When former CNN host and current inspirational speaker and author Mel Robbins was 41 her life fell apart. She was unemployed and bankrupt with a failing marriage. Staying in bed was her plan, until one day while watching tv, a rocket shot across the screen during a commercial. With that image something clicked. She needed to launch herself back into life and if counting down could eject a rocket into space then it could most certainly get her out of bed. By the time she counted 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1, she didn’t just get out of bed, she blasted out of bed and everything changed.
Here’s why the countdown worked. Giving herself the count of 5 to get moving activated her prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain where strategic thinking comes into play. The strategic thinking part of our prefrontal cortex is apparently very responsive to a countdown while, as it happens, the emotion-based subconscious part of our brain is very responsive to images. Watching a rocket blast into space is such a mind-blowingly powerful image it’s hard to imagine how it wouldn’t sear into the brain of anyone who has ever witnessed a take-off, so the force of this fiery image in combination with the prefrontal cortex coming online via the countdown appeared to be a perfect pairing.
The interesting thing is that while this countdown tool can be used to launch yourself into action, the brilliance doesn’t stop there. It can also be used to count down an intrusive, unhelpful thought like I’m a terrible socializer at holiday parties, which is not very helpful if you don’t happen to have a choice in the matter about going. But on the count of 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 that thought could be turned into I’m going to blast myself right into this party and will see what happens. And, who knows, maybe something good will! We’ve all been known to be wrong before on occasion. Maybe you’re not all that bad at socializing with a little rocket boost. But if not, at least you will have blasted through the party and that’s something.
5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1, I gotta go do some spreadsheet work. Here I go. I’m blasting off…
“Rocket Boosting” was originally published in Wellness Wednesday, a program component of the employee wellness program I run.