The 5 Second Rule: Summary & Review

the 5 second rule book cover

The 5 Second Rule is a book by Mel Robbins on how to skip motivation, which in her opinion is useless, and jump straight into the actions that are needed to accomplish anything worthwhile.

Bullet Summary

  • Count from 5 to 1 and then start doing it
  • Fear blocks you. The 5 second rule won’t give fear time to kick in
  • Your brain wants to save energy: the 5 second rule will short-circuit that

Full Summary

We are all scared of doing something and we would all prefer being lazy. Whenever you are faced with a difficult task you know you need to do, use the 5 Second Rule:

The 5-Second Rule In A Nutshell

  1. Count down from 5 to 0
  2. Start moving when you reach zero

That’s it.

Once you reach the “go” time, start moving. Don’t give yourself time to think about it or you’ll come up with excuses.

Why it Works

Mel says that there’s a five seconds window between thinking we have to do something and our brain coming up with excuses why we should not do it.

If you move before excuses start, you’ll move.

How It Helps You

It helps us overcome two issues with starting:

  • Conservation of energy
  • Fear

Systems, including humans, tend to save energy and follow momentum. Starting up action takes energy (activation energy), and we must overcome our do nothing momentum to start.
Then there’s of course fear, coming from our reptilian brain which wants us to stay safe (read Linchpin and how to stop worrying).

The counting distracts you from the excuses and it will help you focus on the goal. It will move you from your reptilian brain and activate the prefrontal cortex.

Break Poor Habits

The more you delay action, even on small things, the more those small actions build up to become bigger and bigger.

Start by breaking the bad habits with the small things -getting out of bed, doing your exercise, finishing a task- and you will begin to shift your all life with a bias towards following through.

Instill Positive Habits

Use the 5 Second Rule often enough, and it will become a starting ritual, your new positive habit of action.

Remember, the first difference between daydreamers and the people who make their dreams come true, is that the latter start.

The more you will build on the small things, the more your self-confidence will increase (also read ego and self-esteem).

The one thing of people who make their dreams come true is that they start

Who It Works Best With

It works especially well with people who overthink stuff. And with those who tend to give in to procrastination and laziness (basically everyone :).

Start The Day With The 5 Second Rule

Mel Robins suggest you start with the first thing you do in the morning: wake up.

She recommends you set up your alarm and then go for it.
The key is to start going before your brain starts coming up with counterarguments.

My Note: I recommend you don’t wake up with an alarm actually. Especially if you’re not a morning person.

Motivation Is a Myth

Motivation is naive self-help, says Robbins.

More than that, Robbins seems to have a pet peeve against motivation.

She says the concept you should feel motivated and inspired to do the hard things in life is garbage.
Put simply, you will never feel motivated to do anything that is hard or difficult.

the 5 second rule book cover


A Simple message doesn’t need a  book
This might be the epitome of space-filling elevated to art.
Stretching a 5-second concept into a full book may even be a feat one has to, in some distorted way, admire.
Unluckily though, stretching a 5-second concept into a whole book means that the difference between what the concept should take you, and what it actually takes you reading the book is all time that you’re never going to get back.

Too Long
The book could be shorter.
If you wanted a shorter version, all you’d need to know would be: what’s the 5 second rule and some examples of implementation.
And then if you’re curious, why it works. A single blog post could accomplish that.


The 5-Second Rule is an OK book with a good idea that ultimately, in our opinion, you can skip reading.

The idea of moving quickly before you start making excuses is not new.

The old Pick Up Artists called it the 3 seconds rule, such as approaching a girl you like within 3 seconds or you’ll start coming up with excuses.

Still, the 5 Second Rule concept in itself is a great and valid concept.
It can really help you get going and build positive habits of an action taker. Just make sure you couple that with staying power and Grit.

However, frankly… You may not need the whole book for one single concept.

Get the book on Amazon or read more summaries.

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