You already know the steps you must take to improve your life, and you know why you must make those changes, says entrepreneur, author, and CNN legal analyst Mel Robbins.
What trips up many people is mustering the courage to take action. But Robbins stumbled into the solution for that obstacle nearly a decade ago, and has since shown others how to change their lives the way she changed hers: five seconds at a time.
Her “5-Second Rule” empowers people to trust and act on their inner wisdom when facing routine daily decisions, pushing away from bad habits or choices and embracing beneficial actions and behaviors.
"When you hear the word ‘courage,’ you tend to think about the big stuff, don't you?" says Robbins, who delivered a keynote presentation Tuesday at CUNA's America's Credit Union Conference. "Courage is also something that's really small. It’s the ability to do anything difficult, scary, uncertain, or new."
Robbins jokes about the simplicity of her "dumb" mind trick, but scientific research demonstrates its effectiveness.
By counting down 5-4-3-2-1 before making an intentional decision, you're activating the prefrontal cortex. That snaps your brain out of the "autopilot" mode in which you normally operate and allows you to apply the renowned Nike slogan, "Just do it."
“'Just' is the key word there," Robbins says. "Nike acknowledges our habit of hesitation. Think about how you feel right before you need to make a call to a member who's upset, or watch a tutorial on new technology. I know you're tired. I know you don't feel like it. Just do it."
The 5-Second Rule turned life around for Robbins. In 2008, she was out of work and her husband's business was on the ropes, putting immense pressure on their family financially and pushing her to the brink emotionally.
But one evening, she watched a TV commercial that featured a countdown to a rocket launch. She decided on the spot to break her bad habit of maxing out the snooze button on her alarm clock and instead do her own countdown and then hop right out of bed.
"Slowly but surely my life started to change, five seconds at a time," Robbins says. "I closed the gap between my inner wisdom telling me what to do, and my mind talking me out of it."
More than 250,000 people from 90 countries have contacted Robbins about her rule, sharing stories of how they quit smoking, became more effective in the workplace, and even decided against taking their life.
"We know of 16 people who have stopped themselves from suicide because of this stupid rule," she says.
Apply the rule to boost your career by taking actions such as speaking up at a meeting when you might otherwise remain silent, or introducing yourself to a potential business partner when it feels more comfortable to pass on the opportunity.
"When we were kids, we had all kinds of people who pushed us: teachers, scout leaders, parents, relatives," Robbins says. "When you're an adult, you've got to do it yourself.
"So, push away from the habits that are sabotaging your success," she adds, "and push toward things that will actually help you."