The Benefits of Fear-Setting
Author, entrepreneur and corporate advisor Tim Ferriss recently gave a TED Talk in which he cited stoicism as the tool that has enabled him to avoid self-paralysis and make some of his best business decisions. He stated even the most confident of decision-makers should think of stoicism as an operating system for thriving in high-stress environments and for making better choices. To illustrate the power of such approaches, Ferriss cited one of his favorite quotes from the Stoic writer, Seneca the Younger: "We suffer more often in imagination than in reality." To this end, he encourages visualizing the worst-case scenarios that prevent you from taking action, so you can overcome that paralysis.

Ferriss created a written exercise that he has dubbed "fear-setting," which is similar to goal-setting. It begins with various "What if I ...?" scenarios, chronicling whatever it is you fear or are putting off. In the first of three columns to the right of the scenarios, labeled "Define," write down all of the worst things you can imagine happening if you take that step. In the second column, labeled "Prevent," write down the answer to: "What could I do to prevent each of these things from happening, or, at the very least, decrease the likelihood even a little bit?" The third column, "Repair," details the steps to be taken if the worst-case scenario happens. Next, the exercise addresses the question: "What might be the benefits of an attempt or a partial success?" Finally, it addresses "The Cost of Inaction," and asks you to consider: "If I avoid action or decision, what might life be like in, say, six months, a year, three years?" Ferriss concluded, "I can trace all of my biggest wins and all of my biggest disasters averted back to doing fear-setting at least once a quarter. It's not a panacea. You'll find that some of your fears are very well-founded. But you shouldn't conclude that without first putting them under a microscope."
Ted Talks (04/30/17)
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