Use This Metacognitive Technique To Change Your Life
Every day there are things we have to do that we don’t feel like doing. For some of us it’s going to work or going to school. We do those things because we know we have to if we want to get paid or graduate. However, when it comes to some other things such as going to the gym or making a tough decision, we will often put those off until we feel like doing it.
The problem is that most of us give too much power and control to our emotions; to how we feel at any given point in time. This is a huge mistake because often our emotions are often irrational and can lead to us doing (or not doing) and saying (or not saying) things we will regret later.
Research says that 95% of our decisions are based on how we feel and not on logic and rational thinking.
Mel Robbins, a successful entrepreneur, television commentator and speaker sums it up very well when she talks about her five second rule.
Robbins at one point was struggling financially and emotionally. Life had dealt her, like it has dealt many of us, a hard hand. She was finding it hard to do even the little things such as getting out of bed in the morning simply because she didn’t feel like it. She had no motivation.
She did what many of us do. She was waiting until she felt like doing something and the truth is, most of the time we will never feel like doing what we know needs to be done such as ending a bad relationship or looking for a new job.
She realized that she needed a strategy to propel herself towards change because motivation wasn’t enough. She knew sitting around waiting to feel motivated was a big mistake. It wasn’t going to happen.
What she did instead was come up with a five second rule that came to her after watching a commercial of a rocket launching.
What she decided to do the very next day was launch herself out of bed like a rocket. She would count backwards, “five, four, three, two, one” and with all her effort she would force herself out of bed.
It worked! So she did it the next day and the next day and soon she was using this five second rule to launch her into doing all the things she didn’t feel like doing, but knew she needed to do. It changed her life, personally and professionally.
“Life, and business in particular, is about pushing yourself to do the things that are uncomfortable so that you can achieve the results that you want,” Robbins said. “The secret is all about not waiting until you feel like it.”
Most of us make about 35,000 decisions a day and the vast majority of those decisions are made unconsciously. Many are based on how we feel at the moment or how we feel about the action.
What’s even worse is that many of the thoughts that flow through our heads are negative thoughts that bring on emotions like fear, anger and anxiety. Many of our decisions are based on those negative emotions.
There is actual science to back up this five second rule that Robbins discovered.
Research suggests that there’s basically a five second window between when you have a thought and when your brain will either support it or kill.
For us guys, think about when you see an attractive lady and think about asking her for her number. In general, if you don’t move on it within five seconds we tend to not move on it at all. After those five seconds all kinds of thoughts and feelings come into our heads such as self-doubt and fear of rejection.
Your brain is meant to protect you from anything harmful and sometimes that includes simple things like embarrassment. The trick is to force yourself to act within those five seconds before your brain decides to sabotage you. You’re not going to die from rejection or embarrassment.
“It turns out that inside that five-second window, your entire life and business, everything changes if you wake up and take control of that moment right before you’re about to make a decision,” Robbins said.
By counting backwards from five, you force your brain to stop and actually focus instead of just going through the usual unconscious and often self-defeating defense mechanisms it normally would. In a sense you are taking control of your brain before it is sabotaged by your emotions.
It’s a metacognitive technique that stimulates the higher functioning part of your brain, the prefrontal cortex and takes control away from the more primitive parts of our brain that stimulate fear, anger and anxiety.
It’s a technique that can be used to launch yourself into doing anything you don’t want to do, but know you need to do or to prevent you from doing something irrational and illogical based on how you feel at the moment.
I’ve used it to force myself to the gym many times. In the past I would skip a workout because I didn’t feel like going or didn’t have the motivation. Now I know that I may never feel motivated to go to the gym, especially after working a 12 hour day, so I just count backwards from five and go! Once I get to the gym, I usually find the motivation and have a great workout.
I’ve used the same technique to get myself into a writing ritual and to have hard, uncomfortable, but necessary discussions with people.
I’ve also used it to keep myself from saying something I may regret later out of anger or fear. It’s simple and it works!
You can use this for practically anything and I am excited for you to try it and to hear how it works for you.