Skip to main content


Cultivating Your Intrinsic Motivation

The 5 Second Rule

You’ve heard of the five second rule – the myth that food which falls on the floor is safe to eat, provided you pick it up within five seconds. While this rule seems ill-advised, there is another five second rule that may be well worth trying.

Motivational speaker Mel Robbins, author of the book The 5 Second Rule, tells a story of how she conquered the snooze button on her alarm clock. As soon as her alarm clock went off in the morning, she would count backwards 5-4-3-2-1, throw her beddings off, and jump out of bed. It may sound rather simplistic, but it worked. She explains that counting down interrupts your brain from thinking of all the reasons why you don’t want to, or are too afraid to get out of bed. In fact, Mel asserts that this works for any difficult task that you want to embark on. If you don’t start within five seconds of thinking of it, your brain will sabotage you by presenting you with a host of difficulties and fears.

Intrinsic Motivation

Mel’s theory is simple. If you wait to feel like doing anything difficult, it’s never going to happen.

No one gets out of bed on a freezing cold morning because they feel like it. No one stays up past midnight working on a report because they feel like it. No one runs to the finish line in a marathon just because they feel like it.

We can safely conclude two things. The first is that motivation is not a feeling. The second is that motivation has to be intrinsic. An external stimulus, like an alarm clock, is not sufficient, on its own, to get you out of bed. In the same vein, we can conclude that external stimuli, like being offered more money, can only go so far in motivating us to work harder.

We want to achieve things; to start the day earlier, to get those reports done, to exceed the sales goals that seem elusive. But how can we move from ‘wanting’ to actually ‘doing’. How can we harness that self-motivation that just seems to fly out the window every morning, leaving us feeling like tomorrow is probably a better day to begin?

Cultivating Self Discipline

Harvard psychology professor Ron Siegel says that our brains naturally warn us away from tasks that seem unpleasant to us to help us survive danger. If, for instance, you associate getting up early with feeling cold and miserable, your brain will try to protect you from doing it.

To test Professor Siegel’s premise, you might want to build new and pleasant associations in your mind to waking up early; perhaps having time to eat a delicious breakfast before work. To help get started, maybe Mel’s method – jumping out of bed before your brain kicks in – is just what you need.

What is it, inside you, keeps you going at any task even when you’re tired and just plain fed-up?

©2018 David Waweru is the Chief Learning Officer at Will to Win Global. Photo credit: Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash.



Select your currency
USD United States (US) dollar