“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”
I awoke one exceedingly cold winter morning not long ago and attempted to drag myself out of bed. In spite of my good intentions to jump up, make the bed, and get on with the day, I stood in a daze for a few seconds, grabbed my laptop from the kitchen, and slid back under the warmth of the big white duvet to check emails.
The day before, I had planned to go directly downstairs to the gym after work and get on the treadmill for at least a half hour. I walked in the door and was about to change into my exercise gear, but within seconds, I convinced myself to wait until later on that evening. Although only a hop, skip, and a jump away, I never made it.
After dinner, as I watched sitcoms and searched the Internet intermittently for some book minutiae I was researching, I occasionally glanced at the boxes filled with unfiled paperwork that I had meant to work on, yet again—things long overdue—with Lady Guilt hovering around me like a dark cloud. I never touched them.
I had intended to do a guided meditation by 10:00 pm because of a new self-promise to have lights out by midnight, but somehow, I began the meditation at 12:15 a.m. instead.
Just before I fell asleep, I prayed.
My innate nature is one of motivation and organization. Before cancer II, I would have been considered one of the most organized women in my circle of friends and family. I used to be the ultimate doer. The master organizer. The ‘Energizer Bunny.’ My procrastination is a relatively new trait—one I am neither fond of, nor proud of. Why I changed was a mystery to me. An even bigger flummox: how in the world would I get back on track?
I prayed for motivation.
When I opened my laptop in bed that frigid morning, a Facebook link my sister had sent me caught my eye. It was labeled: Why Motivation is Garbage. Wow. I had prayed for motivation the night before.
I watched the short clip and was intrigued. It was an excerpt from a 45-minute interview with a coach and author named Mel Robbins. She’s a no-bull, firecracker of a woman, and she was discussing her new book called The 5 Second Rule.
She spoke candidly about a period in her life when her affairs were in an epic mess. She and her husband are a high achieving couple. His business had faltered, she was out of work and drinking more than she knew was okay, and they were in financial crisis. She had fever-pitched anxiety and was finding it increasingly difficult to get out of bed each morning.
She comically revealed how she came up with something she termed ‘the 5 second rule,’ calling it ridiculous. It was so silly that she had no intention of telling anyone about it. One day she watched a NASA rocket launch. The countdown struck her. What if she were to use it to launch herself out of bed in the mornings? She started the next day and did a slow 5-4-3-2-1 countdown and propelled herself out of bed. It worked. She kept at it and it effectively got her moving, so she began using it for other things she’d been procrastinating on, including better communication with her husband. She even used it to cut down on drinking.
In spite of her reluctance, she began sharing it with coaching clients and when she saw how effective it was, she set out to research why it worked so well. She also learned about the roots of procrastination.
She discovered that our brains are designed to stop us from change; they protect us from the new, the uncertain, and the scary. We overthink and analyze and our brains instantaneously come up with excuses and reasons not take action.
And oftentimes we tell ourselves, “I don’t feel like it.” The thing is, we’ll never feel like it. We may not be in the mood or in a state of motivation because of a sense of overwhelm or dread. That feeling can come from traumatic experiences or circumstances that have gotten out of control. We’d rather remain in avoidance.
We make small decisions like eating a supersize bag of potato chips in one sitting, or lying on a couch in front of the TV instead of exercising, or yelling at a spouse, or evading an important project. In 5 seconds, our minds can sabotage us and rob us of happy relationships, success (whatever we deem it to be), or good health.
It’s not the big choices that radically alter the course of our lives, it’s the small decisions we make day-to-day that have the most impact on our health and wellbeing. The tiny acts map the path to the future.
Once I finally understood the reasons underlying my procrastination, I immediately started using the 5 second rule. And it frigging works. Instead of perpetually allowing feelings or autopilot stories to ambush me, I’m 5-4-3-2-1-ing. I tackled the monumental task of taming that paperwork project and it’s almost done. I’ve been using it to get my butt out the door and go for walks when I don’t feel like it. And I did yet another edit on my book into completion.
