Transforming Fear into Excitement: Navigating Change with the 5-Second Rule

By: Shiyara Dassanayake

Change is something we see, hear, speak of and experience every moment in our lives. However, when we are faced with a new challenge, an opportunity or a sudden adversity, more often than not, we panic, hesitate, and get ready to take flight. We give ourselves a thousand reasons to justify our thoughts and actions.


However, Simon Sinek an author and inspirational speaker says that the statement ‘People Fear Change’ is fundamentally not true. He says that “people fear sudden change, but incremental change is not threatening, people fear change that threatens them”.


Fear is an emotion that is hard-wired into our whole being as this is a key emotion that has supported the survival of mankind through primal to the modern age.


Research tells us that the emotion ‘fear’ kicks in almost automatically when we are faced with a threatening or concerning situation. The amygdala together with the entire limbic system in the brain plays an extremely important part in detecting danger and controlling our behaviour, the behaviour we exhibit when in fear.


Fear is real. Not everybody is blessed with the ability to look fear in the eye and take it as a challenge. However, giving in and resigning to fear will rob you of valuable opportunities and experiences in life.


If running in as a candidate for Presidency is your big dream, fear of communication and public speaking will be a gigantic obstacle in your path. If you love adventure and value independence, fear of taking on the wheel will limit your experiences and hold you back to a point of regret.


Have you ever considered the possibility of the emotions ‘fear’ and ‘excitement’ being closely intertwined in the brain?


Well, excitement and fear may appear to be at opposite ends of the emotional spectrum, but they share a common physiological foundation—the rush of adrenaline.


The crucial distinction between fear and excitement lies in how the mind interprets the experiences. While the body’s response remains consistent, it is the mind’s interpretation that distinguishes between the two emotions. In the face of a perceived threat the mind interprets the rush of adrenaline as fear leading to a heightened state of alertness and anxiety. Conversely, in the presence of a thrilling event, the mind perceives it as excitement and generates positive emotions and a sense of anticipation.


Understanding this interconnected nature of excitement and fear offers us a new perspective. If fear and excitement share a common physiological foundation, would it be possible to reframe fear as excitement?


Harvard Business School Professor Alison Wood Brooks highlights the significance of positive framing. Positive framing allows you to shift your focus from potential negatives to positives. Hence, applying the understanding of positive framing will help you to redirect your mind’s interpretation to foster excitement and anticipation instead of fear. What a game changer it would be to take charge of your fear and propel it to create personal empowerment, courage and optimism, just by changing the way you interpret and rename your emotions?


Managing fear requires significant mental effort and will inevitably be a big challenge. However, persistent practice and effort will allow your brain to eventually form a habit and it will begin to feel less threatened and less fearful.


You may have heard of the ‘5 second rule’ introduced by Mel Robbins, author and podcaster. It is an effective self-help technique to overcome fear, hesitation, and procrastination. This concept is straightforward. The 5-Second Rule is grounded in the idea that your mind can be a powerful saboteur, offering excuses and reasons to avoid taking action. Hence, the ‘5 second rule’ requires you to start counting backward from 5 to 1 when you feel an initial spark of motivation or inspiration to take action and physically move within 5 seconds. By imposing a short countdown and making a physical move, you interrupt the habit of overthinking and engage your prefrontal cortex to take control. Consequently, it disrupts the default patterns of overthinking and gives you a window to act.


Adopting and merging the game-changing mindset of shifting from fear to excitement coupled with Mel Robbins’ dynamic 5-second rule, will help you create an unparalleled roadmap that assembles a robust toolkit for fear navigation, ultimately unleashing the full force of your untapped potential.
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