The High 5 Habit (2021) offers a startling proposition: A single change to your morning routine can help upend your outmoded, self-limiting attitudes and kick your life into top gear. Interwoven with personal anecdotes and scientific research, this blueprint for life transformation makes self-improvement seem easier than ever.
About the author
Mel Robbins is a best-selling author and personal-development pundit who lives in New England with her husband and three kids. She’s the creator of the number-one podcast on Audible, Start Here: Pep Talks for Life. Her other books include The 5 Second Rule.
Start your day by giving your reflection a high-five:
What ideas do you have about the person staring back at you every morning as you wash your teeth in front of the mirror? Do you ever pat yourself on the back for the person you’ve become? Do you think about how good you look or about all the amazing things your body can accomplish?
Or do you, like the majority of us, spend your morning minutes berating yourself and pointing out flaws in your body?
Mel Robbins, the author, used to do the same thing. She would stand in front of the mirror first thing in the morning and tear apart her appearance, hating her chin, hating her neck, hating her tummy. This self-flagellation would continue until she moved on to her morning’s second routine: worrying about the day’s numerous important tasks.
However, something unexpected occurred. Things took a turn for the worst one day.
Robbins didn’t critique or worry that morning. Instead, she saluted herself by raising her hand toward her reflection. She then stuck it out and gave herself a high-five in the mirror.
Why? It was a difficult question to answer. She was exhausted, anxious and unsatisfied with herself. She required assistance. She realized, though, that the support had to come from within. In some ways, the high five was a show of confidence.
Sure, it was cheesy – but it felt nice. She made the high fives a habit, and every morning she felt a little better about herself after looking in the mirror.
You’ll have a decision when you look in the mirror tomorrow morning. You have the option of meditating on your failures and pondering life’s issues, or you can take a moment to congratulate and encourage yourself.
Choose wisely, and give yourself a high-five.
The effectiveness of high fives has been scientifically proven:
What memories do you associate with high fives? Are you commemorating a childhood accomplishment, such as scoring a goal or hitting a home run? Congratulating a friend on a job advancement or finally getting rid of a bad partner?
One memory, in particular, stands out for Mel Robbins. It was the New York City Marathon in 2001, and she was running it. She was exhausted, achy, and unprepared. The blisters on her feet tore open about mile seven, and each stride became excruciatingly painful.
Robbins, on the other hand, did not give up. Strangers’ encouragement – particularly the high fives she received from everyone she passed along the route – kept her going, not her superhuman strength or steely determination.
That small act of kindness made all the difference, and studies can explain why.
In one experiment, researchers assigned a group of schoolchildren a set of tasks and then incentivized them in one of three ways. Some children were lauded for a characteristic, with researchers describing them as intelligent or talented. Others were commended for putting out an attempt; the researchers commended them on their dedication.
The kids in the third group, on the other hand, were rewarded with high fives. Can you determine which group was the happiest with the work they did and stayed the longest? High fives were given to the children.
Can high-fiving yourself, on the other hand, be just as beneficial? Absolutely. According to a study in the field of neurotics, high-fiving yourself can alter the structure of your brain.
According to neurotic research, when you mix a familiar task, such as brushing your teeth with an unknown twist, such as high-fiving your reflection, your brain is stimulated, making it easier to form new neural connections.
So, when you give yourself a high-five in the mirror, your brain recognizes that something new and strange is happening; to put it another way, it begins to pay attention. When that deed is combined with loving thoughts and self-encouragement, the pleasant attitude is more likely to persist.
Try it for yourself: high-five your reflection every morning for five days. The difference you’ll notice will astound you.
Unpleasant thoughts can lead to a chain reaction of negative actions:
Mel Robbins may now be a life coach, but her own life looked out of control when she was younger. She was fortunate enough to gain a terrific opportunity as a young lady in law school: a summer internship with the Attorney General’s Office in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Robbins was invited to work on a study that looked at the state’s criminal reoffense rates as part of her job there. It was a topic that she cared deeply about and would have thoroughly loved researching – but she couldn’t bring herself to do it.
Why? In a nutshell, she was overwhelmed: Robbins’ dread of failing was so strong that she never began working on the project. When the attorney general summoned her to his office to express her dissatisfaction, she made up some justifications — and then abruptly quit her position.
Self-doubt turned a fantastic opportunity into a source of worry for Robbins. She felt even worse about herself once she left the job. Her worst worries had come true: she’d been entrusted with a crucial job, and she’d completely botched it. She felt as if she had failed.
Regrettably, things have only gotten worse. Robbins secured a job with a law company in New Mexico for another summer, but the amazing opportunity carried with it powerful feelings of fear and self-doubt. She called the firm a week before she was supposed to fly out and start, cooked up a tale about a family issue, and told them she couldn’t accept the job after all.
Now, this may seem a long way from high-fiving yourself in the mirror every morning, but the habit and Robbins’ actions are linked in a significant way. Because of his highly ingrained habits of harsh self-criticism and self-doubt, Robbins’ self-destructive actions were rooted in deeply ingrained habits of relentless self-criticism and self-doubt. The same sentiments surfaced every time life offered her an opportunity, weakening her sense of competence and fearlessness.
