How to stop screwing yourself over

Bigger welcome! Hello, San Francisco! TEDx – oh my God, blinding light!

Hi, everybody! How are you? Fine?! Oh my gosh! Okay, so…

My name is Mel Robbins, and for the last 17 years, I have done nothing but help people get everything that they want. Within reason! My husband’s here. So, I’ve done it in the courtroom, in the boardroom, in the bedroom, in people’s living room, whatever room you want to be in, if I’m there, I will help you get whatever you want by any means necessary.

For the last three years – I host a syndicated radio show. Five days a week, I go live in 40 cities and I talk to men and women across America who feel stuck. Do you know that a third of Americans feel dissatisfied with their lives right now? That is a 100 million people! That’s insane! And I’ve come face to face with it in this new show that I’m doing, which is also insane, it’s called “In-laws”. I move in with families across America – You guessed it! – who are at war with their in-laws.

We move them into the same house, I verbally assassinate everybody, we open up Pandora’s box, and I get people to stop arguing about the donuts and who is hosting Thanksgiving dinner, and talk about the real stuff. And that’s what I want to talk to you about. I’m here for you.

I’m going to tell you everything I know in less than 18 minutes about how to get what you want. So I want you to take a millisecond right now and think about what you want. You! And I want you to be selfish. Screw Simon and the “We” thing. This is about me, right now! Sorry, Simon.

What do you want? And here’s the deal. I don’t want it to sound good to other people. Being healthy will not get your ass on a treadmill. Losing your manboobs, so you can hook up with somebody, now that’s motivation.

So, I want to know: What do you want? Do you want to lose weight? Do you want to triple your income? Do you want to start a nonprofit? Do you want to find love? What is it? Get it, right here. You know what it is, don’t analyze it to death, just pick something. That’s part of the problem. You won’t pick.

So, we’re going to be talking about how you get what you want. And frankly, getting what you want is simple. But notice I didn’t say it was easy. It’s very simple. In fact, if you think about it, we live in the most amazing moment in time. So that thing that you have up here, whatever it may be, you want to use healthy eating to cure your diabetes, you want to figure out how to take care of the elders and start a new hospice center, you want to move to Africa and build a school… Guess what? You can walk into a book store – right now! – and buy at least 10 books written by credentialed experts on how the hell you do it. You could Google it. And you could probably find at least, I don’t know – a thousand blogs documenting the step, by step, by step transformation that somebody else is already doing. You can find anybody online and cyber-stalk them!

You can just walk in their footsteps – just use the science of drafting. Follow what everyone else has done, because somebody is already doing it! So why don’t you have what you want, when you have all the information that you need, you have the contacts that you need, there are probably free tools online that allow you to start a business, or join a group, or do whatever the heck you want? It all comes down to one word: F*©#.

Shut the front door, you know what I’m talking about? The f-bomb. It’s everywhere. You hear it all the time. I honestly don’t understand what the appeal is of the word. I mean, you don’t sound smart when you say it. And it’s really not expressing how you really feel. It’s sort of a cheap shot to take. And of course you know I’m talking about the word “fine”.

“How you doing?” “Oh, I’m fine.” Oh, really? You are? Dragging around those extra forty pounds, you’re fine? Feeling like roommates with your spouse, and you’re fine? You haven’t had sex in four months, you’re fine? Really? I don’t think so!

But see, here’s the deal with saying that you’re fine: It’s actually genius. Because if you’re fine, you don’t have to do anything about it. But when you think about this word “fine”, it just makes me so angry. Here we are at a conference about being alive and you’re going to describe the experience of being alive as “fine”? What a flimsy and feeble word!

If you’re crappy, say you’re crappy. If you’re amazing say you’re amazing. Tell the truth. And this not only goes for the social construct: “Oh, I don’t want to burden you with the fact that I hate my life”, or: “Hey, I’m amazing. But that would make you feel terrible.” The bigger issue – The bigger issue with “fine” is that you say it to yourself. That thing that you want, I guarantee you, you’ve convinced yourself that you’re fine not having it. That’s why you’re not pushing yourself. It’s the areas in your life where you’ve given up. Where you’ve said, “Oh, I’m fine. My mom’s never going to change, so I just can’t have that conversation.” “I’m fine. We’ve got to wait until the kids graduate, before we get divorced, so we’ll just sleep in separate bedrooms.” “I’m fine. I lost my job, I can barely pay my bills, but whatever – It’s hard to get a job.”

