Fear Setting

This post is a summary of an awesome Ted Talk by Tim Ferriss (author of the 4-Hour Workweek, among others). If you have 13 minutes, I highly recommend it (watch here: Fear-Setting: The Most Valuable Exercise I Do Every Month), but if not, I’ve done my best to summarize.

In this talk, he talks about his own history of depression, and how it became essential for him to figure out ways to manage the ups and downs, in order to avoid self-destruction and self-paralysis. Ultimately, though, it’s about confronting things you’re afraid of. Some of this started with the teachings of Stoicism. Rather than looking at it as an ancient philosophy, he encourages looking at it as mental toughness training. Or, as an operating system for thriving in high stress. He talks about how it involves training yourself to separate what you can and cannot control, and focusing on the former. This decreases emotional reactivity.

Tim notes there are many tools to get you to this place of more agile coping, but he focuses on one, which he introduces in a quote by Seneca:  “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.”

He came up with an exercise he refers to as “fear setting,” which involves visualizing your worst case scenario in vivid detail.

Fear Setting, as he explains it, requires 3 pages of writing:

Page 1:  What if I….?

…and then you Define. Write out 10-20 worst things you could possibly imagine happening.

…and then you Prevent. Write out as many things as you can think of to prevent or decrease the likelihood of these things happening.

…and then you Repair. If it happens, what could you do to repair the damage?  Has anyone else in the history of time ever figured this out. Most likely, yeah.

Page 2: What might be the benefits of even an attempt, or partial success?

Might you increase your confidence? Skills? Have success?

Page 3: What is the Cost of Inaction? (emotional, physical, financial, etc.).

Consider this in the context of 6 months. One year. Three years.

Here is a link to a worksheet of the above outline, if you care to explore: https://www.teamstrength.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Fear-Setting-with-Tim-Ferriss.pdf

Tim notes he does this Fear Setting exercise at least quarterly. He notes it’s not a panacea. Sometimes fears are real and need to be addressed. But most of the time, we get in our own way.

He ends with a quote by Jerzy Gregorek, someone who endured considerable persecution in Poland, and who Tim admires greatly.

“Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life.”

The hard choices we fear are often what we most need to do. And Tim closes by asking, “Where could defining your fears be more important than defining your goal?”

I learned about Fear Setting right before I needed to decide to take a sabbatical from work and enroll in health coach certification training. I’d never not worked. I was terrified. This was THE BEST exercise for me!

What about YOU? What fears do you have about making changes to your health and wellness? As a health coach, we can work through this exercise together. You may find that you’re on your way much more easily than you imagined!

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