This One Brain Hack Backed By Science Will Change Your Life. Here’s How (Transcript)

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Mel Robbins – Renowned motivational and keynote speaker

In this video, I’m going to explain to you the science behind why the 5 Second Rule works.

As I said earlier, the 5-Second Rule is a form of metacognition that beats every trick that your brain plays on you. Most of us don’t even realize how often we hesitate, start doubting ourselves and get stuck analyzing things to death. I keep talking about how you can change your life in five seconds. And that’s because in five seconds flat, worry can hijack your mind, fear can take over and the smallest moves that you really want to make consume terrifying.

The opposite is also true. In five seconds sweat, you can take control back. Do you know how often you hesitate and stop yourself all day long.

There’s actually a neurological reason why change is so hard. Your brain is designed to stop you from changing. Let me explain. You see, change requires you to do things that are uncertain, scary or new. Your brain is designed to protect you from doing things that are uncertain, scary or new.

What’s your brain’s favorite way to protect you: to trap you in your head by making you overthink. I’ve studied and interviewed the leading researchers in psychology and human behavior. And what they’ve taught me is that the moment — the moment you want to change, break a habit or do something hard or scary, and you hesitate your brain goes to work to stop you.

Now there’s all kinds of fancy names for this: cognitive biases, the paradox of choice, the psychological immune system, the spotlight effect, I could name hundreds of them. You don’t need to know the fancy names, you just need to know one simple fact. There is a system in your head that is stopping you every step of the way. And the 5-Second Rule is the only tool that you need to beat it.

So how does the 5-Second Rule beat the system in your head? There are two explanations. First, I’m going to give you the simple one. Then I’m going to explain the science.

At its most basic level, the 5-Second Rule is a tool that helps you take action. It gets you out of your head, and that’s the secret. You’ve got to stop thinking and start living before the system in your head has a chance to stop you.

Now let’s talk about the science. The 5-Second Rule leverages proven principles in modern psychology and there are literally hundreds of examples that I could point to. But in this video, we’re just going to focus on five of them.

First, let’s talk about two concepts; one called Locus of Control, the second called a Bias Toward Action. So a Locus of Control is a foundational principle in psychology. You should google it. Back in the day researchers figured out that there are basically two kinds of people — people that believe that they’re in control of their lives and folks that believe that life is just happening to them and they’re a victim of whatever might happen.

Now when you look at these two types of people — people that have an internal Locus of Control, a belief that they’re in control of their lives they’re happier, they’re more successful, more productive.

So the question becomes how do you create an internal locus of control in yourself? The answer is simple: it’s called a bias toward action. So a bias toward action is a psychological principle that means you’re the kind of person that has a bias toward taking action instead of a bias toward thinking.

How do you create a bias toward action? You guessed it: the 5-Second Rule. The 5-Second Rule is a tool that will teach you how to take action and overtime as you use it you not only learn how to take action, you become the kind of person that operates with a bias toward taking action. And when you take action over and over and over on your instincts, on your desires, on your commitments, guess what you get: you build an internal locus of control. You become the kind of person that believes that you’re in control of your life because you’re proving it to yourself. One five-second decision at a time.

Let’s move on to the topic two: behavioral flexibility. So just a few years ago, scientists thought that our brain stopped growing at the age of about 25. What we now know is that your brain never stops growing. We have the ability to learn new things throughout entire lifetime. We call this behavioral flexibility.

One of the things that’s exciting about the 5-Second Rule and that we see from people all over the world is that when they utilize the rule over and over and over again, they not only create immediate change in the moment with a five-second decision but that over time as they repeat the new behavior, whether it’s speaking up in meetings more or it is pushing yourself to exercise over and over that you actually create new habits and become an entirely different person. This is what your brain is designed to do in terms of its neural pathways, in the way that new neural pathways can develop.

Every time you use the 5-Second Rule and 5-4-3-2-1, activate your prefrontal cortex and shift your behavior, you are not only creating immediate behavior change. Over the long run, thanks to behavioral flexibility, you’re creating lasting behavior change.

The third principle is do good, be good. Now this is a principle that I first learned about from legendary psychological researcher and University of Virginia professor Timothy Wilson. Basically it means that you can’t think your way to being happier or better. You’ve actually got to do something.

Now this do good, be good philosophy dates all the way back to Aristotle, and it’s based on the belief and now the proven technique that in order to change you can’t think your way to being more positive. You’ve got to do things, you’ve got to act and then your mind will follow.

