Tim Ferriss Teaches How The Stoic Exercise Of ‘Fear Setting’ Can Help Us Thrive

Stoicism is a Hellenistic philosophy that emphasizes logic and a focus on what can be controlled in life versus needlessly worrying about that which cannot be controlled. From Emperor Marcus Aurelius to George Washington to Bill Belichick, great leaders throughout history have looked to stoicism and it’s a philosophy all of us can utilize to help ourselves in daily life.

Author Tim Ferriss has suffered from depression throughout his life. At a TED Talk in April, he shared his most valuable tool for avoiding self-destruction and self-paralysis: stoicism.

Seneca the Younger, a famous stoic, wrote that “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” He stressed the importance of “premeditatio malorum,” or pre-meditation of evils.

Ferriss has brought Seneca the Younger into the present-day by using that same idea for his exercise of “fear setting.” When working out a problem, Ferriss takes three sheets of paper then divides the first page into three columns: Define, Prevent and Repair.

In the “Define” column, he writes down all the possible worst-case scenarios that can happen as a result of his decision.

In the “Prevent” column, he writes what he can do to prevent the disasters from the first column.

In the “Repair” column, he writes out solutions in case the worst-case scenarios from the first column play out.

Then on the second page he writes all the positive things that can happen if he goes through with the decision. Finally, on the third page he writes the “cost of inaction,” or what could happen if he does not go through with the decision.

Watch the TED Talk below and see how Ferriss utilizes “fear setting” then get three sheets of paper for yourself and start working on your own decisions.