Before the year began, my husband and I took a mini-vacation to a bed and breakfast in West Virginia to relax and unwind. With three young kids at home, it’s not often we get away together alone. One of our favorite things to do is read by the fire. On this trip, I read two books cover to cover, and one impacted me so much, I want to share it with you.
In studying success for over 25 years, there is something I have discovered that is a common theme in high achievers—they have a bias for action. They have the same fears, doubts, anxieties, and challenges as everyone, but they push through the negative mind chatter and get themselves to do things they may not feel like doing. Success and confidence are not innate qualities, they are the result of small actions that compound over time.
In all honesty, my default is laziness. If I didn’t consciously push myself through the barriers my mind creates, I would sit around every day watching Hallmark movies, eating Lindor truffles, and drinking cappuccinos. Now, there’s nothing wrong with these things, but compound them daily over time, and they would not lead me toward my best self. My guess is that your default is also laziness. I know this, because of all the leaders—of all the humans—I have ever worked with, been friends with, or had a conversation with, no one has ever said that sticking to their goals was easy peasy, lemon squeezy (this is a current favorite phrase of my almost seven-year-old).
Sitting by the fire two nights before New Year’s Eve, I was reading the book, The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins. I had seen Mel’s Ted Talk a few years ago, so I wasn’t in a rush to read the book. Frankly, I thought the “5 Second Rule” she preaches was too simplistic to be of value. But as I read the book and the case studies from people around the world, I became enthralled with the concept and couldn’t put it down. There was one piece of research that Mel shared that really stuck with me, and made total sense based on my own personal experience. She said that in the quest to reach our goals, thinking is not the problem; we rarely make decisions based on logic. Research has shown that we make 95% of our decisions based on our feelings, not on our thoughts. I reflected on the choices I make each day, and realized that if I didn’t push myself, I would absolutely choose to watch Hallmark movies while drinking cappuccinos and eating chocolate all day.
Left to my feelings, here is how I would make decisions each day:
- Do I feel like getting up an hour early today? No, I’d rather stay in my warm bed.
- Do I feel like working out today? No, it’s too much effort.
- Do I feel like writing two blogs today? No, it takes too much thought.
- Do I feel like eating a healthy salad for lunch? No, that doesn’t sound delicious!
You see how that works? We make 95% of our decisions based on how we feel in the moment, and our feelings are rarely in our best interest. Change requires us to have the courage to make choices that feel hard and challenging. So what do successful people do? They make decisions before their feelings set in and hijack their life. Mel Robbins’ “5 Second Rule” is about counting backwards—5-4-3-2-1—and then taking action immediately, before your feelings set in and your mind rationalizes why not to do something.
It’s not that successful people aren’t lazy. Most of us would rather take the easy way out rather than have to put forth effort to accomplish something. Successful people make the choice to push through, despite their feelings. It takes bold action—quick action—to move past your feelings and toward your goals. It’s our daily practices that will lead us toward our best self. No one is perfect every day, but if you consistently take action before your feelings set in, those small actions will compound to lead you toward better health, better relationships, better leadership, and a better life.
- Do I feel like tackling that hard project first thing in the morning? No, but I know if I do, I will get it off my plate and get to leave work on time today.
- Do I feel like having that tough conversation with my employee? No, but I know it’s necessary to maintain a cohesive team.
- Do I feel like taking 45 minutes to teach a task I can do in 10 minutes? No, but I know if I delegate it now, I will free up more of my time in the long run.
This morning, when the alarm rang an hour earlier, instead of hitting snooze, I jumped out of bed before my feelings convinced me I needed more sleep. It may seem like a small action, but I started my day off in control—in control of my actions, in control of my goals, and in control of my life.