By Bonnie Hutchinson
New 5-Second RuleAs you’re reading this, the snow may have melted.
“It’s November, right?” I muttered, looking at an inch of snow on the ground. The thick falling snow obscured everything else–except the pathetic frozen patio flowers. Headline (I’m not making this up): “Forecast snow he said, weeping.”
Sept. 13. Sigh. It was the perfect context to stumble across a story about the 5-Second Rule. I heard a 5-Second Rule years ago. That rule says if you drop food on the floor, but pick it up in less than five seconds, it’s okay to eat it. Germs won’t have time to do anything bad.
I have never believed that 5-Second Rule, even though two health practitioners have told me it’s valid. The idea of eating food dropped on the floor is just too gross for me. I expected the story called “The 5-Second Rule” to be about that. But it wasn’t.
This 5-Second Rule was discovered by Mel Robbins when her life was spiraling downwards.
Through a series of unfortunate events Mel wasn’t working. Her husband’s pizza restaurant had won awards and looked successful on the outside, but he was working long hours just to keep it afloat. They were struggling for money and had to accept a loan from her dad to pay their mortgage.
Mel had begun drinking in the evenings. Her confidence and self-esteem were at an all-time low.
She didn’t want to get up in the mornings. When the alarm went off she felt dread and kept pressing snooze. Her family’s mornings became frantic. Her three children didn’t have essential items in their school bags and would miss their school bus. Mel thought she was failing her kids, and felt even worse about herself. Every night Mel would say, “Tomorrow I will get up on the first ring of the alarm.” She knew if she could just do that, her whole day would be better. Yet no matter how good her intentions were, come morning she would press snooze again.
Then one evening on TV, Mel saw a rocket being launched into space. She heard the countdown: “5-4-3-2-1 launch!” “That’s it!” she thought, “When the alarm rings tomorrow, I will say 5-4-3-2-1 and launch myself out of bed.”
It worked! And the next day and the next after that.
Mel couldn’t quite believe that something so simple was helping. However, she started to say 5-4-3-2-1 before everything she wanted to do: finding work; not arguing with her husband; drinking less. Her husband noticed the positive changes and asked her what she was doing differently. He tried the 5-Second Rule and it worked for him too. Then their friends started to use it and they also found it powerful.
When Mel did a TEDx talk, she mentioned the 5-Second Rule towards the end of her talk and it went viral. People tweeted and emailed her their victories as a result of using the 5-Second Rule.
Mel decided to research why it was effective.
When someone has an idea to do something big or small (start a business, get off the sofa), there’s always a moment of hesitation. In that moment your brain tries to talk you out of it, coming up with problems or reasons not to take action.
Then you feel defeated and stay in your comfort zone. However, when you have an idea or intention and then start counting backwards from five to one, your brain cannot talk you out of it because you are counting. Even your clever brain can’t do two things at once.
Then, because you start to move, the prefrontal cortex is activated. Rather than slipping into default mode doing your old behaviors, it supports you in creating new ones. By happy accident, Mel discovered a powerful cognition technique that breaks the habit loop.
I read Mel’s story on the day I looked out at the snow and felt like crawling back into bed instead of working on the report I’d been struggling with for four days. The report is now done. I even like it! I highly recommend the new 5-Second Rule: “5-4-3-2-1 Launch!” You’re welcome.
If you have comments about this column or suggestions for future topics, send a note to Bonnie@BonnieHutchinson.com. read more