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How to Win the Mental Game With the 5 Second Rule

FEI 2018 Financial Leadership Summit speaker Mel Robbins explains how a simple rule has helped people, teams, and businesses around the world change for the better.

There’s a gap between confidence and self-doubt, between the moments where you’re going to take a risk and the fear stopping you. According to Award-Winning CNN Contributor and Life Coach Mel Robbinsthe secret to improving your life take just five seconds.

After 6 months of struggling, everything changed for Robbins. “One night I was watching TV and I was having one of those talks. You know those talks with yourself, ‘Alright, that’s it, tomorrow morning it’s the new you.’” In that moment, Robbins saw the image of a rocket being launched on the TV screen and she had an epiphany: what if the next time she experienced self-doubt, she simply counted back from the number five and did the thing she knew she should do, but was too nervous to execute? The next morning she put it to the test. “That alarm went off and I could feel the self-doubt coming in. But I did something I had never done before. I started counting, just like NASA: five, four, three, two, one. And all of a sudden I’m standing up.” From that point forward, Robbins continued to use the technique to help herself overcome self-doubt and overwhelm.

“As silly as it sounds, my entire life changed because I suddenly had a tool to make different decisions.”

According to Robbins, when you count backwards from five, you’re using a form of metacognition to override the patterns that get encoded in your basal ganglia and draw your focus to your pre-frontal cortex, the part of your brain that gives you control over your thoughts and actions.

Robbins recognizes that this tool is not to be used when making financial decisions, thinking about risk assurance, or talking to your compliance compartment. “It’s not lost on me that your job requires accuracy,” Robbins said to the FEI 2018 Financial Leadership Summit audience early Monday. “I also know that it’s odd that we come to conferences about finance and we talk to you about risk and the last thing that you can be doing is taking a lot of risk… Because of the fact that you’re very successful at thinking about things and making sure things are accurate, it’s not going to be in your nature.”

But the tool can help business leaders with networking, tough conversations with team members, asking for help and other day-to-day activities that we sometimes choose to put off or avoid. “The five second rule is a tool that’s going to help you push yourself in those small moments. Are you going to speak up or step back? Are you going to micromanage your team or are you going to pull back and let them expand? Are you going to show up at something that makes you nervous? Are you going to have the hard conversation?”