I was listening to this Ted Talk the other day...the Speaker, Mel Robbins, was talking about the 5 Second Rule. She was not talking about how long food can stay on the floor where it is still socially acceptable to pick it up and eat it. She was talking about how long we must sustain presence, courage and intentionality. She says that when a thought comes into your head, you have just 5 seconds to act on it, otherwise you are not going to do it. 5 seconds.
What struck me was that this means that so much of our lives happens and doesn’t happen within that window. Loves gained and lost, financial fortunes made and lost, relationships repair or damaged, kindness shared or not. The whole of our lives seems to happen right there in that tiny space of 5 seconds.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that 5 seconds is a long enough time for everything or nothing to happen. I think about all the times that I have wasted that 5 seconds. The times that I didn’t say the thing that the other person desperately needed to hear, didn’t take the action that I knew instinctively was a good idea, all the times that I let fear beat out inspiration, love and compassion.
I have told my son for years now that the secret to dating is 5 seconds of courage. You just have to walk up to her and start the conversation...after 5 seconds you are either done and walking away or you are talking and on your way. I have been amazed at how often that kid has been able to withstand that 5 seconds of torture. Standing there in front of someone who he has no idea what she is going to say or do. Being a woman is hard in many ways but I think men have us beat in the whole dating, asking out thing. They have to walk out on this flimsy little branch we are standing on, put themselves out there and then stand there while we decide if we are going to offer redemption or rejection. Then they have to walk away...Seriously, if I had to do that, I would probably have never dated at all.
I started thinking of what happens in that 5 seconds that is so magical. Why is it not 10 seconds? 20? I came to the conclusion that 5 seconds is the length of time because that is really about as much uncomfortability as we can stand. Whatever is going to happen after the 5 seconds, completely and totally depends on our willingness to stand in that 5 seconds naked, alone, without barrier or protection. Those 5 seconds require our total presence and attention. We can’t escape or numb out. We have to be there or it doesn’t happen. We have to so totally occupy that 5 seconds or it is lost to us, sometimes forever.
It made me realize that the whole of my life really happens in 5 second increments. Tiny moments in the day of a life where I either go after the life I want, or hide in the one I don’t. I have to constantly be willing to erode my own comfort zone 5 seconds at a time. I have to push beyond my limits 5 second at a time. It seems that the most important things happen in my life within the 5 second intervals that I heretofore never even thought about.
So I have decided to bring some intention, purpose and presence to the 5 seconds of my life. I am going to hug those I love for 5 seconds longer. I am going to be more fully present for 5 seconds at a time. I am going to do the things that occur to me would be helpful, kind or loving and not let the 5 second window shut while me ego stands there and talks me out of it. I am going to offer up 5 seconds more of thought to those about me. I am going to endeavor to make a 5 second donation of time to myself about myself. Which I am pretty sure will in turn provide more opportunities for me to give a similar donation of 5 seconds to others.
What would the world be like if we could all fully inhabit those 5 second moments? What could we do together if we all met ourselves in this 5 second place where so much of our lives are decided? Maybe it is just wishful thinking on my part, but I think that we could be more loving, kind, thoughtful and courageous. We could use those 5 seconds to change the world we live in. I know this is true because I have stood in those 5 seconds where I have lost love, friendship and myself. I have watched opportunities slip right through my fingers in 5 seconds. I have seen myself fade back into the backdrop of my life 5 seconds at at time.
Cheryl Strayed (I know I quote her a lot - that is because she is AWESOME!) said:
“You can’t fake the core. The truth that lives there will eventually win out. It’s a god we must obey, a force that bring us all inevitably to our knees. It asks us eternally: will you do it later or will you do it now?”
For me, I am going to do it now, before my 5 seconds are up...