How to Make Important Career Decisions

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What happens when we lose the courage to make a decision and remain in the comfort zone of inaction? “You should define your fears instead of your goals,” says Tim Ferris in a 2017 TED Talk, sharing his method for making difficult decisions.

The Origin in Stoicism

Seneca was a Stoic philosopher. Stoicism is a philosophical doctrine with roots in ancient Greece. Stoics teach that happiness is not to be found in material wealth or external circumstances but in one’s thoughts and attitudes. By becoming independent of external influences and controlling reactions to the environment, one can, according to Stoic belief, lead a fulfilling life.

Stoicism offers a unique approach to facing challenges, with a central role played by a concept known as “negative visualization.” This involves vividly visualizing the worst possible outcome in detail to overcome the fear of making a decision.

"We suffer more often in imagination than in reality."


Tim Ferris, drawing inspiration from this Stoic method, developed what is known as “Fearsetting,” similar to goal setting.

A Guide to Fearsetting

  1. Under “What if I…?” the scenario is inserted, e.g., What if I quit my job? Under “Define,” you list 10 to 20 things that could happen if you make this decision.
    • Financial insecurity
    • Job search difficulties
  2. Under “Prevent,” you consider what you can do to prevent or mitigate the 10 to 20 points listed.
    • Create a financial emergency plan
    • Build a network and make connections
  3. Under “Repair,” you write down what actions you can take if the scenarios listed under “Define” should occur.
    • Utilize contacts with former colleagues or employers
    • Seek counseling or coaching for career reorientation
  4. In the next step, you note all the costs that would arise if you do not make this difficult decision and change nothing. Consider the emotional, physical, and financial aspects and note all the effects that could occur in 6 months, 1 year, and 3 years.

Tim Ferris’s Fearsetting method aims to define fears, actively counteract them, and recognize what we can actually control and what is beyond our control. While we may not always have control over external circumstances or the behavior of others, we can focus on our own reactions, attitudes, and actions, thereby overcoming fears and making courageous decisions.

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