variety of formats, more than 100,000 five-star reviews. Clearly, Robbins’s ideas created a niche. A big niche.

Millions of people credit the author’s simple countdown technique with solving their anxiety and procrastination issues, while boosting their self-confidence. Robbins details how she herself overcame financial and psychological challenges by thwarting her brain’s negative orientation and finding the courage to honor her instincts and pursue her dreams. She urges you to do the same.


Robbins recounts how her life fell apart in 2009 as her husband’s pizza restaurant business lost money and she was an unemployed attorney. The bank had placed a lien on her home, she drank at night to cope with depression and couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. Her marriage was suffering. Things appeared hopeless.

Then, one night, Robbins saw a TV commercial depicting a rocket launch. The announcer counted down to blastoff: 5-4-3-2-1! Robbins told herself she would blast out of bed like a rocket the next morning.

Robbins explains that a potent psychological connection exists between instinctive action and goal-setting.

Your goal-related impulses, urges and instincts are there to guide you. You need to learn to bet on them.Mel Robbins

The next morning, Robbins counted backward from five. Then she got out of bed. That marked the launch of the “5 Second Rule.”

Robbins explains that this simple act can profoundly affect your mentality and behavior. Counting backward disrupts your thought patterns, moving you away from your excuses. She describes the 5 Second Rule as a “starting ritual” that stimulates your brain’s prefrontal cortex – the seat of cognitive control. 

You have only five seconds between your impulse to take action and your brain shutting that impulse down with excuses. By counting down, Robbins contends, you focus your brainpower on the change in behavior you’re about to instigate. She maintains, and her readers’ reviews fully agree, that your productivity and confidence will grow exponentially.

The author first mentioned the 5 Second Rule in 2011 during her TEDx Talk, “How to Stop Screwing Yourself Over.” Her speech triggered a viral online response. Robbins’s consequent research into the science of this rule showed that people hesitate when facing a challenging or unsettling scenario. Anxiety and insecurity can flood your system, causing self-doubt to short-circuit good intentions.

Nothing but Feelings

Feelings prevent people from taking the initiative, Robbins reveals, even when they know how to fix their problems. She notes that people typically base their decisions on feelings, not intuition, logic or common sense. She cites neuroscientist António Damásio, who regards humans as “feeling machines that think,” not “thinking machines that feel.”

Change your behavior first because when you do, you change how you perceive yourself.
Mel Robbins

Robbins asserts that the 5 Second Rule enables you to push past moments when your feelings scream at you to avoid action. She exhorts you to implement the 5 Second Rule tomorrow morning by setting your alarm for half an hour earlier than normal. As soon as it rings, do your countdown and get out of bed. Integrating this rule into your daily routine will increase your productivity, and, the author insists, help you overcome interruptions and distractions. Robbins admits that it won’t be easy; you just have to do it.


Procrastinating, Robbins explains, doesn’t mean you’re lazy or a poor planner. It’s a mechanism for dealing with stress. However, when work you avoid starts piling up, it elevates your stress level, and thus makes you procrastinate more.

If you want to improve your life, you’ll need to get off your rear end and kick your own butt.Mel Robbins

Robbins urges procrastinators to let go of guilt. Picture yourself in the future after you finish the task you can’t seem to finish, she says, and vest in the 5 Second Rule as your starting ritual to get going.


Negative thoughts arrive unannounced, often repeatedly, when your mind is occupied elsewhere. Robbins acknowledges that you may have to evoke the 5 Second Rule multiple times a day to combat anxiety.

When your mind takes you somewhere sad, dark, doubtful or negative, you don’t have to go with it.Mel Robbins

When you replace your gloomy thoughts with grateful ones, you can focus on the positive aspects of your life. Grateful feelings alter your brain chemistry and trigger the release of dopamine – a feel-good hormone. And that, Robbins says, makes you want to be even more positive, healthy and productive.


In decades gone by, the most crucial career survival skill for a non-fiction writer was the ability to stretch a magazine article into a full-length book. Malcolm Gladwell is the avatar of this skill, and his continued success speaks to his mastery of it. But today, with attention spans shortening every second, that crucial skill has mutated. Today’s writers must be able to stretch a TEDx Talk into a full-length book. And at this contemporary skill, Robbins is a genius. Her brilliance manifests, for example, in her remarkable understanding of how to build her brand and her empire of 5 Second Rule books and games.

If you can change your morning routine, you can change anything. Mel Robbins

Robbins could easily detail her thematic idea in a 20-minute talk. And she seems to recognize this, given how much secondary psychological and philosophical padding she wraps around her revolutionary, easy and effective method of changing your life. In this, she evokes Brené Brown, whose many tangents often prove equally fascinating and who offers, as does Robbins, an array of esoteric experts to cite in furtherance of each book’s thesis.

Robbins, like Brown, is a lively, charming writer who offers continual compassion to her readers and encourages them to extend compassion to themselves. This makes her prose all the more intimate-seeming, and her sound advice easier to follow.

Mel Robbins’s spinoff universe offers Stop Saying You’re FineThe High 5 Habit, The 5 Second Journal, various editions of The 5 Second Rule Game and multiple Audible 5 Second products.

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