Science and the 5 Second Rule

We are constantly faced with competing priorities – especially in the workplace.  For many this results in overwhelm, procrastination and an inability to make a decision and move forward.

A number of issues impact a persons ability to make a decision. No clear vision or clarity around business priorities renders many employees unable to easily make a decision.

People have anxiety around making the ‘wrong’ decision. Perhaps the result of a ‘full blame culture’ and the associated consequences of that!

If you understand key priorities and still struggle to make a decision, perhaps you use distraction techniques to avoid the responsibility for making a decision.  People achieve many things whilst avoiding doing the ‘important’ thing.

So, in my pursuit of finding out what makes it easier for people to make a decision – apart from

– Clear Vision

– Good Direction

– Great Leadership

– Management Support

– Supportive ‘No Blame’ Culture

I found a range of techniques – one of which resonated with me. It’s the 5 Second Rule. A principle, which became a book, which has become a worldwide movement, developed by Mel Robbins.

The principle is very, very simple in its nature. Which most successful things are.  When faced with a decision, count down 5,4,3,2,1 then go. Make the decision and take the necessary action. Don’t think about it, don’t over analyse – you’ve no doubt heard of analysis paralysis. Don’t run all potential disaster scenarios in your mind. Just count down and go!

Mel Robbins states that it is not the actual task we are avoiding but the perceived stress involved with the task, therefore procrastination is like a coping mechanism. By taking action we are facing the task head on and breaking the cycle.

Neuroscience backs up the process. In his article on the same subject – Thomas Koulopoulos states – ‘What’s fascinating about this impulse-driven sort of decision making is that it is rooted in some pretty deep science. Antonio Damasio, a neuroscientist doing research on how we make decisions, claims that our emotional decision making is just as important as our more rational and analytical decision making. In fact, if that part of your brain dedicated to gut reaction along with the emotions of punishment and reward (the prefrontal cortex and its orbitofrontal cortex) is damaged, you will get stuck making even the simplest decisions

You may be thinking well this is not appropriate for the level of decisions I have to make in my day to day working life – but it applies at all levels and to all areas of our life.

I once did a fire-walk across hot coals. The purpose? Well for me it was about confronting a massive fear and seeing how that feels. The real purpose of the exercise is to re-affirm the importance of taking the first step – getting into action.

Practical knowledge and formal risk analysis is important, but as with all improvements – it always, always starts with the first step!

Whatever you’ve been procrastinating on – 5,4,3,2,1 go make that decision!

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