One of the reasons why this word also just annoys me so much is, scientists have calculated – Oh yeah, I’m coming down! Scientists have calculated the odds of you being born. That’s right. They’ve crunched the numbers. I see you up there. They’ve crunched the numbers on you – Yeah, you guys standing up, you want to sit down for this. They’ve crunched the numbers on you being born. And they took into account all of the wars, and the natural disasters, and the dinosaurs, and everything else.

And do you realize that the odds, the odds of you, yeah, right here, put your computer away, stand up for me, Doug! So the odds of Doug here, turn around, say “hi” to everybody – the odds of Doug being born at the moment in time he was born, to the parents you were born to, with the DNA structure that you have, one in four hundred trillion! Isn’t that amazing?

Doug: I’m so lucky.

Mel: Yes! You’re not fine, you’re fantastic! You have life-changing ideas for a reason, and it’s not to torture yourself. Thank you. Thank you, Doug.

Christine was right when she said all of you could be on stage. Because all of you – we’re all in this category. One in four hundred trillion. All day long you have ideas that could change your life, that could change the world, that could change the way that you feel, and what do you do with them? Nothing. Hopefully I won’t moon you. You didn’t pay for that. And I want you to just think for a minute, because we all have – I love to use the analogy “the inner snooze button” – you have these amazing ideas that bubble up.

You’ve been watching people all day and I guarantee you, like ping pong balls – bam-bam-bam and every time you have an idea, what do you do? – Hit the snooze! What’s the first decision you made this morning? I bet it was to go back to bed. “Yeah, first decision today, I’m one in four hundred trillion, I’m going to go back to sleep.” And I get it. Your bed is comfortable! It’s cosy, it’s warm. If you’re lucky, you’ve got somebody that you love next to you, or in my case, I’ve got my husband and my two kids and possibly the dog. And the reason why I’m bringing up this first decision that you made today, and the inner snooze alarm, is because in any area of your life that you want to change, any – there’s one fact that you need to know.

Activation Energy

This one: You are never going to feel like it. Ever. No one’s coming, motivation isn’t happening, you’re never going to feel like it. Scientists call it Activation Energy. That’s what they call the force required to get you to change from what you’re doing on autopilot to do something new.

So try this test tomorrow. You think you’re so fancy, I know, you’re attending TED. Try this. Tomorrow morning, set your alarm for thirty minutes earlier. And then when it goes off, take those sheets, throw them off, and stand up and start your day. No snooze, no delay, no, “I’ll just wait here for five seconds because Mel’s not standing here” – Do it.

And the reason why I want you to do it is because you will come face to face with the physical, and I mean physical force that’s required to change your behavior. Do you think that somebody who needs to lose weight ever feels like going on a diet? Of course not. You think they ever feel like eating boiled chicken and peas instead of a croissant? I don’t think so. The activation energy required to get your ass away from your computer and out the front door, to go on the walk, you said that you were going to go on, is the exact same amount of force that it takes you to push yourself out of a warm bed and into a cold room.

What’s interesting about being an adult is that when you become eighteen, nobody tells you that it’s now going to be your job to parent yourself. And by “parent yourself”, I mean it’s your job to make yourself do the crap you don’t want to do, so you can be everything that you’re supposed to be. And you’re so damn busy waiting to feel like it. And you’re never going to.

My son never feels like getting off his DS. That’s my job. Get off the damn DS! Kendall, clean up the Barbies! If you’re going to have a nude party in my bathroom, at least clean it up. God, chew with your mouth closed. We’re not a barn, for crying out loud.

Alright, dinner is coming, get out of the pantry. As parents, and you were a kid, your parents make you do the things you don’t feel like doing. Because you won’t. Ever. Not now, not then, not ever! And even when you get good at something, you’ll figure out something else you don’t want to do. And then you’ll plato out, get bored, “I hate this job. Blah blah boring.” But will you look for a new one? No. You’ll just bitch about that one. It’s very, very simple to get what you want. But it’s not easy. You have to force yourself. And I mean force.

And the reason why I use the word “force” – when Roz was up here and talking about the emotion tracking, and she had the picture of two sides of the brain – I look at the brain the exact same way. Only I describe one side of your brain as autopilot and the other side as emergency brake. That’s the only two speeds you get: autopilot, emergency brake. And guess which one your brain likes better: autopilot.

You’ve had the experience where you’ve driven to work and you get there and you’re like, “Oh my God, I don’t remember ever driving here.” You weren’t drunk! That was your brain on autopilot. It was functioning just at this level. And the problem with your mind is that anytime you do anything that’s different from your normal routine, guess what your brain does — emergency brake! And it has that reaction for everything. Everything! You walk into the kitchen and see everybody’s left their breakfast dishes for you. And you think for the hundredth time, “I’m going to kill them. In fact I’m going to leave it here and I’m going to make them do it.”

