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 push yourself to take the hard 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

The 5 Second Rule 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

Start counting from 5 to 0. And once you reach one, 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 windows between thinking we have to do something and our brain coming up with excuses why we should not do it.

How It Helps Us

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 distract 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 the 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 :).

Starting With The 5 Second Rule

Mel Robins suggest you start with the first thing you do in the morning: waking up. She recommends you set up your alarm and then go for it.
The key is to start going before your brain start coming up with counter-arguments.

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

Mel Robbins goes hard against motivation. She says the idea you should feel motivated and inspired to 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


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

The old Pick Up Artists called it the 3 seconds rule, such as approach 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 concept.
It can really help you get going and building 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.