Has fear ever kept you from taking action? I think, at some point, we’ve all been paralyzed by fear.
What if I told you that we can utilize our own fears for personal growth? With a few simple tweaks to your approach, you can turn that fear into the driving force that helps you achieve your goals.
Last week, when we published Part 1 of this series on fear, we highlighted how Stoics use a variety of techniques and strategies to get past fears. If you missed it, be sure to check it out. Today, we’ll do something similar but approach fear from a different perspective. Rather than being in the mindset of getting past fears, we’ll use fear to our advantage by tapping into a very specific technique known as Fear Setting.
Through Fear Setting, you’ll be able to turn the dialogue in your head around and move your life forward by taking action.
We here at Passive Income MD have talked a lot about the practice of goal setting, a practice all about taking the time to carefully identify the steps needed to achieve goals. What this practice doesn’t account for is the many fears along the way that act as barriers and obstacles to our destination. That’s where Fear Setting comes in.
At its core, Fear Setting is approaching your fears incrementally. You’ll identify and explore them, using the information you gather to strengthen your resolve. In essence, you will harness the fear itself.
Think about when you first put in a central line. It can be pretty scary, and it's tough not to think about the many complications that could arise. Over time and with experience, doctors get past these fears by learning how to prevent them. They learn to prep the site, use the ultrasound guidance, look for arrhythmias, and everything else. As fears are incrementally addressed, we are able to get past them, and for seasoned doctors, a central line is not a big issue.
I used that specific example to demonstrate that, as physicians, we are familiar with Fear Setting despite not having been trained in its structure. What is that structure? It’s a three-step process: Define, Prevent, and Repair.
What does it mean to define our fears? It’s about asking yourself exploratory questions and offering yourself answers—and I highly recommend doing this in writing. I call it “fear journaling”.
It’s good to start with a consequential question and then journal out the various fears you might have associated with that question. Here are common questions I hear when working with doctors looking to generate passive income:
“What are all the things that could go wrong?”
“What if I start a business and it fails?”
“What if this isn’t the right investment?”
“What if I dropped shifts at work to focus on investing?”
“What if I had to change jobs?”
By asking questions like these, you start to answer them and more easily identify in writing the consequences you are afraid of.
To help yourself solidify your understanding of the fears you carry even more, you can take what you’ve written to the list of common fears in Part 1 of this series. That will help you determine the specific types of fear you’re experiencing to see if there are patterns or commonalities.
Step 2: PREVENT THE FEAR
With the fears identified, you’ve given yourself an incomplete roadmap of action. It’s time to complete it.
Mapped out in front of you, you’ll have everything that could go wrong—the various things you’re afraid of. Turn this into a checklist, of sorts, and ask yourself this question for each item: “What can I do to prevent this?” Provide an answer in the form of an actionable step. By framing a fear in these terms, you are shifting your mindset to take action against it.
Step 3: REPAIR THE FEAR
As poet Robert Burns once wrote, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” In other words, no matter how much we may protect ourselves through careful planning, the worst-case scenario can happen.
But, because you’ve identified and have taken steps to mitigate negative consequences, you can ask yourself an additional question: “What could I do to repair the damage of the worst-case scenario?” You should also ask, “Who could I ask for help?” By using these questions to create actionable steps and a contingency plan, you further minimize the possible consequences of your fears. With those identified, what once kept you from taking action now looks like something manageable. Action is within reach.
With these three steps, you’ve effectively used your fears themselves to drive positive, growth-minded action. But it doesn’t end there.
In addition to the three steps of Fear Setting, I encourage you to weigh the benefits and costs of a given fear. That means being more mindful about what you could gain from taking action. Also, ask yourself what the cost of inaction is. Remember to always weigh the benefits of taking action against the cost of inaction. Sometimes, the cost of not doing something is far greater than the potential risks involved in taking that leap.
Let’s look at an example of a Fear Setting exercise. For this exercise, we’ll use this question: “What if I leave my job and move?”
Notice that each corresponding item in the “Prevent” column gives me the actionable steps necessary to help mitigate the specific fear that’s stopping me from taking action. With this system, I’m using the fear itself to create a playbook for preventing the scary consequences.
The above image only represents the three steps of Fear Setting. What about the benefits and costs? Let’s look.
When you map out the benefits and costs, you can see that it would cost me much more in my life if I didn’t take action, rendering my inhibiting fears powerless. I’ve taken the fear itself and turned the dialogue in my head around. I know now that I should be more afraid of not acting than my original fear.
With this example, you can see that Fear Setting and looking at the benefits and cost allows you to lay everything out there on the table. It’s solid. It’s not a series of abstract, undefined fears swimming around in your head preventing you from living life on your own terms.
Intersect the tools of goal setting and Fear Setting to create success. It turns apprehension into action.
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Fear is a natural emotion that can either paralyze us or propel us forward. It's all about how we choose to perceive and handle it. Instead of running away from fear, utilize your fear to achieve your goals. Remember, every successful person has faced fears, but what sets them apart is their ability to use that fear as a catalyst for growth and achievement.
My homework for you is to try the Fear Setting exercise. The process of Fear Setting—Define, Prevent, and Repair—is a powerful tool to help you confront and overcome those fears. By breaking down your fears, understanding the potential outcomes, and preparing for them, you can make informed decisions and take calculated risks. It's about turning the “What if?” into a plan of action.
Don’t forget what Seneca, the great Stoic, wrote: “We suffer more in imagination than in reality.”It's a reminder that often, the fears and scenarios we create in our minds are far worse than any actual outcome. So, challenge those fears, question their validity, and use them as a stepping stone towards your goals. Declare them so that you may leave them behind.
Here at Passive Income MD, we look forward to collaborating with you on your journey to financial freedom, and we hope the tool of Fear Setting is one that helps you on your way. Until next time, face your fears, embrace growth, and always move forward.
Disclaimer: The topic presented in this article is provided as general information and for educational purposes. It is not a substitute for professional advice. Accordingly, before taking action, consult with your team of professionals.