I’m going to talk about risk and fear, and how these may be holding you back. This is partly due to our reptilian brain trying to keep us safe and also how we perceive risk and fear. There are tools and techniques to remove some of the mystery of what we are fearing and help to approach it is a very clear and pragmatic way. Based on interviews with successful leaders in business and life, author Tim Ferriss of Tools For Titans, has identified Fear Setting as useful as goal setting and I will share this change of perspective to allow you to try it for yourself. Firstly, it is necessary to define a risk. We talk about risks all the time, and what is considered a risk for one person may not be a risk for you personally, the definition of risk here is the probability or likelihood of an irreversible negative outcome. Notice the word irreversible. The way to work through difficult decisions or potential risks is to use Fear Setting, yay, I hear you cry. This will allow you to be more effective and less reactive in responding to your fears in daily settings. This is giving you more power over the situation, leading to a reduction in stress (fear) and better decision making.
All you need for this is a pen and a piece of A4 paper with 3 equal columns. At the top of the page put the decision you are considering making, this is the Risk. These may include, leaving your job, sacking multiple staff members, launching a new business, proposing, divorcing…In the first column write down all the of the worst outcomes that could possibly happen, being very specific here (similar to Goals which need to be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely), the clarity is key. In the second column what could you do to minimise the likelihood of each one of those potential outcomes from happening? Do this for each one, no skipping. In the third column what can I do to get back to where I am now if this happens? Again for each item on the list, work through it. So if you decided to leave your role there are financial implications, you would need to on other work e.g. freelance, shop work, these are short term options regardingless of your current standing, e.g., as exec or director, whatever it takes to get back on your feet, you would need to be creative and flexible.
Based on Stoic philosophy, check out a 5 minute TED video here, using Fear Rehearsal can also help reduce the fears around the decision you are looking to make. Stoicism trains you to be less reactive, thriving with high performance in stressful environments and was practiced by Marcus Aurelius and Seneca and is still very relevant today, without the robes. This involves practicing your worst case scenario, e.g., if there is a financial implication, for a week eat extremely simple food (cereals and rice were good enough you were a student), wear the same jeans, don’t buy any crap you don’t need, and this way you find out you can actually live like this and it may not be as bad as you expected. By rehearsing the worst case scenarios you are loosening their power over you and effectively inoculating yourself against the fear later and making a bad decision.
In summary, by defining the risk (and remember the point about irreversable), having detailed fear setting and fear rehearsal, you have given yourself the best opportunity of success. You don’t have to be completely fearless but you can be prepared for a good outcome.