The 5 Second Rule (5,4,3,2,1, Go!)

Kaizen Principle Addressed
Overcoming Inertia


Without action, all the best laid plans, all the best ideas, all the passion in the world will not help you make movement towards your goals.

Newton’s first law states that “an object at rest tends to stay at rest”. This applies to you. Inertia fights us from performing actions that are difficult or different from the habitual algorithms that we build around ourselves.

Guess what type of actions lead to improvement? (spoiler: it’s the difficult/different ones)

Luckily, there are a few ways to overcome this inertia. The 5 Second Rule is one of them.


Mel Robbins came up with a stunningly simple technique for getting things done. Ready? It’s easy. Whenever you get the urge to do something related to one of your goals, count down out loud. “5, 4, 3, 2, 1”, then do it.

5 Second Rule Explained


  • You get the urge to eat. Instead of reaching for the cookies, you count out loud, “5,4,3,2,1” then physically reach for an apple instead.
  • Your alarm goes off in the morning and you don’t want to get out of bed. “5,4,3,2,1”, then physically move out of bed.

How Does It Work?

Robbins wrote a book on her process, but basically, it comes down to using metacognition (the act of thinking about thinking) in order to trick your brain into action.

Our brain loves efficiency. We create shortcuts (also called heuristics) which act as a way to save energy when completing tasks. While this provides many benefits, it can also act as a roadblock on our road to improvement.

Robbins strategy of counting backwards out loud (5,4,3,2,1) requires focus, activating the prefrontal cortex—a higher order structure in the brain. It pulls the brain out of our learned patterns which stem from the basal ganglia.

The 5 Second Rule also works to build habits (Principle 2) by replacing the previous behavior (ignoring the urge to do something) with a more positive one (doing something important). This touches on a subject I will go into in depth at a later date—habits cannot be broken, they must be replaced.

At first, I was skeptical that such a simple strategy would work. I tried it the next morning when my alarm rang. I just counted out loud, “5,4,3,2,1” then got out of bed. It was magical. If you are curious for more, check out Robbins book HERE. (Or try it on AUDIBLE! I LOVE AUDIBLE).

How do you implement this principle in everyday life?

Whenever you feel the instinct to act on a goal, push yourself to move within 5 seconds, or your brain will kill it.

Make some sort of headway towards your goal. That’s all you must do. Surprisingly simple. The key is movement.

Caveat: I think what Robbins is trying to get at is that you don’t necessarily need to complete the action, just make some headway, some physical movement towards your goal.


I love the 5 Second Rule because it is simple to learn, simple to use, and it works. It helps build good habits by replacing the response to goal oriented instincts. Try it, and overcome that inertia!

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