#Weekly experiments / Wealthy / Wise

Fear-setting experiment: We are afraid of taking action, but what we should really fear is staying in the same place

I’ve done a lot of weird stuff over last few weeks as part of my Titan Experiment journey.

I was hashtagging my emotions to learn how to manage them. I learned how to be happier in 10 seconds. I experienced what it would feel like if I would suddenly earn fraction of what I earn now. I even stopped eating for 78 hours.

But even 3 days without food were not as intense as fear-setting. It was so important that I decided to spend 2 weeks to go through it in details and be clear about the actions.

I was not sure why Tim picked specifically this for his TED talk. Now I know. This exercise can literally change your life. Most probably in a good way.

On paper it looks simple and harmless, even a bit woo-woo. You’ve probably read something similar many times. But if you try really going through this, you will understand better. Invest those 2 hours to:

  1. Think about an action that you are delaying. Imagine all the horrible things that could happen if you do it. For each horrible thing, think about ways how you can prevent or fix them.
  2. Think about all the great things that could happen if you do it.
  3. Think about all the horrible things that will happen if you don’t do it.

The last step is crucial, because that’s where you might realize that THESE HORRIBLE THINGS ARE ALREADY HAPPENING. Because you were probably delaying the decision for so long.

(Apologies for CAPS, but it expresses how I felt. It was like a big neon sign in my head saying “oh shit!”)

Tips for your fear-setting exercise

  • If you pick a really serious question, set aside at least 2-3 hours.
    It’s best to do it whole in one session. If you need to stop for some reason, it takes time to get into the same mindset again.
  • Do it before weekend.
    Your mind will slowly process it and you’ll have more insights day or two later.
  • Remember that the decision is never binary.
    It’s not just Yes or No. Do or Don’t do.
    My first fear setting of starting a new business is a good example. I rated risk in 1st step at 7, very high. But risk at step 3 (cost of inaction) was even higher. It’s clear I have to do something, but it doesn’t have to be exactly what I was considering.
  • Define in advance when you will decide and take action.
    It’s good to have a deadline, even if you end up changing the approach (or the question). Set a reminder, or put 1 hour “meeting with yourself” into your calendar.
  • You can do this on paper, or use this Fear-setting (template TE)

Personal results

First fear I decided to face was “starting my own business”. This is something I was not considering at all just 2-3 years ago, and there are many reasons why this seems so scary to me.

  • There’s no history of entrepreneurship in my family,
  • I was raised in a very risk averse way.
  • I’m introvert, even slightly asocial,
  • Below average networker and so on.

These traits are not very compatible with running a business. No matter how great your product is, you still have to sell it.

But advantages compared to my current corporate job are obvious. Bringing more value, better satisfaction, potentially more freedom. And who knows how long the corporate jobs will even exist a few years later?

Anyway, to cut through all the excuses and to (hopefully) get a new perspective, I followed all the Fear Setting exercise steps.

Results

Step 1 – Horrible things

fear-settingI confirmed my suspicion that a lot of things could go horribly wrong if I’d start a business. I could end up not only losing money, but also losing husband, face and sanity. Plus could end up spending even less time with my family (they live 9500 km from where I live). Even with all the preventive and restorative actions, on a scale of 1-10 this is still somewhere around 7.

Step 2 – Benefits

The benefits were manifold. Great feeling of bringing value to people. Potentially much more money. More freedom. Meeting interesting people. Definitely 9.

Step 3 – Cost of inaction

This is when the shit hit the fan. OMG. If I’ll just stay where I am now, I might be dead inside soon. I want to learn, I want to be challenged, I want to be useful. I am somehow useful now (otherwise colleagues and customers would not use my services), and I’m quite OK financially as well, but long-term it’s leading nowhere.

On a scale of 1-10, I ended somewhere around… 11.

Results made me literally depressed for a while. So I can pick between risk 7 and risk 11? Shit.

Of course as my brain was processing it, it came up with different ways how this can be addressed.

This is not a binary thing – 0 current job or 1 own business. There are many steps in between. I can make my job more interesting and valuable and do more of the things I enjoy. Or I can change my job. Or I can try starting business on a side.

There are many options, and I can explore them all. And now I have a real motivation. Anytime I will see number 11 I will think about this. I actually added “meetings with myself” into my calendar for week 11 – I decided this is so important that I will extend the Fear Setting Experiment to 2 weeks.

And after a week of thinking about this I have some good results. I’ll start by talking to my boss, I’m meeting him next week in US. And I spend time thinking about the other two options, have a lots of notes.

Another “Hell Yes!” experiment.

I was not sure why Tim picked specifically this for his TED talk. Now I know. This exercise can literally change your life. Most probably in a good way.

And I have recurring reminder with number “11” in my calendar.

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