Face your fears by defining and exploring them.
Tim Ferriss calls this his “fear-setting” process which he uses when needed (often) and also formally schedules at least once per quarter. Tim believes that what we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do. He methodically defines the worst-case scenarios and the steps he could take to get back on track; then looks at the outcomes or benefits, temporary and permanent, of more probable scenarios. He clarifies what he is putting off out of fear and what this is costing him; then he resolves to do one thing every day that he fears. He has found that when he faces his fears and acts, he increases his financial, emotional, and physical health exponentially.
- Define the worst that could happen if you do what you are considering.
What doubt, fears, and ‘what ifs’ pop up as you consider the big changes you can—or need to—make? Envision them in detail. What would be the permanent impact, if any, on a scale of 1 to 10? How likely is it that they would actually happen?
- What steps could you take to repair the damage or get back on track?
Chances are, it’s easier than you imagine. How could you get things back under control, even temporarily?
- List the outcomes or benefits, temporary and permanent, of more probable scenarios.
Now that you’ve defined the nightmare, what are the more probable or definite positive outcomes, whether internal (confidence, self-esteem, etc.) or external? What would the impact of these more likely outcomes be on a scale of 1 to 10? How likely is it that you could produce at least a moderately good outcome? Have others done this before and pulled it off?
- If you lost your job today, what would you do to get things under financial control?
Run through questions 1 to 3 above for this scenario. If you quit your job to try other options, how could you later get back on the same career track if you had to?
- What are you putting off out of fear?
That phone call, that conversation, whatever the action might be—it is fear of unknown outcomes that prevents us from doing what we need to do. Define the worst case, accept it, do it, and move on with your life.
- What is it costing you—financially, emotionally, physically—to postpone action?
Don’t only evaluate the potential downside of action. It is equally important to measure the atrocious cost of inaction. If you don’t pursue those things that excite you, where will you be in 1 year, 5 years, and 10 years? How will you feel having allowed circumstance to impose itself upon you and having allowed 10 more years of your finite life to pass doing what you know will not fulfill you? If you telescope out 10 years and know with 100% certainty that it is a path of disappointment and regret, and if we define risk as “the likelihood of an irreversible negative outcome,” inaction is the greatest risk of all.
- Resolve to do one thing every day that you fear.
Start small and work up to the big scary tasks you have waiting for you.
- What are you waiting for?
The answer is probably simple: You’re afraid, just like the rest of the world. Measure the cost of inaction, realize the unlikelihood and repairability of most missteps, and develop the most important habit of those who excel and enjoy doing so: action.
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