We suffer more in imagination than in reality. — Seneca
All day long, there’s that cowering, nagging inner voice that tells us to not do things. It does that to protect us from the unknown.
- Don’t be honest with her. It might hurt her feelings.
- Don’t talk to that girl. She might think you’re a dork.
- Don’t sing and dance in public. You will embarrass yourself.
- Don’t take a cold shower. You’ll freeze!
- Don’t go to the gym. Sleep in!
- Don’t tell anyone you were sexually harassed. It’s better to just deal with it on your own.
- Don’t ask for help. People will think you’re weak.
Don’t, don’t, don’t. It’s like the worst helicopter parent + Negative Nancy ever. That inner voice wants us to stay wrapped up in a cozy jail cell we call our comfort zone. It’s nice there, where no growth happens.
But where does that get you? Nowhere. Life passes you by, while others around you are living their best lives. They’re not binging every season on Netflix and wasting hours on social media on their phone.
They’re burning the midnight oil, making a battle plan for their future. They’re reading self-development books and soaking in knowledge. They’re quitting their jobs and becoming their own bosses. They’re traveling the world and meeting interesting people. They’re going skydiving. They’re truly alive.
If you’re still stuck in the same place you were a year ago, or for the past ten years, you have the power to change that.
The Special Sauce
For those around you living their lives to the fullest, they have one thing that you don’t have…yet.
It’s not because they are more charismatic or are better looking than you. They weren’t “just lucky.”
It’s because they have courage.
Whatever they’re doing now, you can bet it was scary for them. They’re human. They might have at one time thought of all the things that could go wrong if they took action.
Despite that, they dared to do it anyway.
And it took time. Rome wasn’t built in a day. You don’t go from Screech to AC Slater (from Saved by the Bell) overnight. These things take time. It probably wasn’t sexy either. Many late nights and early mornings spent working on their goal to get to where they are now. Lots of tears and lots of rejections, too.
But through it all, they pushed themselves through those insecurities and anxieties they were feeling…and did it anyway.
And now look at them. They’re shining.
Now, back to you. I’m sure you want to change, but don’t know how.
I have some advice for you: When your brain tells you not to do something that’s good for you, there’s only one thing to do to change your life.
Count to 5 and Do It Anyway
Motivational speaker Mel Robbins says the trick is this: to count to five and do it. Whatever it is.
“From the second that you have the idea…you only have 5 seconds to take action, otherwise it’s gone,” Robbins said in a talk. “The second you feel like you should meet somebody because you’re drawn to them, start walking because if you’re already walking, the likelihood is you’ll actually make it to them and them and then you’re going to say something,” Robbins said.
That’s right. Count to five, and take the plunge. Otherwise, the fear and insecurity will set in and you’ll hesitate and crawl back into a ball and not do it.
There’s Science Behind This
In a sense, our brains are out to get us.
Robbins emphasizes that when our brains sense something new, risky or unknown, it will try to “sabotage us” from taking that action to keep us safe. Hence, that nagging voice I reference at the beginning of this article.
But, as you count to five and do that thing, you’re able to “outsmart” your brains quickly before defaulting to not doing what scares you.
As you gain momentum by taking action more often, you’ll develop what researchers call an “internal locus of control” — a sense of control over your life choices and outcomes.
By constantly flexing this muscle, you’ll drive yourself forward past your fears and see your life change. As you do this, you’ll feel happier, healthier, more successful — and even sexier — than ever before. Along with that, you’ll see a decrease in anxiety and depression.
Before you know it, you’ll have a surge in self-confidence, have developed positive behaviors, and achieved many of your goals.
How It’s Been Effective for Me
The 5-Second Rule has worked for me in a variety of ways, particularly in social situations. I am naturally an introverted and reserved person, the kind who usually waits for others to approach me first and struggles to start conversations.
But after I incorporated this rule, I saw myself grow. For example, at the gym, I’d usually mind my own business and not chat with other people there.
At the time, I started swimming some laps. One guy about the same age as me always used a locker near me, but we had never spoken to each other. Just ignored each other like always. He seemed like a cool guy I could be friends with if we talked to each other.
I counted to five and said, “Hey, you do some laps at the pool pretty often, don’t you?”
He smiled and said, “Yea, I’ve lost a lot of weight doing it.”
That question turned into a good 10 to 15-minute chat. The 5-Second Rule had worked and I had made a new friend!
Every day after that, we’d continue our conversations and talked about what we were up to over the weekend and stuff. That made it much more fun than continuing to ignore each other.
This rule worked in other areas in my life, such as when I’m at the park with my kids. I sometimes start chatting with other dads there. It’s helped me speak up more at work and share ideas that I might have otherwise been too hesitant to share. It’s helped me be more open with my wife, too, about goals I want to accomplish.
The more I speak up, the more value I bring. And the more value I bring, the more confident — and sexier — I feel. And it just takes five seconds to make it happen.
Where in Your Life Can You Apply This?
Many times you’ll get an impulse to do something good, but then hesitate and end up not doing it because you’re too scared or too lazy. You’ll second guess yourself because you can’t guarantee the desired outcome.
You might think to yourself, “Eh, who am I kidding?” or “Nah, nevermind.”
Instead of seeing it as a risk, consider it an adventure. See yourself as the hero in the story, one who is bold and does interesting things despite being scared.. Be curious to see how it will turn out. The odds might be in your favor. (NOTE: Obviously do not use this rule if what you are hesitating about is truly life-threatening!)
Like Robbins says, “Whatever your goals are, show the world, and yourself, that you’re serious by taking action, however insignificant that action may seem, right now.”
The 5-Second Rule can be applied to many areas of your life if you’re willing to do it. Think about your life and the natural tendencies you have. Where do you play it safe?
Give the 5-Second Rule a try. Let it change your life, five seconds at a time.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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