Mental Hack 1: The 5,4,3,2,1….GO! Rule

Before reading the book, I thought to myself. That’s so simple and obvious, I am sure it works but I am also sure I will forget it in a few days. The Rule, on its own, can be forgettable, but when I linked it to the explanation articulated in the book it somehow stuck with me.  The rule applies in multiple situations, whether you need to exercise on a cold winter’s morning, have been meaning to start something or are even just trying to quit smoking.  

The rule is simple: The moment you have an instinct to act on a suitable goal you count 5…4…3…2…1..and physically move or your brain will intercept and stop you.  

The explanation is also simple: You can choose courage or you can choose comfort but you can’t have both. Waiting for somebody to ask you or drag you in to doing something or waiting for validation may never materialise. So, to start something on your own, you got to listen to your heart (this rule always applies) then allow this rule to assist you take the first step.

In science, there is a concept called activation energy, which is the minimum amount of energy needed to create a chemical reaction. This concept can be applied in our everyday lives where sometimes we require an initial energy that is higher than the level of energy required to maintain the activity.  Counting backwards (Yes this is critical) not only activates the prefrontal cortex but also creates the activation energy. 

So, when the alarm rings in the morning, you start by counting 5..4…3…2…1.. then covers out and move your body before the mental narratives infiltrate. Try to avoid things that pull you out of the momentum or distract you like scrolling through your phone.

This rule can be used to deal with an emotion or feelings that come up as well (such as being worried about something). The longer you give your attention to the feeling (worry), the more worried you will become. Your mind gets “hijacked” by the thoughts developing around it.

If you find yourself deeply consumed by a feeling, then try to apply the Rule: 5,4,3,2,1… Go (i.e. welcome the feeling within you by shifting it externally to within you), take the feeling inward and assess what’s happening within you (ask yourself why are you feeling this way, where do I feel it, etc.), if you are able to perform an act of self-care (such as breathing deeply, body movement activities, etc). Allow the feeling to diminish/balance out until you feel more centred before you choose your response.  

You tried the rule and it didn’t work. It just means that If you didn’t find a way to start something then you found a reason not to. It happens! Remember to be kind and forgiving to yourself. There could be underlying factors that govern us that you may not be aware of.

This is when you call your ontological coach to assist you to figure it out.   

The Rule really works! It gets my teenagers out of bed and ready for school. Please try it if you choose and share your experience.


The Five Second Rule – Mel Robbins

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