The exercise that made Ferriss a successful, millionaire entrepreneur.
Tim Ferriss is a successful guy. He’s sold a company, written multiple best-selling books, popularized the 4-Hour Work Week, and is worth an estimated $100 million.
But he’s also seen some darker times. He’s been very open about his struggle with anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. He’s also been very open that one of the most useful exercises to him during these tougher periods was a practice he’s since coined as “Fear Setting.”
At Jour, we’re creating tools to help people achieve their goals, clear their minds, and feel their best. So, Ferriss’ Fear Setting was a natural fit with our emphasis on self improvement and empowerment.
Inside Jour, you can find a version of Fear Setting, which you can take with you, complete as many times as you want and record the progress you make along the way.
Here’s a breakdown of how the practice works, why you should give it a try, and why we think it’s a useful mental exercise.
What is Fear Setting
Fear Setting is rooted in Stoic philosophy—which suggests that we should concentrate fully on the tasks at hand and avoid concerning ourselves with events outside of our control.
With this theory in mind, Fear Setting prompts you identify all the worst-case scenarios that may be stressing you out and begin coming up with constructive solutions to these challenges. It also addresses the costs of inactively avoiding these situations; consequences you may not even be considering but already feeling the effects of.
Why it works
The goal of the exercise is to feel powerful in the face of intimidating or seemingly insurmountable obstacles. That’s why it can a really empowering process for anyone facing a major decision or challenge.
The process is also a great companion for combatting anxiety. Those that suffer from anxiety know the all-too-familiar feeling of being unable to control your mind. You may feel that your thoughts are spiraling out of your control or that you’re totally consumed with the worst-case scenarios. Fear Setting is a process to organize your thoughts and identify how these worst-case scenarios aren’t actually as bad as you may think at first.
How to do it
Identifying Your Fear
What if I…?
First, identify one challenge, decision, or change you’re facing. Something that you fear, that’s causing you anxiety, or that you’re avoiding.
For Ferriss, this was taking a step back from his company and going on his first vacation in 4 years. For you, it may be asking someone to get married or ending a relationship, quitting a job or starting a new company.
Once you have your Fear identified, Define 10 of the related scenarios or consequences that are causing you fear.
For Ferris these were situations such as missing an important letter while he was traveling or getting depressed by grey weather aborad. For you, these could be anything from possible rejection to financial trouble.
Next, for each situation or consequence that you Defined, identify one way to Prevent that scenario from arriving.
Ferris realized he could Prevent these situations by updating his mailing address and bringing a UV light with him on his travels. For you, these methods could be anything from beta launching an idea first to doing more research.
Then, for each consequence Defined, you need to identify a way to Repair the situation, if you can’t Prevent a worst-case scenario from happening.
For Ferris, these solutions were to ask a lawyer for advice or take a quick trip to a sunny place. For you, these could be anything from asking a knowledgeable friend for help to using the knowledge you gained in the process to find a new job.
“Has anyone else, in the history of time, less intelligent or less driven figured this out? Chances are, the answer is ‘Yes.'”—Tim Ferris
Identifying The Upside
Next, comes the fun part. You should figure out how you could benefit from not just achieving your goal, but from only partially succeeding at it.
What might be the benefits of an attempt or partial success?
These can be personal, professional, or financial gains. Maybe you’ll feel more confident, gain a new skill, or raise your job profile?
Identifying The Opportunity Cost
Ferris suggests that this last step might actually be the most important of the process.
We can easily imagine the worst or scariest outcomes of a potential action. But we don’t often stop to consider why it might be scary if we don’t even attempt this challenge.
If I avoid this action or decision, what will my life look like in 6 months, 12 months, or 36 months?
The Cost of Inaction
- In 6 Months…
- In 1 Year…
- In 3 Years…
For Ferris, he realized that his personal and professional lives were going to implode if he didn’t take a step back and recharge.
So, he decided to take that vacation.
It led him to a trip around the world, which, in turn, inspired his first book and launched his career as an entrepreneurial role model. The impact on Ferris’ life was so profound, he still does the Fear Setting exercise at least 4 times a year.
Hopefully, the potential costs of inaction make it clear to you what needs to be done as well.
“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.” —Tim Ferriss