Robbins eventually put in the work necessary to build her self-belief with the support of therapy. She discovered that messing up makes you hate yourself and that hating yourself makes you more likely to goof up. It’s a vicious spiral that keeps you stuck in failure and self-loathing routines.
What is the antidote? Being friendly, supportive, and encouraging to oneself – in other words, high-fiving one’s reflection.
Your RAS can become clogged with useless data:
When you put your laundry in the dryer, you probably clean the lint filter as well. It’s not a major issue. It’s a function of dryers; drying clothing produces lint over time, and if the filter isn’t cleaned, the dryer won’t work properly.
It’s a basic procedure, but have you ever tried applying it to your mind?
The Reticular Activating System, or RAS, is a filter in the mind that filters the information your brain processes, ensuring that only the most relevant information reaches the level of conscious thought. And, like the lint filter in your laundry, your RAS could use a good cleaning now and then.
The main point here is that your RAS might become clogged with useless data.
So, what exactly is the “lint” clogging up your RAS? In a nutshell, it’s your self-defeating and self-limiting attitudes and beliefs – the same ones that kept Robbins from advancing in her legal profession.
Rejection, failures, disappointments, and insults can all get stuck in your RAS, causing your mind to fixate on bad information while ignoring favorable information.
Thankfully, we can remove this emotional residue. The High Five Habit and Robbins’ recommended patterns of self-acceptance and self-love are the psychological equivalents of removing a heavy coating of lint.
The significance of information is one of the parameters used by your RAS to filter it. If the RAS believes you find negativity important and relevant, it will emphasize it even more. However, if you start hunting for positives, your RAS will learn to value them more.
It’s worth emphasizing that last point. You don’t have to rely on your RAS: you can educate it on what to look for and gradually train it to emphasize all the good things in your life. Your new habit of high-fiving your mirror is a good start, but it’s not the only one you should make: in the following blink, we’ll look at a strong approach for getting your RAS to work for you.
Disrupt your thoughts, repeat a mantra, and behave like the person you want to be:
At this point, you might be a little skeptical. Sure, high-fiving your reflection feels wonderful at the moment, but it’s unlikely to result in any lasting changes in your mood or self-confidence. Right?
You are not alone if you feel this way. Mel Robbins’ daughter felt the same thing when she first learned of her mother’s new habit. How could something as easy as high-fiving herself in the mirror start to shift long-held ideas and attitudes?
When you practice the High Five Habit, the world seems to suddenly turn around and smile at you.
To educate your RAS to see the world in a new way, you must take three steps. The first is straightforward: break your previous thought patterns.
“I’m not thinking about that,” say to yourself the next time you find yourself engaging in self-criticism or self-doubt. It may sound simple, but refusing to repeat the same weary thoughts trains your RAS to ignore them in the future as well.
But weakening your current thought processes isn’t enough. You must replace them with something more appropriate – something nicer, more supportive, and practical. A mantra can help in this situation. However, you must be cautious when selecting it.
Your mind will reject your mantra if you don’t believe it is true. Select a phrase that you believe is both uplifting and accurate. Try one of these phrases: “Every day, I’m getting a bit stronger” or “Today, I deserve to feel fantastic.”
The last stage is to start acting like the person you want to be. You can’t change ingrained views without taking some kind of action, and watching yourself act differently confirms your new notion in your mind.
So now it’s time to bring it all together. When a bad thought enters your mind, stop it and tell yourself you’re not going to think about it. Then tell yourself a helpful and accurate mantra. Finally, act in a way that demonstrates that your new belief is correct.
Substitute thankfulness for apologies:
How often do you find yourself apologizing? It’s a tic that some of us find difficult to overcome. If we have to cancel plans, ask for assistance, or even if someone else accidentally stumbles into us on the street, the word “sorry” appears to be on our lips all the time.
On the surface, it appears to be a harmless habit. After all, who do you think you’re hurting by apologizing? However, if you look a bit closer, the desire to apologize may indicate something more concerning: an intense sense of guilt that makes it difficult to live a truly fulfilling life.
The fact is, living courageously and authentically means that you may occasionally disappoint others. It also means that you’ll have to rely on others from time to time — for moral support, the occasional favor, or even simply a sympathetic ear. So, instead of apologizing, start offering gratitude.
It feels a lot better to be exposed to thankfulness than it does to be exposed to guilt. To put it another way, it’s preferable to be praised rather than apologized to.
Folks who apologize all the time might be irritating at times. One of the author’s friends is like that – the type that feels compelled to apologize at all times.
The author discovered one day that her friend’s tendency was grating on her: every time she apologized, she turned the focus to herself. She wasn’t expecting reinforcement that she wasn’t upset, so she didn’t thank the author for her kindness or patience. Her apologies started to sound a little disappointing when compared to a genuine “Thank you.”
Don’t be that kind of pal. Those that care about you want to assist and support you. Don’t apologize if they go out of their way to do something pleasant for you; instead, express your gratitude.
Saying thank you doesn’t just highlight the generosity of the person you’re speaking to. It also allows you to acknowledge your needs without expressing guilt about them. It communicates to the world and you that you don’t have to feel guilt for having needs and desires of your own.
It’s hard to have a high-five attitude when you’re constantly apologizing for existing. But gratitude? Gratitude and high fives go hand in hand.