Tim Ferriss Shares His 3-Part Plan for Overcoming Your Fears

This strategy could help you get past whatever’s holding you back.

Alec Gewirtz
Jun 21, 2017 · 2 min read

In 2004, Tim Ferriss’ life was falling apart. His girlfriend had left him. His close friend had died from pancreatic cancer. His business was close to collapse. He needed to make a major change in his life, as he described in a recent TED talk, but fear paralyzed him.

In the middle of this crisis, he discovered the Stoic philosopher Seneca and his program of “premeditatio malorum,” which means the “pre-meditation of evils.” Essentially, Seneca taught Ferriss to ask himself, “Should I really be as afraid of making a hard choice as I am?”

Ferris developed a written exercise for answering that question, as he describes in the TED talk, which he calls “fear-setting.” It’s a fairly simple, three-page exercise for deciding whether or not to do something.

On the first page, he lists (1) what he is afraid will happen as a result of making the decision, (2) what he could do to prevent unwelcome outcomes, and (3) how he might handle the worst-case scenario. On the second page, he writes down the possible benefits of even a partial success in making the decision. And on the third page, he describes what the “cost of the status quo” would be — i.e., the “atrocious cost” of “not doing anything.”

“I can trace all of my biggest wins and all of my biggest disasters averted back to doing fear-setting,” he said. “The hard choices — what we most fear doing, asking, saying — these are very often exactly what we most need to do.”

Learn more about the process of “fear-setting” and its benefits by watching Ferriss’ TED talk here.

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