TED : Ideas worth spreading

Review: Why you should define your fears instead of your goals

Speaker: Tim Ferriss
TED2017
Date: April 2017
Location: Location, ST

Description from TED website:
The hard choices — what we most fear doing, asking, saying — are very often exactly what we need to do. How can we overcome self-paralysis and take action? Tim Ferriss encourages us to fully envision and write down our fears in detail, in a simple but powerful exercise he calls “fear-setting.” Learn more about how this practice can help you thrive in high-stress environments and separate what you can control from what you cannot.

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My Review / Notes / Thoughts

He starts by letting us all know that he’s been there… he’s been through depression. In fact, he comes out and tells us that he’s bi-polar. That’s a lot to deal with.

Then he starts talking about the word “Stoicism” which he wants us to think of from a different perspective. That new perspective places “stoicism” as…

“[A]n operating system for thriving in high-stress environments, for making better decisions.”

As he goes into the history behind the word, he focuses on one particular meaning for the purpose of this talk, which is…

“[T]raining yourself to separate what you can control from what you cannot control, and then doing exercises to focus exclusively on the former. This decreases emotional reactivity, which can be a superpower.”

To help bring this into focus, he talks about what happens if you do the opposite of what stoicism is. The opposite can cost you anything from a game, an employee, or even your life. Therefore, learning stoicism is extremely valuable.

On his path to learning about stoicism, he bought a book on simplicity which contained a quote by Seneca the Younger (a famous Stoic writer).

“We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.”

In researching Seneca more, he came to the realization that he needed to develop an exercise to help him focus. Tim calls this written exercise “fear-setting” which is only three pages.

The first page is “What if I…?” which is the fear or cause of anxiety. This page has three columns on it. The first column is “define” which is where you write down all the worst things that happen if you take the step. He recommends that you write down 10-20 of these. The next column is the “prevent” column, where you write down the answer to what can be done to prevent or mitigate the problems from happening. The third column is “repair” where, if the worst-case scenario happens, what could you do to repair the damage or who could you ask for help? As you work on this page, he recommends you basically ask yourself who else has had this problem and how did they figure it out or deal with it.

The second page has the question “What might be the benefits of an attempt or partial success?” Here you would write down all the potential benefits if you face your fear. What might you learn? How might your skills grow? Etc. He recommends you spend 10-15 minutes working on this page.

The third and final page is titled “The Cost of Inaction,” meaning emotionally, physically, financially. etc. Like the first page, this page has three columns: 1.) 6 Months, 2.) 1 Year, and 3.) 3 Years. He says this page is probably the most important page, so it is imperative that you do not skip this step. Tim says that humans do not often consider the “atrocious” cost of inaction or maintaining the status quo. So with this page, you’ll look at what your life might look like in 6 months, 1 year, and 3 months (he does not recommend looking any further out). Get detailed in your description, touch on the emotional, physical, financial, etc. components of your life.

Once you’ve put down all of this on paper, you’ll be able to evaluate the benefits of action versus the benefits of inaction. He does “fear-setting” once a quarter in his own life.

If you think that “fear-setting” sounds like a tool you could use in your life, I highly recommend you go and watch the video for yourself.

But what about academically? Yes, I think this video could be used academically! It certainly can be used in psychology courses, as well as in philosophy courses. What other courses do you see this video being used in? How would you design an assignment around this video? Let us know!


Until next time … live long life-learner!

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