The 5×5 Rule

by Jimmy Warden

Have you ever been so mad at something that happened to you and upon reflection you realized that it actually wasn’t that serious? Do you find yourself getting irritated over small bouts of “interference” in your life? Do you wish there was a way you could try to snap this habit of resorted to these primal tendencies of anger? Enter, the 5×5 rule.

Now, before I get into too much, just know there are several versions of the 5×5 rule floating around the internet today, but I want to focus on the one that has a positive psychology framework. It focuses on how people should try to respond to negative events in their lives. With that being said, the 5×5 rule that I’ll be talking about states, “if it’s not going to matter in 5 years, don’t spend more than 5 minutes being upset about it”.

Unfortunately, I still haven’t found the source of this gem, but I sure hope that I do before my time on earth comes to a close. This is a very intriguing idea that could provide you and those you encounter a tremendous amount of positive benefits. It is really synonymous to the idea of “don’t sweat the small stuff”, but often times, in the moment, the small stuff seems big. As you’re reading this, I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself, “well this idea is a lot easier said than done”. In the next paragraph, I’ll try to explain why that is.

The 5×5 rule is a lot easier said than done because there is an emotional charge to the negative events we experience. These negative events unconsciously spike fear into the person experiencing the event and sends them into a fight or flight response. When you get angry, that’s your body trying to fight off the negative stimulus. When you repress or just try to “shake it off” even though you know it bothered you, that’s your body fleeing from the scene, and not facing it head on. However, there are a few ways that you can try to allow yourself to put this idea into practice.

The first step would be to try to freeze next time there is something negative that occurs. We often resort to the fight or flight response because that is what we’ve grown accustomed to. However. freezing can allow us a moment to notice what is going on. That’s the second step. Notice the thought, feeling, or sensation that is occurring within you during this difficult time. If we can create an awareness, especially of our feeling, there is a much greater chance that we can respond rationally to what is happening. It will allow us to de-escalate the emotion and think through a rational perspective rather than a reactionary perspective. This pausing and noticing will give you the necessary time and space to ask yourself, “will this matter in five years?”, which is also the third and final step to implementing this 5×5 rule into your life.

So go give it a try. Do the best you can to be a rational human being, amidst the chaos that is the world we often live in. You’ll be better for it and so will the people around you.

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