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Mel Robbins tells WomenConnect audience how 5 seconds can transform their lives

During her FMWF Chamber-sponsored keynote Wednesday before a mostly female audience of 1,700, Mel Robbins shared how her "5-second" hack has helped transform her from an unemployed, financially drained, emotionally spent individual to a successful motivational speaker/author/lawyer/former TV talk show host.

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Mel Robbins gives her presentation during the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce Women Connect event in the Sanford Health Athletic Complex on Wednesday, June 1, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum
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FARGO — Mel Robbins' now famous "5-second rule" is so simple that she herself was afraid to tell anyone about it at first.

But during her FMWF Chamber-sponsored keynote Wednesday before a mostly female audience of 1,700, Robbins shared how her little life hack has helped transform her from an unemployed, financially drained, emotionally spent individual to a wildly successful motivational speaker/author of the bestselling "The 5 Second Rule,"/lawyer/former TV talk show host.

“I’m going to show you how to take control of your life, your thoughts, your anxiety, your future, all of it, in a five-second window," said Robbins, who has become the most-requested lecturer on the U.S. speaking circuit and is author of the most successful self-published audiobook of all time, according to her website.

Exuding confidence, humor and energy, Robbins touched on the themes first popularized in her bestseller, as well as her follow-up, “The High-5 Habit.”

She also worked the arena-sized space of the Sanford Health Athletic Complex at NDSU like she was still a talk show host working a TV studio audience — walking through the crowd to get audience members to share their hopes and aspirations, hugging a 16-year-old who bravely shared her family struggles, pulling people up on stage to give voice to their goals and even once scaling the bleachers like a mountain goat to coax participation out of more reserved attendees.

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Robbins’ goal wasn’t to embarrass participants as much as to encourage them to break through the inhibitions and fears she believes keeps people from thriving.

She shared her own story on how she found the courage to do things that once overwhelmed her.

Robbins and her husband, Chris, were going through a tough financial time after the several pizza places he'd wanted to open failed to thrive. The couple had cashed out their life savings and spent down their three children's college funds to finance the venture.

Then the recession of 2008 hit. Before all was said and done, they found themselves $800,000 in debt. Robbins said she also lost her job, was drinking heavily and could barely get out of bed in the morning to get her kids ready for school.

One day, she saw a rocket launch on TV, complete with the "5-4-3-2-1" countdown. She decided to try a similar countdown to motivate herself to get out of bed.

It worked so well that she started applying it to other tasks and steps she'd been avoiding. Before long, all those small, positive steps started adding up and she found her life had improved dramatically.

Robbins began studying the science behind the seemingly simple goal.

“I noticed this window of time, this moment when I went from knowing what I should do to thinking about what I should do instead of doing it. The more you think, the more you go from the conscious part of your brain — your prefrontal cortex — and within five seconds flat, the subconscious, the basal ganglia, starts to take over, and all your old habits start to run on autopilot."

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Once that five seconds has passed, the "autopilot" of our brains will start making us feel fearful and inadequate, giving excuses for why we shouldn't try something new or reminding us of past failures.

So the key is to beat the five-second clock.

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Mel Robbins gives her presentation during the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce Women Connect event in the Sanford Health Athletic Complex on Wednesday, June 1, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum

Several years later, Robbins was asked to speak at a 2010 TEDx event about career changes. She says she was so nervous throughout the presentation that she forgot the closing joke for her speech.

Instead, she blurted out the five-second hack she started doing to help herself shift from "thinking about doing" to "doing."

That video went viral. People from all over began messaging her on social media and telling her what a difference the five-second rule had made in their lives. Addicts reported that it helped them stay sober and do the next right thing. One veteran tweeted that Robbins’ rule saved him from leaping off a ferry and killing himself.

Robbins maintains the five-second rule allows people to access that inner wisdom which tells them what they really do need to do next, even if it seems overwhelming, uncomfortable or scary.

“Knowing what to do is easy," she said. "The secret to life is how do you make yourself do the stuff that is scary? How do you make yourself take action when you’re not motivated?”

She also believes that this life hack, done over and over and applied to any variety of situations, can create a chain of small, positive changes that eventually lead to greater life satisfaction and success.

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"You have within you, not only desires and dreams, but you have the confidence and the stamina and the resilience to take the steps to walk toward those things that you deeply dream and know are meant for you," Robbins told the crowd. " You don't remember this, but when you were a baby, you would fall 17 times an hour when you were learning to crawl. You didn't lay on the floor in your diaper and say, 'That's it. I'm definitely not trying again.'

"This is a tool to help access what is already there."

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