Media sensation and overall badass over fifty, Mel Robbins redefines what it means to be cool, by being herself. One of the world’s most widely booked and followed Author, Podcast Host and Thought Leader. Her powerful energy has inspired millions to change their lives and take massive action. Her humility and authenticity has allowed her to connect with people on the verge of suicide, and her 5 Second Rule has literally saved lives.
She’s trusted by the world’s leading brands and medical professionals who use her research-backed tools and strategies in clinical and corporate settings. She’s amassed millions of followers online, with her videos going viral almost daily.
A New York Times bestselling author and self-publishing phenom, Mel’s work includes The High 5 Habit, The 5 Second Rule, and the #1 education podcast in the world, The Mel Robbins Podcast. 143 Studios Inc., her female-led media company, produces provocative and award-winning content with unprecedented results: millions of books sold, billions of video views, seven #1 audiobooks, and original courses and programming for clients like Starbucks, JP Morgan Chase, LinkedIn, Spotify, Headspace, and Audible.
Mel’s work has been translated into 41 languages, her podcast is syndicated in 194 countries, and her TEDx Talk is one of the most viewed of all time. Most importantly, her science-backed tools and relatable advice have changed the lives of millions of people worldwide. And despite all that, Mel is one of the most down-to-earth and relatable people you’ll ever meet. Probably because she learned everything she teaches the hard way: by first screwing up her own life, and out of necessity, discovering the tools and research that transformed her life and got her to where she is today.
What does your daily / regular routine look like for a successful day?
First, I always wake up and pop right out of bed. I never hit the snooze button. I also never sleep near my phone or check my phone after waking up. Next, while getting ready, I think about my major priorities for the day ahead. What do I want to accomplish that will move the ball forward in meaningful ways?
After this, I take thirty minutes to plan my day. This means choosing my top priorities and then starting to make progress on at least one of them. Not until after this do I check my phone or email. Sometimes this means waking up really early, especially when I’ve got a morning tech check!
I always plan my quitting time, which is when I will stop working. This forces me to put a deadline on my work and spend quality time with my family. I often get asked questions by women struggling with the guilt they feel when they start needing time away from family to pursue their own dreams. Consider this perspective: the two most important things we can do for kids is to love them inside and out, and to teach our kids how to be confident, courageous, and compassionate enough to pursue their own dreams. We want that for our children, don’t we? And the best way to teach these things: BE THESE THINGS.
As a woman, pursue your dreams. Be courageous. Don’t feel guilty about it. Feel proud of your pursuits. You are an example to girls everywhere of what a woman in action looks like — I believe it is the most powerful gift you can give to your children and to yourself. I love speaking, but what I love most is connecting with people and sharing inspiring messages. Through my media platforms, we’re now creating courses, content, and more that are reaching and helping even more people.
Your book, The 5 Second Rule, has helped a lot of people achieve their goals and change their lives. Where did the idea come from?
The 5 Second Rule was borne out of misery. I started using it at a time in my life when I didn’t want to get out of bed, my marriage was in a shithole, we were ready to file for bankruptcy after my husband’s business failed, and my drinking was out of control. Watching television one night after a few too many Manhattans, I saw a rocket ship launch and said to myself, “That’s what I’m going to do tomorrow when my alarm goes off. I’m going to count back and launch myself out of bed!” Of course when my alarm went off, I turned over and was about to doze off when I remembered what I said I’d do. I counted back and damn, I got my ass out of bed. It worked! Since then, my life has never been the same. One five-second decision at a time, my husband and I have pulled ourselves up and gone on to build the successful media company we have today.
Why? Years of research later, I’ve learned the neuroscience behind why this works. Turns out that counting backwards interrupts your habit loop and awakens the prefrontal cortex, where rational thinking and learning happens. This triggers your brain to shift gears. It’s a starting ritual, and these kinds of rituals have been proven to help change habits. It’s a very short window, however, just five seconds before we revert back to old habits, so you have to act quickly. The rule can help you move from your habit of thinking about doing to actually doing.
One of your motivational videos recently brought up a question: “Why is it so hard to do the little things in life?” People who struggle with diet and exercise programs think about this question all the time. What advice can you give to those people?
I think the best piece of advice is to quit waiting to feel like doing what you have to do. We’ve all bought into this myth that we have to feel motivated to exercise, or motivated to make healthy choices. That’s bullshit.
Our brains are designed to stop us from doing anything dangerous, and to our dinosaur brains, any kind of change is dangerous. So you’re never going to feel like creating new habits.
Another reason we don’t get moving or we don’t stick to healthy habits is self-doubt, and a habit of self-doubt causes us to hesitate. As soon as we hesitate, that’s it. The brain gets triggered and sends out warning signals. Which creates more hesitation and can eventually lead to anxiety. It’s important that we tell ourselves that we don’t hesitate because we have anxiety; we hesitate because we have a habit of hesitating. The only way you break that habit is to start taking action, and that’s where the five-second rule comes in. The moment you feel that hesitation, you count back, 5-4-3-2-1, and move. Action is the antidote to fear and hesitation.
