Methodically Examining Fears

As an organizational ombuds, I spend my days talking with students, faculty, staff, administrators, and parents about a wide variety of university related conflicts, issues, and concerns. As you might imagine, steeped in the conflicts, issues, and concerns are emotions such as grief, apathy, uncertainty, shame, abandonment, horror, and anger. When we dig a little deeper, we often find these particular emotions are rooted in fear. So, what can we do to address and mitigate the fear?

In his recent book First Serve Yourself, Vik Kapoor curates a variety of concepts and strategies to help you coach yourself. One of the strategies is Tim Ferriss’s “fear setting” process, which is based on the stoic philosophy “premeditation of fears”. This philosophy reflects on our fears and find ways to mitigate risk by exploring those fears from different angles. The process takes five to thirty minutes. Try it out!

  1. Think of something you are afraid of.
  2. What is the worse-case scenario?
  3. What can be done to prevent the worse-case scenario from occurring?
  4. What can you do to repair the situation if the worse-case scenario still happens?
  5. What are the benefits of success or partial success?
  6. What are the consequences of not taking the action you are afraid of?

Here’s an example: 

Fear: public speaking.

Define: You are afraid you will humiliate yourself during an important work presentation.

Prevent: You prepare thoroughly. You practice in front of the mirror. You get feedback from a trusted friend or colleague. You buy yourself a new outfit that makes you feel great!

Repair: You can follow up and share the information in a different format. You can attend a public speaking workshop. You can use the experience as a learning opportunity to change how you prepare next time. 

Benefits of success: You learn to accept success and failure. You develop new skills. You gain confidence.

Cost of inaction: You regret and feel bad about not sharing your experience or expertise. You are not considered for a potential promotion. You don’t earn the respect of your colleagues. 

Once you weigh all these factors, you can make better informed decisions and confidently take action.

Want to learn more about Vik’s book to improve your well-being and engage in self-coaching? Register for his lunch and learn slated for April 19, 2022! Register HERE!

By: Elizabeth Hill, Associate Director, University of Colorado Boulder

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