Lessons Learned on the Trail

  • Stephanie Barnett

Don’t Set Goals for the New Year - Set Your Fears

Ah podcasts. Another day, another podcast. If I’m honest, I haven’t spent a lot of time exploring podcasts yet. But the other day, in an effort to push past my discomfort of the ASMR-like experience of listening to podcasts, I found an episode on the TED Radio Hour from April 2018 called, “Comfort Zone”. 

In my pursuits as a solopreneur and Coach, I’ve learned and experienced that pushing outside your comfort zone is a requirement if you want to change your life. So, I’m always intrigued to hear new perspectives, stories, and strategies in “how” to approach it. 

In this episode, the host featured speakers who shared stories and methods related to challenging and expanding your comfort zone. The first speaker was Tim Ferriss, entrepreneur and creator of The Four Hour Work Week (note to self: read that at some point in the future).

Tim shared how he regularly challenges himself to learning and performing new things (like drumming for a rock band at a sold-out concert, or learning a language enough over the course of a week to conduct a televised interview). Although I get it, the growth is in the choice to constantly challenge yourself beyond your perceived limitations, the examples were...well, let’s just say, less-than-relatable to “real” life for the non-multi-millionaires of us in the world.  

What was relatable and something anyone at any point in life can do was what he calls, “Fear-setting”. He actually describes this practice in his TED Talk, “Why you should define your fears instead of your goals”. Rooted in Stoicism, this practice is meant to help one analyze your fears to support your decision-making. It is a 3-part process including: defining your fears; considering the benefits of action and success; and considering the impact of inaction.

So, as a new entrepreneur, my former career well in the rearview mirror by now, and looking toward a whole new decade, I decided to give it a try. 

Let me tell you, the impact was HUGE! I even got an idea of how to approach one of the biggest fears that has weighed on me for years. Here’s a summary of the process...

Step One: Define, Prevent, and Repair Going through the fear-setting process was eye-opening. It forced me to go beyond the surface level of my fears (where we all usually stay) and analyze them from all angles.

First, you define the fears you’re experiencing. This practice gives them life and gets them out of your head. When you see something, you’re more inclined to work with it in a less emotionally-attached way. Continuing this piece of the process, you go further to identify ways of preventing those fears from coming to fruition, as well as repairing them if they do.

Step Two: Consider the Benefits of Partial Success The next piece of the process is one I think most of us skip over. Perhaps we assume we already know. Or, we spend so much time getting ourselves worked up over the fear itself, that we don’t give much weight or time to if we were to succeed in taking action. As a Coach, when I’m working with clients who are worrying over the “What ifs…” in their lives, one of the first questions I usually ask is, “What if you were successful?” Most people are so often stopped in their tracks when they get this question from me because it is not something they’ve yet considered. What I appreciate about Tim’s process here is that he focuses on the benefits of partial success. Stopping one from defaulting into an all or nothing perspective, the idea of partial success demonstrates that it doesn’t have to fall perfectly into place to be a benefit. Step Three: Consider the Costs of Inaction Alright, this was the big one. By taking myself through the process of analyzing the emotional, physical, financial (and more) impacts of not taking action because of my fears, the reality of my choices were right in front of me. This part of the process has you consider the costs at 6 months, 1 year, and 3 years (timeframes that are mostly tangible for people to consider - anything more and it gets a bit fuzzy). And let me tell can get heavy, but without it, you may not feel as connected to why something needs to change. It demonstrates that the costs of inaction, severely outweigh the impacts of less-than-perfect action.

By giving the space to consider what partial success would look like, it flips off the “all or nothing” switch (which tends to be a default tendency for most), and by identifying how to prevent or repair missteps, it returned an element of control over everything.

Like I said at the beginning, I was intrigued by this process as a new way of approaching pushing past comfort zones. The result was a whole new understanding of, and strategic plan around, the how of approaching my most present fears at the moment. 

Now, this isn’t a one-and-done kind of exercise. Like any type of planning, Tim encourages people to do this quarterly, or even monthly. For me, I am going to commit to monthly (pausing here to go put those dates in my 2020 calendar now before I forget). 

So, I encourage you, as a new year, a new decade, and the potential of a new YOU approaches, consider fear-setting over goal-setting this time around. I think you will find it to be a powerful tool to step yourself outside of your comfort zone and take the power back from your fears.

And if you're not sure how to start the process, just reach out and I'd be happy to setup a time to help walk you through the process.