By Noah Graff

About a month ago I stumbled upon a book which continues to change my life every day, The 5 Second Rule: Transform your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage by Mel Robbins.

I’ve listened to several self-help books over the years that I found thought provoking and sensible, but none ever changed my life. They sometimes even made me feel down on myself. I felt so overwhelmed by all the advice that I could not get myself to do much of anything they prescribed.

Then I found The 5 Second Rule, which did change my life.

What is “The 5 Second Rule”?

The purpose of the 5 Second Rule is that if we want to find success in our lives, both on a personal and professional level we have to do things we don’t feel like doing. Perhaps we need to confront a work colleague or family member. Maybe we have to work on a project longer than we had planned. We have to tell someone we love them. We have to pay bills. We have to exercise and not eat crappy foods. We have to stop feeling sorry for ourselves, and most importantly we have to get out of bed in the morning!

Ten years ago Mel Robbins had hit rock bottom in her life. She had gone from being hired as a host of a Fox News reality show to being unemployed, deep in debt and drinking too much. She says that she had a lot of trouble getting out of bed in the morning because she did not want to face her grim world, so she would repeatedly hit the snooze button. Of course, staying in bed only worsened her situation.

One morning as she laid in bed trying to avoid her problems she decided to count “Five, Four, Three, Two, One,” and she suddenly blasted out of bed like a rocket. She then realized that by counting down from five she could also make herself do all the things she needed to do to fix her life but didn’t feel like doing. Robbins says she even learned to use the 5 Second Rule to stop feelings of worry, depression and anxiety. Before long she dug herself out of her hole and began to thrive in her life.

It is human nature to let indecisiveness, fear, laziness and other mental obstacles stop us from doing the things we know we need to do to be successful and happy. The way the 5 Second Rule works is that the moment you have an idea to do something you start counting down from five and just do it. You don’t give your brain a chance to talk itself out of it. You just start counting down from five and act. Robbins sites scientific research that explains why counting down from five enables decisiveness in the brain. The research also says that counting down from five to zero works much better than counting up to five.

I can testify that I’ve become a lot better at calling customers on the phone since embracing the 5 Second Rule. The moment I hit “zero” I am dialing. Also, if I am mingling in a group of people I’m much less likely to hesitate to introduce myself, and I am more likely to speak up about things I feel are important. When I know I need to exercise but feel tired I’m better at forcing myself to start. I used the 5 Second Rule to get down to writing this blog. It’s the small accomplishments that build on top of each other which lead to life-changing high achievement. You can’t get to the promised land unless you go step by step. That’s how The 5 Second Rule changed my life while all the previous self-help books left me feeling stuck.

Question: Do you think self-help books are a waste of time?

Mel Robbins Explains 5 Second Rule

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11 thoughts on “54321

  1. Emily Halgrimson Post author

    I think the intent that leads someone to read a self-help book is more important than the material. A desire to always be moving in a positive direction is life changing. So many people just stop trying. Someone wise said that people overestimate what they can do in a year, and underestimate what they can do in ten years. Self improvement is a long game.

    1. Rick Calhoun

      While taking a class in process improvement many years ago I remember a study that found that any change – significant or not – usually produced an improvement of 30 percent. It may be the same mechanism at work: a desire to improve.

  2. Dick Crosby

    I found myself smiling as I read about your new found “enlightment” method, and just
    forwarded it to the wife. At age 72, she’s found a job down in DeKalb, two days a week,
    and it’s given her a new lease on life. (Besides her hospital, church day care, genealogy, and Midway Village (civic) volunteer activities.) She’s now “worth while” again.
    All that leaves me feeling like an “alone” bachelor again. So! I lollygag in bed until 9 or 9:30 many mornings. So! Crosby. Get your butt up and sell something. 54321!
    Up & at ’em!
    Thanx! Noah. Never to old to learn.

  3. Lloyd Graff

    Noah, I have been using 54321 since you told me about it and found it stunningly useful. When I don’t feel like getting up fron a chair after watching TV 54321 is magical. I think its effectiveness doesn’t have to make “sense” to work. Everyoneshould try this technique.
    Regarding self help books and tapes I have found them extremely useful over the years. I found Tony Robbins personally obnoxiously egotistical but his interviews and seminars have been very useful for me.
    Seth Godin’s work I find utterly brilliant. Chris Voss on negotiation as well as Herb Cohen I strongly recommend. We all need help. Take it where you can find it.

    1. Noah Graff

      Yes some of those cats I find quite good now that I think about it. The negotiation stuff of course! Maybe now that I have the 54321 at my disposal I can better utilize the self-help resources.

  4. Art Santana

    For a guy with jr high education; I had to rely in self help books to get me where I am as I came to this country. The Goal, 4DX, First, break all the rules, the 5 dysfunctions of a team, Turn the ship around, etc., etc. As long as you are willing to learn and try new things, you will always lean something new from self help books.
    I probably counted backwards a million times before I decided to go to college and take the entrance exam, remember, no high school for me, guess what? I passed and eventually made the dean’s list in manufacturing engineering.
    But my love for self help and learning new things has never slowed down.

  5. rick

    the first problem is finding the time to read these books
    then actually implement their techniques

    Self help books are great, and can make lots of money!

    … for the authors


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