Do You Have Fears?

Have you ever been paralyzed by fear? Of the unknown, of failing, of letting people down? Same. It’s not a fun place to be, and it limits your ability to dominate at life…whether that’s in work, in relationships, or in any number of endeavors.

Well, I think I just found the solution.

As someone who always wants to excel and take on the next challenge, I can get in my own head from time to time, thinking I’m not doing enough or achieving enough. I try to eat the whole world in one bite. When this happens, I have to slow down and realize (read: acknowledge) that the things I’m doing are steps in the right direction and are leading me closer to what I want to accomplish.

But what about when you have a very tangible fear – a decision you need to make that you’re afraid to move forward in, such as asking for a raise, taking a huge trip, getting in a serious relationship, or changing careers?

There is a TED Talk that gives a very simple (genius) three-step process of how to tap into an ancient approach to take a hold of your fears, rationally define them, and move on.

The TED Talk to End All TED Talks (or at least to help you tackle your fears)

The TED Talk I’m referring to is given by Tim Ferriss, an early-stage tech investor, best-selling author, and podcaster – and he came across a practice called “Stoicism” (sto-i-cism) – defined as the endurance of pain or hardship without a display of feelings and without complaint.

Before you roll your eyes at this definition (like I almost did), he focused on one specific aspect of Stoicism he calls “Fear Setting.” He defines this as the ability to confront your fears – visualizing the worst-case scenario in detail that’s preventing you from taking action – so that you can take action.

At first this sounded like a terrible idea. Who actually wants to take time to visualize the worst-case scenarios of your fears…even if they are rolling around in your head already? Well let me tell you, this had a different twist than I expected – and it provided a very positive, tangible outcome. I plan to use this technique in the future and thought others might benefit from it as well.

See below for my cliff-notes version of his three-step process. I think this can revolutionize how many of us tackle our fears and move onto greater things!

3-Steps to Dominating Your Fears


Step 1:

Write down what you are afraid of.  (E.g., asking for a raise)

  1. Define: Write down 3-10 things that could go wrong if you move forward with your decision to do the thing you’re afraid of (e.g., my boss might not take me seriously and I won’t be able to ask for a raise again for a long time)
  2. Prevent: Write down 3-10 things correlating to the above for how you could prevent those negative items from happening. (e.g., do research prior to talking to my boss about a raise and have resources to back-up my appeal)
  3. Repair: Write down 3-10 things that could make each above item go a little better even if they do go wrong (e.g., if your company doesn’t have budget to give you a raise, you could ask for a different benefit – such as more PTO, working from home one day/week, etc.)


Step 2:

Write down what the benefits might be of an attempt or partial attempt.

Conservatively…what could go great if you tacked the fear at hand? If you attempted whatever you’re afraid of, could you build emotional skills, financial skills, etc.?


Step 3:

Write down the cost for inaction. What could result if you do not face the fear at hand (emotionally, physically, financially, etc.) – in the next 6 months, 1 year, 3 years? Based on your anticipated outcome, is inaction no longer an option?

In doing this exercise, the TED Talk speaker claims that you’ll find that many of your fears are irrational, and avoiding them can put you in a worse position than tackling them head-on. That said, there are fears you may go through this practice with, and you’ll conclude that they are fears for a good reason and you should not go through with them. Regardless, by going through this exercise, you’ve given yourself time to consider your options, and make a well thought-out decision based on evaluation.

Now What: How to Apply This To Your Life

When you face obstacles that are stopping you in your tracks, consider this method. Tim Ferriss recommends doing this practice once per quarter or any time you’re paralyzed by a decision. He and others who have put this into practice have seen much success and have avoided large mistakes! This is really contributed to giving themselves mental space to deal with tough things in life and make good decisions based on evaluation.

One great quote from Tim Ferris was,” The biggest choices we face, will never be solved with comfortable conversations.”

What courageous conversations do you need to have with yourself today?

This blog is based on TED Talk: Why You Should Define Your Fears Instead of Your Goals by Tim Ferriss.