If you were to found out counting down it’s always to something, be it depletion of something that can be depicted in numerical form and presented as equal units, be it an out loud time marking towards and event, since time can also be broken down into man-made segments of seconds here. It would seem that the point when things hit zero is important a sort of a climax, an event among uniformity of non-events preceding it.
How many times were you completely aware of what needed to be done but didn’t do it anyway for whatever reason you made up? We don’t judge reasons for the self-apologetic ducking of responsibility in any form be it getting up on time, having a hard conversation, finishing something you have no idea how to finish, making a change that scares you… By the design of our brain we like predictability and safety because it gives us something to grab on to, but if you forever stay the same, even if you’re well put together to begin with, you’ll fall behind due to the ever changing state of transiency of all there is. Circumstance and surroundings will change even if you don’t. How many times have we found ourselves stuck in no man’s land of regret and guilt while we reverted back to the old self? We’ve all been or are there in some segments.
We avoid, willingly turn our head the other way, pretend we don’t see the space of lack and then hate ourselves for doing so which, due to the negative emotional loop now tied to the task we know we should do, results only in more postponing. Congratulations! You are human and as such have the biological predetermination to procrastination in order to save the activation energy necessary for new behavior. Activation energy is not the same as regular energy to do the tasks and remain motivated. Activation energy is higher, a surge and override potential necessary to break the old chain and there is a trick and it takes only 5 seconds. Literally. Devised by Mel Robins, it’s just called “The 5 second rule”.
We all have a pattern in which each time a new opportunity, taking us out of our comfort zone or default autopilot mode presents itself, we immediately engage the doubt mode. This is excellent. Doubt is productive and means you can do something now, that you can fathom an alternative. The pattern is recognized, the willingness to change is acknowledged and the guilt for not doing so is here to be used to your advantage. It means you are fully awake and processing a new possibility. Change itself may be a long arduous process, but the points in which the shifts and decisions take place are not. Change is a string of very brief windows and opportunities to do things differently. When a new way presents itself we have a window of five seconds to act towards it in any way, for example to sit at the edge of your bed and get up on time, even though every fiber of our being wants to go back to sleep. If you don’t do the action within those 5 seconds your brain will talk you out of it by magnifying all that could possibly go wrong and we’ll rationalize and cozy ourselves back into compliance of a habit (more or less bad, depends on how much damage it does in the long-term).
When we feel that this is starting to happen we can activate our frontal cortex, the newest addition to the brain’s structure dedicated to higher brain function. Count backwards. This makes you focus to exactly the time point in which change takes place. 5,4,3,2,1… You are fully aware and present now, overriding the lizard brain’s “fear of the unknown” which sees things black and white – if it is not safe and known it is chaos, threat and danger and the fight, flight or freeze instinctual reactions ensue flooded by cortisol, which is calmed back down by siding back into the default safe mode.
So count yourself into change. Try it. It’s a neuro-mindfulness hack like no other, a proven trick to get out of your own way. Most times you already know what the right action is, the problem is acting on it. Do what you intended to do before the countdown strikes zero. Don’t give the brain a chance to come up with an excuse for postponing. Just do it. Make a habit of making yourself uncomfortable. It’s one of the best seats in the house to see growth through, act upon it and not only talk about it. Next time when you feel excuses surging coming ot the rescue from the “danger of new”, just stop, count 5,4,3,2,1 and then do what needs to be done. Move.