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What is the 5-Second Rule? It’s a tool that will help you stop thinking and start doing. Do good, be good and then your mind will follow.

The fourth principle and that’s the golden rule of habits. Now I could spend two or three hours just talking about habit research, and whether you read Charles Duhigg’s best-selling book or Gretchen Rubin’s book on habits or you watch a number of TED Talks, all researchers believe that habits come down to one golden rule. And that’s this: you can never change the things that trigger you. You can’t control your urges or how you might feel. But you can always choose how you behave.

If you want to break a habit, once you have a habit it’s always going to be encoded in your brain. The only way that you can break it is to replace it with new behavior.

There’s also something in the research around habits called a starting ritual. A starting ritual is a repeated behavior that you adopt in order to trigger a new habit. The 5-Second Rule is so incredibly powerful when it comes to breaking old habits and adopting new ones, because number one, the 5-Second Rule and counting backwards 5-4-3-2-1 is a starting ritual. It will interrupt the old behavior pattern and it will trigger a new one.

The 5-Second Rule over time — and this is really cool — actually becomes the new pattern of behavior. Instead of stopping yourself with self-doubt or blowing things off or over eating, you have a new pattern of behavior. You catch yourself, you gain control, you have confidence. 5-4-3-2-1 and you do the things that you know you want to do.

And finally, the principle called activation energy. Now activation energy is something that was first introduced into the field of human behavior and psychology several decades ago by a rockstar professor at the University of Chicago that studied a state of flow. His name was Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and he studied — was one of the first really to study human behavior, human performance — and he coined this term activation energy, actually borrowed it from chemistry. And it’s a term that describes this phenomenon: in order to start any kind of chemical reaction, it takes a tremendous amount of energy to create that initial spark, a lot more energy to start it than to keep it going.

There is a direct correlation to you and me. Have you ever noticed how hard it is to just get started, how hard it is to get to the gym, how hard it is to get out of bed, how hard it is to put down the bottle when you go to pour a second drink and you know you shouldn’t? That feeling, how hard it is to get started, this is what Mihaly is talking about. You need activation energy to start the chain, to start to sit down, to start to get out of bed, to start to walk out the door. That’s the key to creating any kind of change. This activation energy inside of you that causes the initial boom! And then what do we hear over time? Once you start there’s a chain reaction and that allows you to keep going.

So what does this have to do with the 5-Second Rule? Freaking everything. The 5-Second Rule creates activation energy in you. The 5-Second Rule is how you activate change inside of you. It is a tool. When you start counting 5-4-3-2-1, you awaken your prefrontal cortex, you begin the process of changing, you push yourself in a new direction. That first push — that’s going to be the hardest. Once you get moving it gets so much easier.

So those are just five — just five psychological scientific principles that explain the power of the 5-Second Rule. Personally while the science is really interesting, I’m actually more inspired by the hundreds of thousands of people that we’ve heard from, from around the world just like you and me that are using this rule, not based on science but using it in their lives and seeing remarkable results. The science explains it but you’re going to be absolutely amazed at what happens when you actually start to use this simple and powerful tool.

You’re not only going to blow up the system in your head and the tricks that your brain uses to stop you right now. You’re going to shake up your entire life. To learn more about the 5-Second Rule, the science behind it and how you can use it, I want you to check out chapter four in my book. It goes into greater detail about all of the science, and in fact, the entire part 2 of the book, it’s going to dig deep deep deep into all the concepts that we talked about and all the ways in which you stop yourself. The 5-Second Rule is available on Amazon, and at your local bookstore. Oh and by the way, your 5-Second Rule book also comes with 31 video mentoring sessions to deepen your mastery of the rule for lasting results. Now these mentoring sessions will be delivered to your email inbox for free and information on how to get these videos is on the very last page of the book.

And to learn more about the 5-Second Rule and other research backed strategies to help you live your best life, there’s a ton of free resources at If you ever have the instinct to reach out, please use the five-second rule and make yourself do it. Just tag me on social media using the hashtag5-second rule or shoot me an email at I love hearing from you. Now give us a few days to get back in touch with you but we will absolutely respond if you take the time to trust your instincts and reach out. Look it takes five seconds to change your life.

So the next time you feel yourself hesitate, or your instincts come alive that’s the moment to stop thinking. 5-4-3-2-1 and start living.