If you have an instinct to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill it.
The moment you feel an instinct or a desire to act on a goal or a commitment, use 'the Rule'.
When you feel yourself hesitate before doing something that you know you should do, count 5-4-3-2-1-GO and move towards action.
There is a window that exists between the moment you have an instinct to change and your mind killing it. It’s a 5 second window. And it exists for everyone.
If you do not take action on your instinct to change, you will stay stagnant. You will not change.
But if you do one simple thing, you can prevent your mind from working against you. You can start the momentum before the barrage of thoughts and excuses hit you at full force.
What do you do?
Just start counting backwards to yourself: 5-4-3-2-1.
The counting will focus you on the goal or commitment and distract you from the worries, thoughts, and excuses in your mind.
As soon as you reach “1” – push yourself to move.
This is how you push yourself to do the hard stuff – the work that you don’t feel like doing, or you’re scared of doing, or you’re avoiding.
That’s it. 5 seconds is all it takes.
If you don’t act on an instinct within that 5 second window, that’s it. You’re not doing it.
Now, I’m going to explain the 5 elements of the Rule and show you have every single element is important.
First: “The moment you have an instinct…”
Let’s make sure you understand what kind of instinct I am talking about.
An instinct is not buying everybody in the bar a round of shots. An instinct is not a rash, irreversible decision. It’s not destructive, illegal, or harmful behaviour.
I define an instinct as any urge, impulse, pull, or knowing that you should or should not do something because you can feel it in your heart and gut.
These are instincts of the heart. They are moments when your heart speaks to you. We all have our own unique brand of wisdom, made up of our experiences, intuition, and DNA.
In those small, 5 second moments, this wisdom bubbles up inside of you.
Your instincts are these urges. They are the “knowing” that you should do something even if you don’t “feel” like doing it.
Second: “To act on a goal…”
The second element of the Rule that is critical for you to understand is that it’s not just about acting on any instinct, it’s an instinct that’s tied to a goal.
For example, you might have an instinct at get off of the couch and go for a run.
In this case, if you act on this instinct, you bring yourself one step closer to your dream of transforming your health.
A lot of people think instincts are stupid and meaningless. I disagree.
Research has shown that our gut is our “second brain.” Do you ever get a feeling in your gut telling you what to do?
We get these “gut feelings” when our hearts and minds are trying to tell us something. And usually, these gut impulses are tied to greater goals.
It’s easy for us to list what we want. We want a great job, to be financially free, to be healthy, happy, and have amazing people in our lives.
Even though we have these greater goals, it’s so simple to brush off the actions that will lead us toward achieving these things.
If you have a gut instinct to call a friend, then you should do it. You already know how much you value your friends. When you get that gut feeling to speak up in a meeting, you should act on it. Same goes with any instinct tied to a goal.
I’ve found that knowing where to start on a goal is difficult. People write to me all the time, asking me how they can get in shape, become happier, or get their dream job.
Do you know what they can do? First, start identifying those gut instincts that will lead you towards your goal.
You will start to notice gut feelings related to these goals throughout the day. But, how do you act on them?
That’s where the next element comes in:
Third: “You must push yourself…”
The third element of the 5 Second Rule is that you must push yourself. The Rule is about pushing yourself even when you don’t want to. It’s about taking control of your own life, one push at a time.
I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy. You’re comfortable. You’re doing the same old thing you always do, even if you want to transform your life.
The moment comes. You feel the instinct. You know it’s tied to a goal.
Right now. It’s a window. A window of opportunity.
Your brain wants to shut this instinct down. It’s going to do it.
But, in this moment, you can take control. You know what you need to do. You know that you want to change your life and move towards your goals.
The 5 Second Rule is simple. But it is not easy.
It’s hard to push yourself. If you want to change, it’s something you MUST do. And the Rule makes it easier.
Just start your countdown. Push yourself to start at 5. Just start counting. That’s it!
Countdown, 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 – GO.
All of the neuroscience behind the Rule is in this post. In that blog, you can read about the neuroscience behind why physically moving while you count down activates your brain’s prefrontal cortex. I’m also going to teach you how the Rule shifts you out of autopilot mode and allows you to take control.
For now, you don’t have to worry too much about WHY the Rule works. Trust me for now. It really does.
And when you begin your countdown, you’re setting yourself up for ACTION.
This brings us to the 4th element:
Fourth: “To move within 5 seconds…”
Physical movement is key. Just so you understand, this doesn’t mean you have to jump up and start doing squats.
All you need to do is move in the direction of your instinct.
If you do not take physical action WITHIN 5 SECONDS, your brain will kill the instinct.
You do your countdown. And then you GO. You take action.
This could mean a number of things. It means saying something you’ve been holding back. Speaking up at a meeting. Putting on your running shoes. Grabbing that healthy snack. Holding your tongue instead of saying something mean to your partner. Sending that email to a potential client or mentor. Anything that’s related to your goal.
These 5 second windows, as I call them, are the critical moments between you changing your life and your brain stopping you.
You might be thinking, “Why 5 seconds? Why not 3 or 7 or 17?”
The answer is 5 seconds is a rule of thumb that can work for everyone. But obviously, this can be personalized.
Personally, I find that the longer I wait between my initial instinct to act and physically moving, the harder it is to force myself to move. If you can do 3 seconds, do it.
2 seconds? Even better. As little time as possible before you MOVE to action.
Remember, the system inside your brain that kills your dreams operates at lightning speed.
Which brings me to the fifth element of the Rule:
Fifth: “Or your brain will kill it.”
If you don’t physically move within 5 seconds, your mind WILL kill your dreams.
Your brain is like an overprotective, irrational, “helicopter” parent.
It thinks it’s keeping you safe when in fact it is keeping you from growing as a person, stretching yourself in your business, and fully experiencing life.
You see, your brain has 3 basic jobs.
It narrates your life as you live it and catalogs your memories.
It operates your body’s functions.
And it protects you from danger.
When you stop and think, when you hesitate, and when you feel uncertain, you are signaling to your brain that something’s wrong.
Your brain automatically goes into overdrive to protect you.
How does it protect you?
By keeping you from doing anything that feels scary, hard, or uncertain.
You know that there’s nothing dangerous about making a call or taking a walk or pursuing your dreams.
But your brain doesn’t know that, and it tries to sabotage you.
The 5 Second Rule is a way to outsmart your brain by changing hesitation into ACTION.
Before you doubt it, try it out.
It’s a tool that creates massive change. Those 5 second windows add up, I promise. It changed my life and it changed the lives of over 100,000 who have written to me about the awesome effects the Rule has created in their own lives.
In almost any situation, there’s an application for the Rule.
Try it yourself.