Fear-Setting: How You Can Overcome Paralysis and Take Action- Part 2

In part one of this blog series, I discussed a TED Talk titled “Why You Should Define Your Fears Instead of Your Goals.” In this talk, Ted Ferriss defines his concept of “fear-setting” as a concrete way to analyze your fears so that you can overcome paralysis and take action.

Tim credits fear-setting for some of his biggest wins in life. He ends his talk by stating that some of our biggest fears are very often what we need to do most in life.

The actual process of fear-setting involves three steps.

  • Step one starts with writing something you fear at the top of the page. For example, “What if I completely change careers and start over?”
  • Then, create three columns below, titled “Define” “Prevent” and “Repair.”
    • Under Define -write down all of the worst things that you can imagine happening if you were to attempt this fear.
    • Under Prevent -answer ways to prevent those things in column 1 (define column) from happening, or ways to decrease the likelihood that they will happen.
    • Under Repair -write down ways that you could repair the damage if the worst-case scenario things in column 1 (define column) were to happen.
  • In step two, answer the question, “What might be the benefits of an attempt or partial success?”
  • Lastly, step three involves weighing the cost of status quo.
    • In this step you will consider “The Cost of Inaction,” which includes emotional costs, physical costs and financial costs.
    • Create three columns titled “6 months,” “1 year” and “3 years,” then fill in what costs you might incur within each of those time frames if you do not take action.

Now that we know the actual process of fear-setting, is it something that you feel might be helpful? Below, I’ve included a few discussion questions to help you consider if fear-setting is right for you.

  • Have you ever written down any of your fears (big or small)? If so, has it been helpful to see your fears written in black and white?
  • How have you challenged your fears in the past?
  • Has inaction or paralysis from your fears cost you anything in life?
  • Currently, what is one of your biggest fears? Would you try fear-setting to tackle it?
  • Do you feel this tool would help for you to overcome paralysis or would it be a waste of time?
  • What if you were to get to the end of the exercise and realize that your fear is well-founded? Would you seek additional support?


Amanda Barnes, LAMFT