How Fear-Setting helps me overcome fear and make important decisions
How Fear-setting exercise helps me define my fears, make important decisions and make the jump into the unknown.
“Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life.”
~ Jerzy Gregorek
When we want to make some changes in life or make a big decision, we usually experience a lot of uncomfortable and negative emotions. We have a lot of doubts. a lot of fear, anxiety, worries and “what ifs” about the future and how things might turn out.
But the things we most fear doing, asking or saying are most often exactly what we most need to do. As Steven Pressfield puts it in his book The War of Art,
“The more Resistance we feel about doing a certain thing, the more it is an indicator that that path is the right one to take.”
Whether it’s making a big change in our life, having that honest conversation with our loved ones or with ourselves, ending a toxic relationship, breaking a bad habit, or quitting a job that burns us out, the biggest challenges and problems we face are never easy and they will never be solved with comfortable conversation.
These conversations and decisions are never easy. But as Tim Ferris illustrates in the quote below:
“A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.”
~ Timothy Ferriss, The 4-Hour Workweek.
Our success is ultimately terminated by doing the things that we don’t want to do, but the reward for gathering courage and making the jump usually ends up being enormous!
My jump into the unknown
In my article Stop walking on the edge of burnout I mentioned that I needed to make some changes. I’ve been walking on the edge of burnout for the last few months. One of the biggest reasons for this — I believe — is my current job and the life that it creates.
In February in 2022 it would have been two years since I got the job of nutrition consultant at the local supplement store. SInce I first became interested in nutrition back in 2017, it was my desire to work in a sports nutrition store. Being surrounded by supplements, working in a field that I’m passionate about, passing my knowledge to people and helping them out with their problems. I believed it was my dream job.
In the beginning I really enjoyed working there, but as time went on, things changed. For quite some time now my job has been burning me out. I was feeling cramped, I felt trapped in the routine and monotony of working 5 to 6 days a week and I no longer enjoyed my work. I was coming home exhausted and burned out. The blue, bright, LED lights, bad air, working with people, the crowd and bad energy of the shopping center were exhausting me. In general, I was dissatisfied with my life:I no longer felt joy, enthusiasm and purpose for the job as in the beginning.
All this left consequences on my body: I’ve been experiencing a lot of fatigue, digestive problems, anxiety and sometimes even depression which all resulted in feeling burned out.
I struggled with this for a long time and tried to change things inside myself, but there was only little improvement.
I knew that if I want to fully conquer my burnout, I had to change things. I had to move on, but I was too afraid to make the jump.
But after being in doubt for such a long time, I finally decided to make the decision, made the leap and gave my letter of resignation. The practice that helped me a lot with this decision was Tim Ferris’ exercise called “Fear setting”.
“We suffer more often in imagination than reality.”
I first encountered the practice while reading Tim Ferris’ book The 4-hour Workweek for the first time in summer of 2020. I don’t remember it staying in my memory after I read it for the first time, but for whatever reason I came back to it during one of my hard days and it striked and stayed with me ever since. Later on — in the spring of this year — I found out the Tedx talk Tim did about this exercise, which made even a bigger impact on me.
The “Fear-setting” exercise consists in defying our fears and worst case scenarios and what we can do about it. When we do that, we:
Realize that our biggest fears don’t have solid grounds and we’ve been living in the illusion of our minds.
Step out of our comfort zone and start making steps to make the leap into the unknown and steps to prevent those worst case scenarios from happening.
How to “fear-set”?
Think about the thing that you want to do but scares you and go through the questions below. It is best to spend a few minutes on each point and write down all of your answers.
Define the nightmare: the absolute worst that could happen if I did what I’m considering. What doubt, fears, and “what-ifs” pop up as I consider the big changes I need to make? What would be the permanent impact, if any, on a scale of 1–10?
What can I do to prevent each of these bullets from happening? Or, what can I do to at least decrease the likelihood of this happening?
What steps could I take to repair the damage or get things back on the upswing, even if temporarily?
What might be the benefits of an attempt or partial success? What might the benefits be physically, emotionally, financially? What would the impact of these more likely outcomes be on a scale of 1–10?
5. Cost of inaction
What is it costing me — financially, emotionally, and physically — to postpone action? If I avoid this action or decision, what might my life look like in six months, one year or three years?
To learn more about fear-setting exercise, visit Tim’s blogpost or his Ted talk.
As I went through this exercise, I realized that even if the worst case scenario would happen, I could always “go back” and find a regular job in a store, casino or warehouse. I also realized that inaction had a far more negative outcome compared to making the leap. I could envision myself still working at my old job, still having problems with fatigue, burnout and digestion, my relationships were fraying or failing, I wasn’t making any progress towards my dreams and I was constantly unhappy and miserable. That scared me and gave me courage to take the chance and make the jump.
Have faith and make the leap
It’s normal to experience some fear, doubts, worries and what ifs about the future. The future and the unknown are scary. When we contemplate a decision that might threaten our sense of safety, certainty, or identity, fear is the natural consequence.
But if you listen to that small whisper inside you when you slow down and find some peace and quiet, you know what you should do.
For me, the right thing to do was clear: I couldn’t go on like this anymore and change was the only right solution.
When it comes the time to make those scary decisions, It’s time to stop acting as Amateurs and become a Pro, as Steven Pressfield would say. We have to gather courage, believe in ourselves and have faith that things will turn out in our favor.