The 5 Second Rule

5 Seconds
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You are standing in front of your prospect, you have a great business idea, the thought comes to your mind, but they are talking and it’s giving you time to think.  Your thoughts begin to drift to why they won’t accept this proposal, why it won’t work, and ultimately – you talk yourself out of saying anything.  This all happens within seconds. 

In her 2017 book, Mel Robbins spells out for us the power of the ‘5 Second Rule’

The ‘5 second rule’ is a simple decision-making tool that can change your behavior.

In 1954, psychologist Julian Rotter coined a concept known as the locus of control.  It explains the feeling people perceive of outside forces controlling their lives, and that those who feel more in control tend to be more productive. By tapping into that locus of control, or as Robbins calls it ‘the power of push’ – we can control our own destiny and create opportunities for ourselves.

If you want to change the way your customers look at you, all you need to do is assert yourself and speak your mind. If you want to bring some joy to someone’s day, all you need to do is take a moment to compliment them. 

These acts require you to make a decision, which is something we often put off by thinking that now is not the right time.  “I’ll have courage when…”  “I will do that when…”   Eventually, this will become your life story, forever waiting for circumstances to match some magical formula of “when”.

Why not ACT NOW?  Deploy this ‘5 second rule’ in order to allow you to make choices you’ve always want to make.

No one dreams of being the person who didn’t do anything. We all tend to wait for ‘the right time’ – according to a recent survey, 85% of professional services employees are keeping feedback from their manager because it isn’t the ‘right time’.

To many people, professional athletes are incredibly inspirational.  Children look up to athletes because they show us what is possible and they follow their dreams. Some pro athletes are practically inhuman, but their ability to push past most peoples’ physical limits is determine by one simple trait. Athletes know that feelings are only suggestions and sometimes it’s best to ignore them, especially when you’re striving for that goal.

This is a key lesson – most of us base our decisions on feelings rather than goal-oriented logic.

According to neuroscientist and TED Speaker Antonio Damasio our emotions are the deciding factor for 95% of our decision. So, we “feel and act” rather than the classical view of “thinking and acting”.

We are not “thinking machines that feel” but rather “feeling machines that think”.

These feelings often create worry – possibly the most destructive emotion we can have insofar as achievement. There’s no great mystery why we’re all so prone to worry, as children we were constantly being told by our parents to ‘be careful’ and ‘watch out for strangers’.

As a result we’ve become adults who spend time worrying about things way beyond our control. Dr. Pillemer is a Cornell professor who spent time talking to 1,200 senior citizens about the meaning of life. Through his conversations, one thing has become evident: most senior citizens realize they’ve wasted time worrying.  With such perspective, what can we do differently?

Use the ‘5 second rule’ to take control!

Pay attention to your mood, and when you feel your mind begin to give itself over to worry, take five seconds to peacefully count down from 5 so you can reassert control.  As you reach ‘one’, ask yourself two questions

  1. What am I grateful for in this moment?
  2. What do I want to remember?

These two questions shift your focus into gratitude and appreciation – away from the negativity associated with your worry.  After you’ve pulled yourself out of worry – it is critical to ACT.   That’s the point at which you go to that prospect, make the offer.  Create the possibility. 

Before you doubt this rule – try it out.

It’s a tool that creates incredible change – in almost no time.

Steve English is a lifestyle performance coach, working with executives to go from functional to extraordinary across all aspects of their  personal and professional lives. He wrote this article. You can reach him at

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