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Mel Robbins Gives New Meaning to the ‘5 Second Rule’ at IDDBA 2022

The author and motivational speaker explains how counting backwards from 5 can be used to motivate a team
Mel Robbins
Photograph by WGB Staff

At IDDBA 2022, author and motivation speaker Mel Robbins gave new meaning to the “5 second rule,” which traditionally denotes, whether true or not, that food is safe to eat if it falls to the ground and is picked up within 5 seconds.

Rather, Robbins says, “There’s a secret when it comes to change, and the simple secret to changing anything is just 5 seconds.”

She explains that “any thought that you have that you let linger in your brain for more than 5 seconds, your brain kills—contaminates—your motivation and courage to act.” To break this cycle, Robbins says, “the moment you feel yourself hesitate … just start counting backwards—5, 4, 3, 2, 1—then you move.”

Robbins used this method—and later wrote a book about it, appropriately named “The 5 Second Rule”—during a difficult time in her life when she said she was drinking too much, not wanting to get out of bed and picking fights with her husband. Finally deciding one day it was time for change, she started counting backwards and making “little decisions in the right direction,” which she said created a positive ripple effect in her life.

“We can’t control anything. The only thing we can do … is you can choose what you are going to change in those 5 seconds,” she said.  

Applied in the business world, Robbins said this method can be used to help motivate a team, particularly as employees feel burnout from working through a pandemic or other challenges they are facing.

“The research is clear. There is only one thing that people really need from you right now and to feel inspired and engaged, and that’s this: They need to know that they matter,” she said.

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As such, Robbins offered to the IDDBA audience a simple, 5-second decision anyone can make to help motivate their teams.

“You must double down on appreciation,” she said. “Make it a habit every single day to find something to either email or text or say in person … something specific and tell somebody why that matters to you. You would be shocked at how far that goes because most people don’t do it. …

“If you make it a habit every morning to just 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 … tell one person you appreciate them and why you do; it changes everything,” Robbins continued

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