Tim Ferris And The Practice Of Fear Setting
December 7, 2020
One of the Ted Talks that has profoundly impacted me has been by Tim Ferris in 2017 – Why you should define your fears instead of your goals.
In this Ted Talk, Ferriss speaks about handling life’s difficult problems and choices in the face of fear that paralyzes us from taking action. Ferriss shares a concept called “Fear Setting” as an essential tool that will help us overcome the fear of making difficult choices.
The Philosophy Of Stoicism
Up until that point of watching that Ted Talk, I knew what “being stoic” meant. But, I did not really know much about the philosophy of Stoicism.
Stoicism is a 3rd Century Greek Philosophy that seeks to provide a framework for people to live their best lives. It aims to provide compelling answers to our day to day issues like anxiety, stress, fear.
Going beyond mere philosophy, Stoicism also postulates a way of life- A sort of an operating system that is easy to understand and is actionable.
The more practicable aspect of the Ted Talk is the Tool that Tim created for himself, to help deal with fears and anxieties paralyzing him. He calls this “fear setting.”
The concept of fear setting is based on a Stoic Principle called “Premeditator Malorum”- Meaning Premeditation of Evils, a practice of visualizing the worst-case scenarios coming out of problems and situations we fear.
We all have a Lizard Brain and a Monkey Mind that keeps catastrophizing the smallest of issues and projecting them as potential disasters on the screen of our mind. Our mind is like Quicksand when it comes to worrying- the more we try to think our way out of this doomsday thinking, the deeper we get stuck into the rut of thinking how things will go wrong.
Leaning on the Stoic teachings, Tim Ferris figured out that he can’t outthink his problems. He needed to capture his worries on paper and thus created his Fear Setting Template.
The Fear Setting Template
This Tool comprises 3 Pages. I am providing a downloadable Pdf template here.
On page 1, you capture the scope of whatever is causing you fear and anxiety. It could be quitting a job, starting a new gig, ending a relationship, anything that causes fear.
Define: What is the worst that can happen. List out all the possible scenarios.
Prevent: What could you do to prevent each of the worst-case scenarios from materializing or, at the very least, decrease the likelihood.
Repair: If the worst-case scenario happens, what can you do to repair the damage even a little bit. How can you fix it?
On page 2, you list the benefits of taking action, and if the steps lead to a positive outcome. In other words, Page 2 captures the upside of taking action.
On page 3, you capture the cost of inaction. We are all very good at worrying about what might go wrong if we try something new. But what we don’t consider is the cost of the status quo- of not doing anything or not changing something because of the fear holding us back.
A Modern Stoic’s Interpretation
Tim Ferris ends the talk showcasing one of his personal heroes Jerzy Gregoreck and his powerful, stoic motto to lead a good life
After losing everything, Jerzy Gregorek (@TheHappyBody) escaped Poland when its citizens faced severe backlash from its Government. Jerzy immigrated to the United States in 1986 as a political refugee. Despite facing extreme penury and starting with nothing in America, Jerzy went on to win four World Weightlifting Championships. Jerzy is today a renowned successful entrepreneur.
Jerzy is a practicing Stoic who actively used a form of fear setting in dealing with his life’s challenges.
Please give yourself fifteen minutes to go through this Ted Talk while I leave you with Jerzy’s modern stoic interpretation for a good life.
Easy Choices, Hard Life. Hard choices, Easy Life.