But that’s not your normal routine, is it? So your mind goes: emergency brake! And you go right into autopilot. “I’ll just load it, and be pissed, and then not have sex. That’s what I’m going to do.” So, when I say “force”, anything that’s a break from your routine is going to require force. And if you think about your life, it’s kind of funny because we are kids and then we become adults, and we spend so much time trying to push our life into some sort of stable routine, and then we grow bored of it! You wake up at the same time every day, you have largely the same breakfast, you drive to work the same way, show up at work, look busy, avoid making calls, update Facebook, you attend a meeting and doodle the whole time, go back and update Facebook, make plans for the evening, you look busy some more, then drive home the same way, you eat largely the same dinner or a variety of it, you watch the same kind of media, and then you go to bed, and do the same thing all over again!

No wonder you’re bored out of your mind. It’s the routine that’s killing you. I have this theory about why people get stuck in life. So, most of you’ve probably taken your Basic Psych 101 class, and you’ve bumped into Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”? Well, your body is kind of cool. Because you have these basic needs. And your body is wired to send you signals. If you need food, what do you feel? If you need water, what do you feel? If you need sex, what do you feel? Thank you.

I think when you feel stuck or dissatisfied in your life, it’s a signal. And it’s not a signal that your life is broken. It’s a signal that one of your most basic needs are not being met. Your need for exploration. Everything about your life, about your body, grows. Your cells regenerate, your hair, your nails, everything grows for your entire life. And your soul needs exploration and growth. And the only way you’ll get it is by forcing yourself to be uncomfortable. Forcing yourself to get outside, out of your head. Thank you.

If you’re in your head, you’re behind enemy lines. That is not God talking, okay? It’s not. In fact, if I put a speaker on it and we broadcast what you say to yourself, we would institutionalize you. You would not hang out with people that talk to you the way you talk to yourself. So get out of your head. Your feelings! Your feelings are screwing you! I don’t care how you feel. I care about what you want.

And if you listen to how you feel, when it comes to what you want – you will not get it. Because you will never feel like it. And you need to get outside your comfort zone. It’s not about taking risks, it’s about getting outside your comfort zone. Those first three seconds when you push yourself out of bed, they blow. But once you’re up, it’s great. Those first three seconds when you’re sitting here in a stadium like this and somebody says, “Get up and come dance,” and you think, “Oh, I should do that,” and then you’re like, “Uhmm.” That experience that you had when you had the impulse to do it and then you didn’t do the activation energy required to force yourself, your emergency brake got pulled – “I’m sitting right here. I’m not going up with those crazy people, I don’t like to dance…”

What happened for me is I came up, and I bumped into Rachel, and then we started talking, and next thing you know, she’s tweeting. And we’re friends. And – boom! Get outside. That’s where the magic is. That’s where the one in four hundred trillion exists. So everything I do – oh, OK, this is the last part. Sorry.

Five-Second-Rule

So one more thing that you can use, I call it the Five-Second-Rule. Your mind can process a facial expression in 33 milliseconds. It can move pretty damn quick. The other thing that it does very quickly is if you have one of those little impulses that are pulling you, if you don’t marry it with an action within five seconds, you pull the emergency brake and kill the idea. Kill it!

If you have the impulse to get up and come dance while the band is playing, if you don’t stand up in five seconds, you’re going to pull the emergency brake. If you have an impulse about, you were inspired by somebody’s speech today, and you don’t do something within five seconds – write a note, send yourself a text – anything physical to marry it with the idea, you will pull the emergency brake and kill the idea.

Your problem isn’t ideas. Your problem is you don’t act on them. You kill them. It’s not my fault. It’s not anybody’s fault. You’re doing it to yourself. Stop it! I’m counting on you. One in four hundred trillion. You got stuff to do! And it’s not going to happen in your head.

So I want you to practice this today. When we go off to party, thank God it’s coming soon, because I think we all could use a cocktail, I want you to practice the five-second-rule. You see somebody and you think you have an impulse, they look interesting? Walk over there! You were inspired by somebody and you have a request? Make it! That’s why you’re here. Experiment with it, and I think you’ll be shocked about what happens.

And one more thing, I want you to know that everything that I do, whether it’s the radio show, or the television show, or the book that I wrote, or the column, it’s for you. And if there is anything that I can do, if I can do anything to make you do the things you don’t want to do, so you can have what you want, I will do it.

But you need to walk over, you need to open your mouth, and you need to make the request. You got it? Good. Go do it.

Thank you! Thank you, yes! Stand up!

You have the impulse, stand up! Thank you!

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