Do you remember the choose your own adventure books from when you were a kid? Where you could make decisions and follow the path to your very own ending? I feel like my first choice always led to certain death and I would back peddle to my original decision and try again, try again. Well what if you are so afraid of the certain death ending that you never make a decision and end up reading a very short boring story over and over again?
Well if you are like me you might be living that boring played out scenario right now. Why is it that most people constantly create and act out awful, yucky stories in their minds over and over again. Why don’t we pre-imagine wonderful outcomes instead? Softly soothing ourselves with repeated comforting images and memories. I’m sure there is a very good biological reason for this type of mental punishment most of us put ourselves through, like protecting ourselves from real dangers that we don’t encounter anymore post caveman era. Luckily I have found a great tool and it is one thing you can do right NOW to feel better and get started before 2018 even begins!
During this great interview with Tim Ferriss by Marie Forleo, “Overcoming Fear, Battling Depression and Finding Self Love”, he talks about a technique he created and adapted from Stoic philosophy he calls “Fear Setting”.
The basic idea of Fear Setting is to:
- Identify what you can and cannot control
- Focus only on the things you can control – this decreases your emotional reactivity
- Visualize the worst case scenarios until you overcome your fear or at least feel relief enough to begin.
You can watch Tim Ferriss’s TED talk where he goes over this in more detail. A great TED talk in general.
I followed Tim Ferris’s advice and took some time, 30+ minutes, to fill out a piece of paper, see my personal Fear Setting exercise below. There are 3 sections or pages:
Section 1: at the top write “What if I…” and then in 3 columns write Define it, Prevent, Repair. In my example I worked with What if I…devoted 110%* of myself to my Etsy business 2018? Then I imagined each of my top 5 fears in the “Define it” section (you can do as many as you like), thought about how I could “Prevent” my worst fear from coming true, and then if it did (gasp) how could I “Repair” the situation? This is a feeling exercise so it works best if you really try to visualize and feel what you fear could happen, what you would do and what would provide you relief.
*110% of myself is further defined here as 110% of my free time, I have a day job and a hubby and kiddo
Section 2: The second page you will want to really imagine and visualize the question “What might be the benefits of an attempt or partial success?”
Section 3: For the third page, imagine “The Cost of Inaction?” emotionally, physically, financially, etc.) in the next 6 months, 1 year, and 3 years.
For my first page/section, I listed my top 5 fears. My number 1 fear is that I will work my tail off and still FAIL and what I found provided the most relief was the idea that I would have an answer at last. Can I do this? After years of half trying, I could let go of it all and start a new life training to be the next American Ninja Warrior. My second top fear in general is that people will find out I’m a FRAUD. Yuck, I’ve heard that this is high on a lot of people’s list and the truth is when I have received criticism in the past, even if it wasn’t constructive, it was always (I’ll repeat here: ALWAYS) helpful in redefining my policies, products and general business practices. And even though I didn’t include this on my sheet, anyone who attempts to be a goldsmith for a living this long can’t possibly be in for the quick cash and fame.
My second page is quite revealing, because really there is a lot of benefit to just beginning something whole heartedly! And the sad third page, where we see what Jenny might be living in the future. No artwork, no fun and still working for the man. (disclaimer to said “man” if you are reading, I really like my job and consistent paycheck and mean no disrespect, see page 1 column 3 “I have a day job”)
End Result: I really do feel relief and a type of motivation that I haven’t felt in awhile. Seeing that in 6 months to 3 years my creative professional life will not have changed one bit and the big sad statement of “so much un-made art” reminds me that life is short and I am 40.
Giving myself a timeframe in which to re-evaluate how this is going, i.e. this blog, will also help me to determine if I have indeed come to the end and will go find myself a Ninja Warrior trainer and some spiffy exercise pants.