By Lindsay Ford, Regular Columnist.
Free dump truck rides.
Perfect, I thought excitedly, my toddler will LOVE this. He’s never without a car in his hand and loves everything trucks. As we waited in line, watching the dump trucks drive by with their smiling little passengers, my son’s face was pressed up against the fence in eager anticipation.
It was finally our turn and suddenly, his excitement faded. He started crying as we approached our truck saying he didn’t want to go. He clung to me for dear life.
I had a choice: listen to him in this moment of fear, or listen to his eager anticipation from the 10 minutes of waiting.
We boarded the dump truck with his mighty little arms clenched around my neck as I used both of mine to climb up. We sat together in the passenger seat while he tucked his head into my shoulder, refusing to look at the driver. The only smile that crossed his face was when he caught a glimpse of himself in the side mirror as we were waiting to exit the massive dump truck.
Once our feet touched solid ground, he asked to go again.
Life’s sometimes like this, isn’t it?
We want desperately to ask someone out, quit our job, take a long vacation, chase our dreams. And when it comes to that moment just before we’re about to take that leap, fear sets in. Our mind spins with “what if’s”, feelings of “not good enough” or “who do you think you are?”.
And we have a choice.
Listen to the moment of fear or listen to the eager anticipation from the prior weeks, months, or years.
However, unlike my son with the dump truck, we usually don’t have our moms to hold us while we’re terrified.
So what can we do instead? Fear setting.
In his popular Ted Talk “Why you should define your fears, instead of your goals”, Tim Ferriss shares something called “Fear Setting”. It’s a template that requires you to face your fears head-on, on paper, before making major decisions.
It goes like this.
Step 1: List Your Fears
At the top of your page, write “What if I…” and complete the sentence with the major decision you’re about to make, the thing that’s causing you fear, or the thing you’re putting off.
Then, list everything that could go wrong.What’s the worst things that could happen if you do this thing? Let your worry and imagination spiral out of control and write everything down, even if you know it’s unlikely or “stupid”. If your worry takes you there, write it down.
For each of those items list everything you can do in advance to prevent that from happening, or minimize the likelihood.
Then, for each of the same items, write down how you would repair things if your worst case scenario happens. What are the steps you can take to make things a bit better? Or who could you ask for help?
Step 2: List the Benefits
Ask yourself: “What might be the benefits of an attempt or partial success?”
This question is purposefully conservative. Notice that it’s not asking you to imagine the best thing that could happen if you go through with whatever decision you’re making.
That stuff is easy to imagine, but not helpful when it comes to unraveling and confronting our fears.
Instead, the question is related to our fears. It speaks to the benefits of an attempt or of a partial success. So, even if things don’t go as we imagine, we can start to realize that there are benefits to trying.
This takes it from being an all or nothing thing, to realizing that you’ll be OK no matter what.
So, list the benefits of an attempt or partial success.
It might be improved self-confidence, pride in taking a chance and believing in yourself, learning new skills that will set you down a different path to success, or any number of things. Your imagination is the limit.
Step 3: What is the cost of inaction?
There may be a risk to taking a step forward, but there’s also risks with not doing anything, or staying paralyzed by fear.
Inaction can cause you unhappiness, financial stress, or physical challenges. Staying stuck, can be painful.
If you avoid this action or decision, what might your life look like in 6 months, 12 months, and 3 years?
Get detailed in your description of how you are emotionally, physically, financially, etc.
This is a critical step in Fear Setting because we often worry about moving forward with a decision, but we rarely examine the status quo through a similar lens.
There’s a reason you don’t want to stay in the status quo and reflecting on this could mean the difference between moving forward and staying stuck.
Lindsay Ford is a parenting coach, certified in Positive Discipline, who helps struggling parents build cooperation in their young children and restore peace back into their home. She teaches parents to see the emotions under the misbehavior and identify effective strategies that fit their family. Visit www.thinkfeeldecide.com to get your FREE video course: Handle Tantrums Like a Pro (and keep your cool while you’re at it).