I’ve also used it to make the kind of calls and emails I dodge:
- I spent the time on My Apple customer service line and received an unprecedented $200 store credit.
- I made the irritating call to Telus (internet/TV) and received a significant credit and negotiated a much better rate.
- I wrote letters to ask doctors and health peeps for reviews and got my first fabulous endorsement from an MD in Florida and another from a cancer coach who is an ex-chemo nurse in Hawaii in the past week.
- I also used it to do the boring chore of organizing my sock & undie drawers and gather clothing to take to Goodwill.
If there’s some dream or goal you’ve been putting off, give the crazy 5 second rule a try. If you’re surrounded by clutter, use it to begin the task of simplifying. If you’re having trouble controlling your temper, stop and count down before you blow.
It’s like parenting yourself into doing the things that may not be a whole lot of fun, but are good for you in the long run. Halt the stories your mind is conning you with and take the steps toward the things you know will make you happier and give you a sense of peace, accomplishment, or overall wellbeing—5 seconds at a time.
What I realized with my massive paperwork procrastination problem was that, as much as I hated the idea of tackling it, it was the key to a big chunk of freedom. As I get within a few more hours of the task stamped “completed,” I feel a sense of lightness and liberation.
If you’re prone to perfectionism and/or workaholism, something important to make note of is that you can use the 5 second rule to stop working and start living. This isn’t only for drudgery; it’s also effective for taking the time to nap, read, or have a play date with a good friend or lover. It can be used to stop and sweetly savour life.
The bottom line: stop thinking, start acting. Use the 5-4-3-2-1 technique and just do it.
How to stop screwing yourself over | Mel Robbins | TEDxSF
Mel Robbins on Why Motivation Is Garbage | Impact Theory
Post © Wanda St.Hilaire
I’ve neglected my blog for the past two months to get that massive personal project done while simultaneously completing my book. I’m pleased to announce it goes into production next week! Hooray!
I will be hosting an end-of-June book launch and you’re all invited whether you’re in Calgary for the real party or the virtual online launch. That’ll be a whole lot of 5-4-3-2-1-ing, but I think I can pull it off.
If you’re interested in joining my virtual launch team to be a Spread-the-Word-Supporter, just jot me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, if you’re not on my Facebook or newsletter list, send me a note to have your name added to the invite list.
This is going to be a joie de vivre celebration of living event!
What To Do After “I’m sorry, it’s cancer.”
An Exceptional Guidebook for Navigating Your Way
to Health and Happiness
You can never comprehend the severe and sudden impact of the words, “I’m sorry, it’s cancer” unless they are directed at you. Wanda St. Hilaire personally and profoundly knows the effects of those four words—twice over. With her first diagnosis at the age of 29, Wanda was an anomaly. Today, cancer is epidemic—one in three people will be diagnosed—and age does not exempt anyone.
Many people given the diagnosis either panic and make knee-jerk decisions under duress or check out and allow others to dictate their cancer journey.
What can you do instead?
Firstly, make fully informed, intuitive decisions. Knowledge is empowerment. Secondly, address the real causes of the imbalances that give cancer a place to thrive. Cancer is a “whole person” disease, yet it is typically treated as a separate entity to be aggressively attacked. Every part of our bodies and all aspects of our lives are interdependent of the other and there is far more you can do to heal cancer than the standard surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy protocols.
This poignant fusion guidebook-memoir speaks to the power of human resilience and a steadfast belief that the answers to healing lie within. St. Hilaire presents simple-to-digest material and wisdom woven with insightful anecdotes. She provides an invaluable amalgamation of research in a context not always accessible at your cancer centre.
In sharing, Wanda hopes that those newly diagnosed, in recovery, or searching for a way to support someone they love will find that this book makes the healing process less traumatic and that it will lead survivors to a new and improved life post-disease.
What To Do After “I’m sorry, it’s cancer.” is a compelling reminder that impossible things happen every day.