Mel Robbins

Changing lives, 5 seconds at a time

Mel Robbins regained control of her life with a 'simple, brilliant' concept.

May 4, 2017

Mel Robbins is a dynamic CNN legal analyst, an entrepreneur, a sought-after personal development speaker whose message has changed (and even saved) lives, and a take-charge mother of three with a successful marriage.

She’ll be the first to tell you it wasn’t always that way.

In the wake of the financial crisis, Robbins had lost her job and her husband’s business was on the ropes—putting immense pressure on the family financially and pushing Robbins to the brink emotionally.

She argued too much with her husband, snapped at her kids, drank too much, and did little to get back on her feet professionally.

“It felt like everything I had worked toward was disappearing before my eyes and all my hopes and dreams had evaporated,” she says. “I was in a hole, and I had no idea how to get the courage or the confidence to get myself out of it.”

The epiphany came one evening when Robbins watched a TV commercial that featured a countdown to a rocket launch. She committed on the spot to breaking the bad habit of maxing out her snooze button and taking the first step toward regaining control of her life.

“As soon as the alarm went off, all those feelings were still there, and so was the desire to not do anything,” she says. “But I did what NASA does: I went ‘5-4-3-2-1,’ and something crazy happened—I stood up. It’s like the counting was quieting what was going on in terms of the mental excuses.”

She continued using that exercise at every pivotal juncture during her day, summoning her inner wisdom and fortitude. Bit by bit, the incremental changes she made transformed her outlook and, by extension, her life.

Robbins casually mentioned her five-second rule in 2011 at the tail end of a popular TEDx talk that now has more than 8.5 million views. The concept sparked international interest, drawing more than 100,000 emails from more than 90 countries.

Suddenly, her viewpoint of her little tool shifted from “the stupidest thing she ever heard” to a “simple, brilliant idea to changing any behavior.”

Through research, Robbins learned she unwittingly had tapped into metacognition. The concept enables you to “manually switch the gears in your mind” by interrupting a bad habit, asserting control, and engaging the prefrontal cortex—the part of your brain that empowers change.”

Robbins catalogs that research and real-life examples of her concept’s impact in her book “The 5-Second Rule,” which came out earlier this year.

“I’m a totally different human being now because I’m in control,” she says. “I have brought to the surface the things that make me most powerful—the true essence of who I am.”

Mel Robbins will deliver a keynote address at CUNA's America's Credit Union Conference, which runs June 25-28 in Las Vegas.