Most irrational decisions stem from actions based on short-term emotions. How many times have you said something 'in the heat of the moment' only to regret it less than a few moments later? I've been guilty of this far more than I'd like to admit.
The heat of the moment is the perfect way to describe the feeling we get when short-term emotions flood our consciousness. Good or bad, the emotions feel like all-consuming waves slowly moving through our bodies. Most of the time, making any decision in this state, unless it's life or death, is a bad idea.
What we fail to realise is that we spend most of our lives making decisions while we're in this heightened emotional state. When we're feeling sad or tired, we make decisions that destroy our growth. When we're happy or full of energy, we make decisions that support our growth. It's rare we ever make any decisions outside of this heightened emotional state. When there's no pressure, we tend to be passive.
Want to go for a run tomorrow morning? You've likely made this decision in a heightened, positive emotional state. When it comes to the morning, it's suddenly raining outside, and now you're no longer in this heightened state, you feel as if running is a bad idea.
It's times like this, where you need to give yourself 5-minutes—5-minutes to act, or 5-minutes to compose yourself.
The 5-minutes technique works in two simple ways:
You wait for 5-minutes before you make a decision, to remove the pressure from your heightened emotional state, e.g ."I'm upset. I'll wait 5 minutes before I send this message to my significant other."
You do the activity in question for 5 minutes before you decide if it's time to stop, e.g. " I'll put on my running shoes for 5 minutes. If I decide to stop after that, then that's fine."
After 5 minutes, you're able to compose your thoughts and take actions which are closer to your honest thoughts, not your short-term emotions.
Once most people get their shoes on, and they get moving, 5-minutes quickly transforms into 30-minutes or an hour.
As a quick aside, the reason I use fitness in my examples is because fitness is tangible. The same actions which transform your body, transform your mind. It's also easier to relate to the analogy of running for 5-minutes, and then hitting a 30-minute workout session, than it is to relate to the idea of "work on this challenging task for 5-minutes, and you'll find that 30-minutes will pass."
Almost anything which is challenging to you for 5-minutes will cause you to grow. The act of being mentally tough enough to push past what's blocking you is a signal of growth. The more you grow, the easier these 5-minute challenge become, and the less you need to use them.
I used to hate running, and now there's no issue. I used to hate putting my thoughts into writing, and now there's no issue I used to have a terrible temper, and now there's no issue. The 5-minute rule works, because it gives you a short, simple goal that's above and beyond the mountain of effort our minds create.
When you're about to lose your shit, the 5-minute rule gives you time for your flooding emotions to drain. Will you still be mad after 5-minutes? Sure, but now you're in a situation to articulate that rather than attack. Saying 'I'm unhappy with your actions, they hurt me' is a conversation. Saying 'you're a piece of shit, I can't stand you' is an attack.
Most of the time, all we need is 5-minutes.
A Lesson for Future Champions
When we're flooded with short-term emotion, taking 5-minutes to compose ourselves makes sure we're true to ourselves. It makes sure we're having a conversation, not an attack. It makes sure we're putting in the effort, even when the effort feels colossal.
Diving into an important activity for 5-minutes will quickly transform into 30-minutes or an hour.
Short-term goals time goals like this make it easier to make positive progress. When we're caught up in the heat of the moment, it's easy to make irrational decisions. Screaming at the person across the room from you isn't going to solve any problems. Boycotting important work because it's hard isn't going to solve any problems.
When we take 5-minutes, we make what's in front of us less daunting, and we give ourselves a stepping stone toward progress.