Change can involve excitement and looked at as a great opportunity or be scary and as the worst thing that can happen. Whether it is a good or bad experience is contingent on a person’s attitude. Regardless of how it is experienced, normalizing change is the pathway to a fulfilled life.

A baby’s first steps are shaky, but eventually result in a flop. Moving from middle school to high school for the first time is something to look forward to, but upper classmen can be intimidating. Leaving home to go to college means freedom and independence, but also the potential for homesickness, intimidation with arrogant professors, and hard-to-get-along-with roommates. Day one on the first real job is the start of a new chapter in life, but feeling totally stupid is common.

The aforementioned experiences are a common pathway for students pursuing higher education. Real change begins by making difficult choices. After getting to high school, will the student respond appropriately or react negatively to bullies and gossipers? Are the challenges of pursuing higher education leaned into rather than avoided or denied? Does the fear of asking questions and false pride dictate how the new job goes?

Tough choices continue as life goes on. Mel Robbins, author of The 5 Second Rule attributes that personally coming out of bankruptcy and heavy drinking began with a process of counting backwards 5-4-3-2-1 to launch out of bed in the morning. The story is mainly about a desperate need for change of direction in her life by ignoring feelings and making a commitment to act on improving. Mel claims the seemingly insignificant process of counting 5-4-3-2-1 and launching out of bed instead of hitting the snooze button began the road to recovery that led to being one of the top speakers in the world.

The key to Mel’s success is being smart about what needs done and taking the action to do it by not giving in to what feels comfortable. Another bad guy is analysis paralysis that involves too much thinking eventually resulting in talking yourself out of doing anything. Although the research varies, many would agree it takes at least 21 days to create a habit. The time leading up to creating a habit is hard because change is a challenge! Failed New Year’s resolutions are ongoing proof.

An accompanying bad guy to analysis paralysis is cognitive distortion. Cognitive distortions are simply ways the mind convinces itself of something that isn’t really true. The inaccurate thoughts reinforce negative thinking. The tricky part is, a rationale is built around the false ideas. Following are some common distortions people use:

Pessimism – amplifying the negative while filtering out the positive.

Helplessness – feeling helpless over what happens in life.

Overgeneralization – basing an opinion on a single piece of evidence.

Blaming – “it’s not my fault, you don’t understand.”

Emotional reasoning – feelings are automatically indicative of what is true.

Attempts to change are unlikely with dominant cognitive distortions. That’s why The 5 Second Rule is so effective in completing a predetermined decision. The only thing to think about is repeating the 5 second count down to take action. Distortions based on feelings or over thinking are to be ignored.

Answering five questions serves as additional help in determining when and how to change:

Where are you? Take an honest and objective look at your status right now physically, emotionally, relationally, mentally (academically), spiritually, and financially.

Where are you going and why? Write down dreams and get a vision and purpose to stay focused.

Who are you? Know every person is talented, gifted, and destined for great things. The hardest person to convince of that is you.

What are you doing that matters? Pay it forward.

When and how are you going to start the changes needed to be smart about higher education and live a life that matters?

Begin using The 5 Second Rule: 5-4-3-2-1, start answering these questions now!