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A Checklist Template for Defining Your Fears

Did you catch Tim Ferriss’ recent Ted Talk, “Why you should define your fears instead of your goals”? As an entrepreneur it home because I’m constantly making checklists to manage the constant chaos in my life. Of course, within those checklists are several lists with personal and professional goals and milestones. But there is one list I do not have, and that is what Ferriss calls “Fear Setting”.

In this Ted Talk, Ferriss explains how to handle life’s difficult choices, and the results from either taking action or not taking action. Ferriss shares this things called “Fear Setting” as an important tool that will help us overcome the fear of making difficult choices.

Stoicism

To fully understand and benefit from Fear Setting, you first must understand Stoicism. I must admit, I had heard the term many times, but I did not understand its true definition.

According to Google, Stoicism is “the endurance of pain or hardship without a display of feelings and without complaint”.

When I think of Stoicism, I usually think of great athletes, although the philosophy is consciously practiced by business leaders, successful entrepreneurs and anyone faced with adversity.

Athletes and coaches are a great examples of stoic individuals because they are constantly facing difficult decisions on TV and in the spotlight.

Take Tom Brady, quarterback for the world champion New England Patriots. When he steps back to pass, 300 pound athletes are charring in every direction solely focused on crushing Brady before he throws the ball.

Whether Brady is crushed, throws and interception, or an incomplete pass, he remains stoic. He practices staying mentally tough without emotion or complaint so he’s better mentally prepared for the next play.

Brady’s head coach, Bill Belichick, is probably the definition of stoic. I mean, have you ever seen the man smile or show any emotion at all why going to war on the football field?

How many NFL championships have they won together….5?

Fear Setting

The path to stoicism can be guided through Ferriss’ tool he developed called “Fear Setting”. Fear Setting is a three page checklist of your fears, and the possible results of action or inaction.

In Ferriss’ words, Fear Setting is “An operating system for for thriving in high stress environments. It’s a way to visualize all the bad things that could happen to you, so you because less afraid of taking action.

Think of Fear Setting as the opposite of goal setting. Instead of making a checklist of what you want to do, make a checklist of what you are afraid to do and what you are afraid will happen.

Fear Setting Templates

I’ve developed three checklist templates for Ferriss’ Fear Setting tool. They are free to save or download below. Ferriss explains that a Fear Setting template should be three pages and organized as follows.

Page 1: Fear Setting

Make three lists, with 10–20 entries each. Below are the titles of each list and a free template to save or download.

Define — What are the worst things could happen?
Prevent — How do I prevent each from happening?
Repair — If the worst happens, how can i fix it?

Page 2: Fear Setting

Make a list of the possible benefits if successful or partially successful. Please save or download the free template below.

Page 3: Fear Setting

Make three lists of the costs of your inaction. In other words, if I avoid doing this thing what might I miss out on?

Here are the lists and a free template to save or download.
• 6 months
• 1 year
• 3 years

Now, for a brief moment, imagine doing and saying the things we avoid.

Are you afraid of quitting your stressful job?
Are you afraid to speak your mind to a friend or spouse?
Are you afraid to ask for a raise you deserve?
Are you afraid to take a year off life?
Are you afraid to ask for forgiveness?

Often times, these are exact things we need to do for us to be more happy and successful. This is why Fear Setting is important.

Please feel free to save a copy of each template above or download them as a PDF.

Hard choices = Easy life

Ferriss wraps up this Ted Talk with one more example of a truly stoic individual. The man’s name is Jerzy Gregorek. After losing everything, Jerzy left (escaped) Poland at a time where it’s citizens were facing severe backlash from it’s Government.

While I’ll let you watch the Ted Talk and learn the details of Jerzy’s story, you should know that Ferriss considers Jerzy to be on of the top 10 most successful and happiest people he has ever met.

After facing extreme hardship in his life, and coming to America with nothing, Jerzy now enjoys a life of success and happiness. Jerzy had a few brilliantly spoken words that made a profound impact on Ferriss. I will leave you with his words, and of course encourage you to check out Ferriss’ Ted Talk.

“Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life.” ~ Jerzy Gregorek

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