I’m sure you’re familiar with the concept of goal-setting and the scientifically proven benefits that result from doing so, including increased motivation, more engagement and greater achievement.

But have you heard about the power of FEAR-setting?

For many of us, defining lofty goals is the easy part: running a marathon, asking for a raise, starting your own business, etc. The real challenge begins when we get flooded by fear and self-doubt, and ultimately become paralyzed before we ever take action.

What we need in those moments is a structured process that can help us to keep from getting bogged down by generalized what-ifs and untethered catastrophic thinking.

Enter fear-setting: a game-changing tool (developed by Tim Ferriss, author of The 4 Hour Work Week) for getting past the doubts and fears that hold us back from maximizing our potential.

The power of fear-setting lies in the process of transforming our fear of the unknown into something clearly defined and manageable. 

Once we’ve been able to clarify the fear, tease it out and reality check it, it’s easy to see that we often feel anxious and worked up over things that are completely preventable, reversible, or just not that serious.

Wanna give it a go? Here’s a step by step guide for you to put fear-setting into practice:

Fear-Setting Exercise
Begin by thinking of a goal that is important to you but that you’ve kept yourself from attempting, and work through each question on a separate piece of paper. Do your best to be specific, thorough and don’t edit yourself. And, don’t sell yourself short after 1 or 2 ideas– challenge yourself to think deeply and strategically to get the most return on your investment of time and energy into this process!

1. Define your nightmare: what is the absolute worst-case scenario that could happen if you did what you are considering?
What doubts, fears, and “what-ifs” pop up as you consider taking action? Put as much horrible detail in as you can. Would it be the end of your life? How likely is this worst-case scenario to happen? What would be the permanent impact on a scale of 1-10? Are these things really permanent?

2. What steps could you take to mitigate the damage in advance?
What information can you gather, who can you talk to, what can you do to tactically set yourself up for success in advance that can help to fend off your worst-case scenarios?

3. What steps could you take to repair the damage?
Even if they are only temporary solutions, how would you manage to get your situation back under control if things went south? Although you may need to be creative, it’s very likely that there are relatively easy or simple ways to repair any damage.

4. What are the outcomes of more probable scenarios?
How likely is that that you could produce at least a moderately good outcome? Have less intelligent/trained/skilled/ educated people done this before and pulled it off? What are the temporary and permanent benefits you might gain, both internal (such as confidence) and external (such as income), from these more likely scenarios?

5. What is it costing you now (and what will it cost you in the future) to postpone action?
We rarely consider the financial, physical, and emotional costs of NOT doing things. But this is just as important as measuring the cost of action! If you don’t do this thing you want to do, what are you giving up? Where will you be in one, five, or ten years if you don’t follow through? What will your life be like? What possibilities will you have missed out on? Will you feel satisfied for regretful?

By unpacking our worst-case scenarios, we typically see that there are many things we can do to mitigate and repair potential damage– and thus, the fear loses its charge. When we focus on more probable scenarios, we feel grounded by the truth and see alternative viable pathways. Finally, when we take the time to evaluate the cost of NOT following through on our goals and dreams, we realize just how much joy, fulfillment and achievement we’re leaving on the table.

I hope you find this process meaningful and productive. Let me know how it goes!

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