top of page

Paradigm Shift: Fear Setting (not Goal Setting)

The other day, I was watching a Ted Talk about fears. This man, Tim Ferriss, outlined this beautiful strategy that he has used over the years to help him manage self-paralysis and poor decision making in the face of tough choices. He called it Fear Setting. As I watched, I realized this is exactly what I do with my clients. Not only do we define goals and how to get there, but we brainstorm inevitable obstacles and how to get through them.

This is a lovely example of a Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy or CBT intervention. It's similar to a Thought-Log . These tools can shift the damaging thoughts we have that prevent us from become who we want to be. Mr. Ferriss takes this idea and focuses on the underlying fear that leads to the lack of forward movement. I love this tool!

Fear Setting for Positive Change


fear setting

Get out a pen and paper. Think about your life and the changes you are considering. Then ask yourself "what is the worst thing I can imagine happening if I [take a step for change]?" Write it down. No matter how it sounds.

For example: If I tell Rebecca that she hurt my feelings when she cancelled our plans again. I spent a lot of time arranging everything. I'm worried she'll get mad a me and not want to be friends anymore. I'll lose her as a friend.

Then brainstorm how you can prevent this:

Hmm. I don't really know how to talk to her about this. This friendship is important. I know that I can look this up online to get tips on how to have conversations like this. And if it happens anyway, you also get to prepare a contingency plan:

Well, she's mad a me. I know that I did what I could, and now she is responsible for managing her feelings. I will let her know that I know that she is mad, I value our friendship, and I will be willing to talk to her when she is ready.


Write down "what might be the benefits of an attempt or partial success?"

I feel like my relationships are uneven. I give more to my friends than receive, and I feel tired and disatisfied. If I try something like this, I might be able to even out my relationships so that I don't feel like I'm always doing all the work. And if it doesn't work out, I get to practice something new and feel proud of myself for taking a chance.


Consider the long-term cost of inaction. What will NOT taking action cost you?

The last time this happened, I started resenting my friend. At 6 months, I felt tired. By 12 months, I was having a hard time containing my anger and resentment. It came out with passive aggressive statements and less comfortable interactions. By 3 years, we weren't friends anymore.

Hmmm. It seems to come full cycle. The friend example is a classic one. People don't want to take action for fear of losing that person. But often the inaction itself leads to the same result. Trying something different will lead to a different result.

When you're taking inventory of your life, try this one out. It's important to set goals, but it's also important to figure out what's going to stop you from reaching those goals and what the cost of that might be.

Growth hurts. Inaction hurts more.

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
No tags yet.
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page