"At the time, I was working on my first real business. I had no idea what I was doing," says Ferriss. "I was working 14-plus hour days, seven days a week. I was using stimulants to get going. I was using depressants to wind down and go to sleep. It was a disaster. I felt completely trapped."
Desperate for solutions, Ferriss came upon a quote by Seneca the Younger, a famous Stoic writer: "We suffer more often in imagination than in reality."
Intrigued, Ferriss read more of his work and came to learn a tool the anxious Stoic writer used called "premeditatio malorum," which means "the pre-meditation of evils." The idea is to carefully consider the worst case scenario. By becoming familiar with the worst case scenario, you begin to melt the fear holding you back.
"My problem was monkey mind — super loud, very incessant. Just thinking my way through problems doesn't work," says Ferriss. "So I created a written exercise that I called 'fear-setting,' like goal-setting, for myself. ... Super simple."
Here are the three steps to setting your fears down on paper, what Ferriss calls "fear-setting."
1. What if I ...?
Write down whatever you are afraid of.
Then, under whatever you are afraid of, write three subcategories: "Define," where you describe the 10 to 20 worst possible outcomes; "Prevent," where you figure out what you could do to prevent each worst possible outcome from happening; and "Repair," where you decide what is within your power to do to solve the problems that you have presupposed will happen.
2. Write down the potential benefits of trying or even succeeding in some way at whatever goals or tasks you are afraid of.
Ferriss recommends this part should to take between 10 to 15 minutes.
3. "The cost of inaction"
Write down what may happen if you do not attempt or partially succeed at the goals or tasks you are afraid of. So you should ask yourself: If I avoid this action or decision and actions and decisions like it, what might my life look like in, say, six months, 12 months, three years? says Ferriss. "Any further out, it starts to seem intangible. And really get detailed — again, emotionally, financially, physically, whatever," he says.