Tim Ferriss TED Talk: Why “Fear Setting” is More Important Than Goal Setting
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“We suffer more in imagination than in reality.” – Seneca
Stoicism is an ancient philosophy that can be applied to many aspects of life. Essentially, it is a philosophy that can be used to determine things you can control and those you cannot, and then focusing on the former through guided exercises.
In his TED Talk, Tim Ferriss invites us to use a written exercise he’s developed, which is based on the philosophy of Stoicism, to take action when we are very afraid to ask, do, or say something.
Ferriss likened Stoicism to an “operating system for thriving in a high-stress environment.” The written exercise he developed aims to train the mind to be less emotionally reactive. The exercise it is called “fear setting.”
Three Parts of Fear Setting
Fear setting has three main parts.
1. What if I...
The first part, or page one, is called “What if I...”. This section requires you to identify whatever decision you’re putting off, the thing that’s making you anxious, or the action that you have to make. When you’ve identified this, you need to list down the following:
Define: listing from 10 up to 20 worst-case scenarios that will transpire if you take the step
Prevent: the things you could do to prevent or decrease the chances of the scenarios you’ve identified in the “Define” column from happening
Repair: the ways you could fix the damage – even if it’s the minimal thing you can do; you can also identify people from whom to ask for help
2. What might be the benefits of an attempt or partial success?
The second part is your answer to the question: “What might be the benefits of an attempt or partial success?”
In this section, you can list your most conservative outlook of how things will be if you took the step you’ve identified in the first section. Take at least 10 to 15 minutes to accomplish this section.
3. The Cost of Inaction
The final page, and is perhaps the most significant one, is called “The Cost of Inaction.” In this page, you will write down in as much detail as possible the scenario a few months to a few years down the road if you didn’t take the action you’ve identified in the first section. The goal is to truly picture out how you will end up by remaining in the status quo.
Oftentimes, we are afraid of taking action because we dwell so much on what could go wrong. We never realize that it is more terrifying to remain in the status quo.
It is always when we take the easy choices that life becomes difficult. However, when we meet tough decisions head on, life becomes blissful, more in keeping with how we want to live it. As Seneca said, too often our suffering is all in our minds.