Book Review – The 5 Second Rule By Mel Robbins

The 5 Second Rule

By Mel Robbins


What is The 5 Second Rule?

  1. It has nothing to with floor food
  2. It is both a concept and a book title
  3. I think its best to explain each individually


The concept

I was very wary of this book initially because it sounds to me like the advice is going to be “suck it up” or “just do it” or something else that I personally don’t find very  helpful. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that there are actually some science behind why this works.


The 5 Second rule helps you to take action. The idea is when you think about doing something that you don’t want to do you count backwards from five and then you physically move.  In habit research the this is called a “starting ritual”. It activates the prefrontal cortex which helps to helps to change your behaviour.


What is the Prefrontal Cortex?

Its the part of your brain that plays a major role in rational thinking, decision-making and focus. When you don’t want to do something your brain has an emotional response. When you switch gears and activate the prefrontal cortex you change your brain from having an emotional response or feeling and turn it into it into action mode. It interrupts your thought process at the critical moment of making a decision.


When was The 5 Second Rule first discussed?

Mel Robbins first presented the idea in a TED Talk which I highly recommend. She spoke about being in a difficult stage of her life and not wanting to get out of bed in the morning. This is something that I personally struggle with. I am not a morning person. I have a long and co-dependent relationship with my snooze button.


Did the 5 Second Rule Work for Me?

Yes! After the reading the book I decided that I would give it a crack thinking it can’t do any harm. The very next morning I woke up at about 7:30 am (Early for me). Completely unexpectedly my brain said 5-4-3-2-1 and I got out of bed. I was amazed. I had been sceptical that this would actually work but and I didn’t even have to think about it. It just happened.


Having gotten up a bit earlier my day continued to progress well. I did some yoga. I meditated and I wrote my five minute journal. Now for a long time I have been using an app called gyroscope which is kind of a quantified self app that you connect to all your wearables and track all kinds of things about your overall health. One of the elements of gyroscope is a quick mood check in. After my morning routine I checked in and for the first time ever my mood scored 100. Perfect. And so I was sold.



3 months of mood data from the Gyroscope App


3 months of workouts


3 months of meditation


Now my wake-up time has since been interrupted by a couple of migraine days. It’s likely that this is always going to be a problem for me. However even on my migraine days although I woke up a bit later I still immediately sat up and started going about as much as I could of my routine. I did not snooze. So I’m a convert. I am going to continue using the five second rule to push myself out of my comfort zone and do the things that I find challenging.


The book

I listened to the audiobook. I generally prefer audio as my migraine condition has affected my ability to sustain focus when I’m reading print. Mel Robbins read the book herself which was great as she is an engaging and relatable speaker. She explained some of the science and gave some examples of how you could use this approach to address lots of different behaviours,


Unfortunately however that was about as much useful information as the book contained. The rest of the book was testimonials, repeated examples and generally felt like padding. Listening to the audiobook I often found myself tuning out. So while the concept is valid and the advice is sound I would suggest that you skip the book and watch the TED Talk instead. You can get all of the important information in 20 minutes.


If you happen to be an Audible subscriber they have a podcast series from Mel Robbins called Start Here which I enjoyed. She addresses several life challenges that people commonly experience and gives actionable advice as to where to start finding help. I took away several recommendations including some other books that I plan to read. I can highly recommend the podcast.


Have you read The 5 Second Rule or seen the TED Talk? What did you think? Do you use the five second rule in your everyday life?


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