The 5 Second Rule: How to Train Your Confidence Muscle

How to Build Your Confidence

You know that scene in The Office where Pam, as she’s recently decided to be more honest and to stand up for herself, goes back to that bar and courageously proclaims that “No, one of them was supposed to be a light beer”?

To the bartender it’s not a big deal. But to Pam, it’s momentous.

She’s so proud of herself in that moment. For flexing her honesty muscle. For speaking her truth. For keeping a promise to herself. And for taking another small step toward becoming the woman she’s decided she wants to be.

Fast forward a few episodes and that very muscle, built up over time, and super charged by her invigorating walk across the burning coals, compels her to open up in front of everyone and tell Jim exactly how she’s been feeling.

You know, and then he winds up breaking up with Karen, declining the corporate job in New York, and they get married and have babies and become the Jim and Pam we always wanted them to be.

This isn’t just a recap of The Office, I swear.

You see, what I’d like to draw your attention to, is the fact that Pam returning that dark beer was directly connected to, and responsible for, finally telling Jim how she felt.

Returning that dark beer, although it may have seemed insignificant at the time, was actually the tiny act of courage that lead to her finally go after the life she really wanted for herself.

No. I’m not smoking weed right now. Stay with me. This is important.

Returning that dark beer? That’s how confidence grows. One small, courageous decision at a time.

I recently gobbled up The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins. A book that has been orbiting me for a while but, I’d never grabbed out of the ether until last week. And man, am I glad I did.

You see, The 5 Second Rule (which is not about dropping food by the way) is a simple and powerful tool we can all use to be more like Pam at that bar.

Whenever we’re stuck in a rut or we want to change or we’re not living the life we want to live or being the person we know we could be, it’s because we’ve made, and continue to make, a string of tiny, shitty decisions that take us further away from ourselves and diminish our personal power.

We decide to:

  • Hit the snooze button.
  • Eat the cupcake.
  • Stay on the couch and watch Chip & Jojo instead of starting our blog.
  • Not speak up when something bothers us.
  • Have a glass of wine instead of going to the gym.
  • Stay quiet in the meeting when we know we have a good idea.
  • And avoid the uncomfortable conversation we know we need to have yet again.

And as we make these tiny, shitty decisions, our courage muscle atrophies. We get weaker and weaker. Feel worse and worse. And create more and more distance between where we are and where we want to be.

The 5 Second Rule, will throw this car in reverse and start to close that distance again. It will help us to speak up and return the dark beer.

It will help us with our own tiny acts of courage.

Here’s the deal. You know why it’s so hard to change? Why we struggle so much getting what we want in life? Because we’re waiting to feel like it’s the right time.

We’re waiting to feel like doing the shit we know we need to do but we don’t really want to do. We’re waiting for the motivation we think we need to get going.

Well guess, what? That motivation isn’t coming. That’s not how motivation works.

We have to do the annoying and difficult work of slowing the train down, and then reversing it, before the momentum can start to build in the other direction.

That’s the rub. It’s fucking hard to change our lives. It’s hard to take the action to turn things around. Because the laws of physics tell us that more energy is required to stop an object in motion and to turn it around than it is to just keep an object in motion.

But if we want to change and go after the life we really want, we have to muster that extra energy.

So how do we start? We use The 5 Second Rule to help us with tiny acts of courage that build momentum.

Each time we’re faced with the decision to do something we know we need to do but that we don’t feel like doing, we count down “5, 4, 3, 2, 1” and then we force ourselves to do it before our brain wins out with its excuses.

This counting down is a conscious, deliberate action that activates the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain responsible for decision making and what not). And by taking conscious action, we damn up the flow of excuses our brain has unleashed on us and we just do the thing, before we can convince ourselves not to. (Because we will convince ourselves not too. That’s how our brains work. We know this because, science.)

Counting down like that, reclaims our personal power and activates an internal locus of control – meaning we believe we have control over the outcomes in our lives.

You can read all the sciencey stuff about it here.

But all you need to know to change your life is that when faced with the decision to keep that promise to yourself, or take that action you know you need to take, you count “5, 4, 3, 2, 1” and push yourself to do it before your brain can win you over with its excuses.

For example, I’ve tried to become a morning person for forever. The only struggle? I never felt like getting out of bed. I was waiting for that golden morning when I finally just felt like getting up early.

But, all of the sudden, after reading this book, I’ve gotten up at 6 am on the dot every single morning, giving me the two hours of alone time before Foster (my baby) wakes up that I desperately wanted. You know to shower, get dressed, put on makeup, organize my day, have a cup of coffee and get some much needed work done. It’s been amazing.

This morning Joel said “It’s like you flipped a switch and became a morning person.” To which I replied “Yeah. That’s exactly what I did.” While shadow boxing myself in the mirror in my bathrobe.

I truly feel that I’m in control of my day now. I have an internal locus of control. Heyo! I no longer feel that because I’ve historically had trouble sleeping, getting up early just wasn’t going to happen for me (among other excuses making up the torrential downpour of bullshit in my brain that kept me hitting the snooze button each morning for years).

When the alarm goes off, I think “5, 4, 3, 2, 1” and I turn on that light and get out of bed. It’s amazing. And I’ve started to look at where else in my life I’m making tiny decisions that forfeit my personal power. Where else I can flex my confidence muscle or keep promises to myself. It’s mildly addicting if I’m being honest.

Getting up at 6 am is my tiny courageous action that’s building momentum in my life. It’s my version of returning the dark beer.

I doubt Pam used The 5 Second Rule consciously to muster the confidence to demand the beer she actually ordered. But it’s the same thing. Whether you’re looking to lose weight, get in shape, be more productive, be a better parent, or to live more honestly and confidently, tiny acts of courage, doing the little things that we don’t feel like doing, is exactly how we build momentum toward becoming who we most want to be and living the life we most want to live.

So. What’s your version of returning the beer?


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Author Dana

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