July is here, which means that now is a good time to take stock of your year.  What were you hoping to have happen in 2017?  Any specific goals or dreams?  Now ask yourself: have your actions and activities so far this year reflected those goals?  In other words, are there visible signs that you have been working towards bringing these desires to fruition?  One last question: if the rest of 2017 continues as the first half of the year has, how will you feel on December 31st?  Accomplished, or disappointed?

Chances are that you know exactly what it is that you need to be doing to achieve your goals.  You also probably know why you have those goals in the first place and why they are so important to you.  But it is likely that taking action towards those goals may not be a habit for you, and as motivation speaker Terri Savelle Foy states, habits (and hobbies) are the only things people will act on naturally.

So how can we create new habits that propel us towards our goals?  This is where the Five Second Rule, a concept (and book) created by author and TEDx speaker Mel Robbins, enters the picture.

The Five Second Rule is this: if you have an impulse to act on a goal, you must physically move your body within five second or your brain will kill the impulse.

Think about some practical applications of this Rule.  Let’s assume that you have a goal to exercise every morning.  When your alarm clock goes off in the morning, the thought of your goal enters your mind, and you know that if you get up right now you will have enough time for that workout.  But rather than get up you lay there in bed for a few seconds, and then before you know it your second alarm is going off to notify you that you’re about to be late for work.  What happened?  Your brain killed your impulse to exercise and you went back to sleep.

Perhaps you have a goal to be more sociable, and while walking down the street one day and you see a long-lost friend through a store window.  You think about going into the store to say hello, but in a matter of seconds your brain has convinced you not to do so and you continue along your way.  What happened?  Your brain killed your impulse to deviate from your course.

Maybe you’re in a business meeting and you get a flash of inspiration, but you don’t immediately speak up out of fear.  A few seconds later, the idea is as good as dead.  Your brain just killed your impulse to take a risk, and with it your goal of developing a new product.

Or maybe you just remembered some other goal that you set in January and there is something you can do today towards completing it.  By the time you finish reading this sentence, your brain will have killed the impulse to take action under the argument that “you can work on it tomorrow.”

So here is your assignment: the next time you get an impulse to act towards a goal or anything else you need to do, do it immediately.  Doing so will start to form new habits that in the long run will make it easier to continue taking action, all the while bringing you closer to your goals.  And if your brain ever tries to use fear to kill your impulse to act, just remember Matt Damon’s statement from the movie We Bought a Zoo: “Sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage, just literally twenty seconds of embarrassing bravery, and I promise you something great will come of it. 

P.S. – Don’t forget to make your goals SMART.


Jeremiah Clark, M.A., is a healthcare IT consultant with six Epic Systems certifications. He is also
a partner at Appalachian Digital, a local web development agency, and a founding partner of
MHQC LLC Real Estate Development. He and his wife Erin are natives of Kingsport, TN.