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  • Writer's pictureacoachsdiary

FEAR-SETTING with Tim Ferris

Guiding Questions: Have you ever let fear stop you from doing something you wanted or knew you needed to do? How many times has the fear of what might happen prevented you from taking action on something you wanted to do?

In his Ted Talk titled, Why you should define your fears instead of your goals, Tim Ferris says instead of using goal-setting to conquer his fears, he uses fear-setting to clarify his thinking so he can take action in the face of fear.

Fear is uncomfortable, so we naturally avoid things we are afraid of, but if we can stop and face our fears by looking at them more closely, we can gain a clearer understanding of our thoughts, identify what we are really afraid of, and find a way to take action with courage.

Fear-setting is a structured reflection exercise used to help you see decisions more clearly when fear is holding you back and distorting your thinking.

It was inspired by the stoic philosopher Seneca the Younger, who famously said “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.”

The 5 Steps of Fear-Setting

1 - Define what your fears are by asking, “What is the worst that can happen?”

2 - Think about how you can prevent the worst-case scenario by asking yourself, “What can I do to prevent this from happening?”

3 - Think about ways you could repair the damage, if this situation were to come true by asking yourself, “What actions could you take to repair the damage, or get yourself back on track?”

4 - Define the best-case scenarios of taking action by asking yourself, “What is the best thing that can happen?”

5 - Define what will happen if you don’t take action by asking yourself, “If I don’t do anything, what could happen? If you don’t do anything, how will that affect you today, 6 months from now, and 3 years from now? How will doing nothing impact your future?”

Dale Carnegie once said, “Remember, fear doesn’t exist anywhere except in the mind.” Tim Ferriss wrote: Conquering Fear = Defining Fear. Author Mark Twain once wrote, “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” Nelson Mandela said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” 

Don’t let fear paralyze you or stop you from doing what you need to do or from becoming who you want to become.

We process negative thoughts and emotions more, deeper, and longer than positive ones. Often we allow fear to dominate our thoughts, and fear-setting gives us space to think about the positive outcomes and possibilities and weigh them against the negative ones instead of giving the negative ones free reign in our minds.

Our thoughts control our actions. Who you are, what you do, who you can be, and what you can do is greatly impacted by your thoughts and what you think about yourself. If you can learn how to manage your fears by facing them, you can take action to become the person you want and do the things you want and know you need to do.


1 - What is one thing you know you need to do but are afraid of doing?

2 - What is the worst that could happen?

3 - If you act, what is the best that could happen?

4 - What do you need to do to act with courage? How can fear-setting help you do what you know you need to do, even if you have to do it afraid?

For a PDF version of this post, click here: Fear Setting


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