How Tim Ferriss Deals with Fear

Last week we sent a Quality Question about using fear to help us identify our most meaningful goals.

But even after learning to “lean in” when we feel fear, sometimes our fears can still sabotage our attempts to achieve our goals.

To combat this we’re going to do something Tim Ferriss calls Fear Setting.

Think about one of your goals that scares you and ask yourself: What am I worried about if I try this?

Write down any fears that come to mind, no matter how big, small, or crazy they might seem. The objective is to get them all out of your head and into writing. Don’t hold back.

Do this now.

For example, say my goal is to save $5,000 towards retirement this year, but I’m afraid that the stock market could crash any day, so I never take action and start saving.

Next, look at the first fear you just wrote and answer the following questions:

How likely is it that this will happen and what would be the impact if it did?

Continuing the example: The worst U.S. stock market crash was on “Black Monday” in 1987. The market went down 23% in a single day. That could happen again. But losing 23% is not the same as the market going to zero, which is probably not going to happen. A worst-case scenario might be that the market suddenly loses 50% of its value. And this is pretty unlikely.

What could you do to prevent this or make it less likely to happen?

I can’t control the stock market, but I could reduce the impact of a crash on me by spreading out my investments (some stocks, some bonds, etc). I could also make sure that I don’t invest money that I need immediately (keep a 3 month cash reserve) so I can absorb the shock if I need to.

How could you repair the situation if it did happen?

If the market did crash and I lost some of my savings, the best thing would probably be to do nothing, just keep saving and investing since it will eventually bounce back. Maybe a crash would even be a good opportunity to invest more.

Start by answering these questions for at least one of the fears on your list now. This activity takes a bit more time, so if you need to, schedule time later to come back and answer these questions for the rest of the fears on your list.

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