Your “If-Then Planning” method is an amazing tool when it comes to health-related goals. Can you explain how this works as the ultimate “back-up” for tempting situations?
I’ve been using this tool almost as long as the five-second rule. It’s a strategy developed and studied by an NYU psychology professor who found that using this method doubled and even tripled the odds of being successful in pursuing a goal. It’s super important that we tune into our triggers and how we react to them. As soon as we bring that kind of awareness to our behavior, we’re already ahead of the game. The If-Then Planning tool creates that awareness and helps to prevent negative habits.
For example, IF I start to resist going to the gym, THEN I will put my sneakers on 5-4-3-2-1 and tell myself that I am choosing to go for just fifteen minutes.
You’ve explained that the “habit of hesitating”is at the core of why we get stuck and can’t reach our goals. Why do we tend to hesitate so much when it comes to eating better and how can we go from a goal/thought into action?
Because our brains are designed to 1) stop us from trying new things and 2) keep us comfortable.
Exercise is generally not fun, nor comfortable. Sitting in front of the TV with our favorite shows is. Eating a pint of our favorite ice cream is. Unfortunately, that part of our wiring doesn’t work in today’s culture. It made sense at the time our brains evolved, when we were hunter-gatherers and needed to always be aware of potential dangers in the wild. It made sense when we walked for miles every day and worked for anything we ate. Today we have to use strategy to bypass those faulty systems and get our asses off the couch. The five-second rule is one of those strategies.
Sometimes stress can arise when we focus on the gap between where we are and our future selves. Can you shed some light on how to keep the mind at ease while focusing on desired goals?
Stress of this nature is simply another type of habit loop. When we are disappointed with where we are in life versus where we want to be, it’s because we have a habit of comparing ourselves to others around us. Often to others who’ve been in the profession for years and who’ve worked their asses off to get to where they are. Rather than complain because you don’t have the following that Oprah does, look to others who are the next step above you.
What are they doing that you can emulate? Also, remember that you want to strive for progress, not perfection. If you look for perfection before you start, you’ll never start. Be okay with being a little sloppy and trust that part of growing up means making mistakes along the way. Do one thing every single day that moves you forward. Bonus points if that one thing is outside of your comfort zone.
What is your best advice for blocking out distraction?
For so many people—especially those who work at computers—social media and the news can become massive time sucks. Did you ever have trouble blocking this out yourself? Holy shitballs, have I struggled with distraction! For years I lived with AD/HD and didn’t even know it until a recent diagnosis. It’s taken me awhile to figure out what works best for me.
Top on the list is stress. When we’re stressed, we procrastinate. That’s when we’re most susceptible to distraction. I build strategies to keep stress in check. My schedule can be insane some days, but I make sure to start every day the same way. I don’t check my phone or emails until I’ve planned my day, I talk with family, and I get in some type of exercise.
I’ve also found that it’s super-important to be educated about the brain. Driven to Distraction, by Edward Hallowell, was a great read for me. So was John Ratey’s Spark. Exercise gives me a good 2-3 hours of focus, and eating a super clean diet makes the AD/HD more manageable as well. When I’m eating a ton of sugar, my focus is the pits.
Today we have so many distractions around us that I can’t stress enough how important it is to unplug every day. Keep your phone out of the bedroom and get outside in nature as often as you can. By giving our thinking brains a break, we come back refreshed and the creative parts of our brains are stimulated. That’s why we often come up with answers to questions we’ve been mulling over when we just let them go and step away.
Both your new book, The High 5 Habit, and your last book, The Five Second Rule, have simple daily tips that ultimately impact the whole of your life. Have you always been the type of thinker that can expand the micro into the macro, and if so, how have you trained your awareness to do this?
One of the biggest misconceptions in personal development is that big problems require complicated solutions.
It’s actually the opposite. The fact is, you’re one decision away from a totally different life. And tools only work when you force yourself to use them. If they are simple, you’ll remember them, and you’ll actually use them.
I started thinking this way because I kept struggling to do the things I needed to do. I realized, why not try to make things easier and start with small steps? And it turned out that starting small, instead of trying to make big changes, is the answer.
Instead of getting bogged down or focused on the big picture, just take the smallest move forward, no matter how simple it seems, because that step gets you moving.
You’ve got a practice to manage stress that is top secret. Can you share this with our readers?
A little known fact about me: Around 3:00 PM, you will often find me taking a bath, and the reason –– it may surprise you. It’s not because I have the day off. In fact, I definitely do this in the middle of a workday when I’m working from home. And it’s not because I’m dirty!
I take a bath around three o’clock when I’m stressed out, when the calls are stacked on top of each other and when the deadlines are piling up. When I feel myself spiraling, when my nervous system starts to ratchet up, I take a bath because it is a powerful way to put your body in a state of instant calm. It’s a way to activate something that is truly a treasure in your body –– your vagus nerve. This nerve is your on/off switch to a calm, more grounded physical state.
To activate this nerve to find instant calm, you can also breathe deeply and slowly, hum, chant, or rest your hands on your heart.
For women who want to grow their career, what advice can you share?
Stop focusing on WHAT you do, and pay more attention to HOW you do it, and how you leave people around you feeling.
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