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The “5×5 Rule” and How it Completely Reshaped My Life

Shameless, Love Island, Portlandia, Mad Men, Middle Ground. 5 shows that I find myself watching the most. 

Cooking, Writing, Cleaning, Driving, Thinking. 5 activities that I find myself engaging in the most.

All of these categories, all of these things, they all shape who I am. And also, all of these things belong to a former self from the beginning of quarantine, circa. March 2020. 

Nearly an entire year ago, I, in my lonesome and longing state, took to Spotify in search of a philosophy podcast to keep my brain moving in the absence of any daily structure. In this excursion I stumbled across Joel Sigrist’s “Bite-Size Philosophy.” This podcast introduces “bite-sized chunks” of different engaging topics such as living by design, perfectionism, identity, and many others. 

looking out window wearing headphones
Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst/Shopify

One episode that really resonated with me goes by the name “The 5×5 Rule.” Sigrist describes this as “the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with, the 5 habits you do most consistently, the 5 foods you eat the most, the 5 ideas that you pursue the most, and the content that you consume.” This idea, originating from James Altucher, denotes that you are a reflection of the top five things within each of these categories. 

When I attempted to apply this to my own life, it felt as though I was truly looking at myself for the first time. 

Being in quarantine for only weeks at this time, this idea sent me into intense reflection. This realization of being alone and with myself for an extended period of time really brought light to the fact that I was not in the place that I wanted to be. Without any clear sense of direction, I needed some sort of sign to guide me.

The 6 hours a day I invested in watching The Kardashians accompanied by a bag of chips inevitably to be finished by the end of my watching period; the option to lay in bed all day as opposed to the conflicting desire in my head to get up and do a 10 minute work out just to feel something always lost against its predecessor. I lost myself in a continuous loop of sadness and lack of motivation to do anything to reverse this. Then, I heard of the 5×5 rule. 

Not to say that everyone is going relate to this and it’s going to massively impact one’s life to the point that every intrusive and upsetting thought is going to finally meet its match, but this reckoning baffled me to the point where I was able to regain some of my pre-quarantine momentum and really think about who and what I chose to interact with. 

I’ve since come to take more care over the ways in which I treat myself, others, and the world. I often try to focus my attentions on things that I want to see reflected within myself. In one aspect, I found myself consistently ordering food instead of making things at home, and it wasn’t until I noticed the habits of newly-found friends who were always actively making the choice to cook at home that I felt motivated to stay in instead of order out. 

Woman slicing tomatoes
Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

A year later and I consistently go back to this episode, popping in for a tune-up to see where I’m at, if I’m satisfied, and what I can do to keep myself on a positive trajectory. Ultimately, I am more at peace with myself at the current time than I think I have ever been, and I’m hoping to pass on the 5×5 rule to anyone else who might be interested in incorporating some aspect of it into their life. 


For anyone interested in this podcast, it can be found here.  

Hanna Saisselin

U Mass Amherst '23

Philosophy student that be spittin word salads for You to read
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