If you are nervous about making the plunge into a major and exciting life change — whether professional or personal — or simply putting it off out of fear of the unknown, making yourself answer these seven questions can be your antidote. Write down your answers, and keep in mind that thinking a lot may not prove as fruitful or as prolific as simply brain-vomiting on the page.
1. Define your nightmare, the absolute worst that could happen if you did what you are considering.
What doubt, fears and “what-ifs” pop up as you consider the big changes you can — or need to — make? Envision them in painstaking detail. Would it be the end of your life? What would be the permanent impact, if any, on a scale of 1 to 10? Are these things really permanent? How likely do you think it is that they would actually happen?
2. What steps could you take to repair the damage or get things back on the upswing, even if temporarily?
Chances are, it’s easier than you imagine. How could you get things back under control?
3. What are the outcomes or benefits, both temporary and permanent, of more probable scenarios?
Now that you’ve defined the nightmare, what are the more probable or definite positive outcomes, whether internal (confidence, self-esteem, etc.) or external? What would the impact of these more-likely outcomes be on a scale of 1 to 10? How likely is it that you could produce at least a moderately good outcome? Have other people done this before and pulled it off?
4. If you were fired from your job today, what would you do to get things under financial control?
Imagine this scenario and run through questions 1 to 3 above. If you quit your job to test other options, how could you later get back on the same career track if you absolutely had to?
5. What are you putting off out of fear?
Usually, what we most fear doing is what we most need to do. That phone call, that conversation, whatever the action might be — it is fear of unknown outcomes that prevents us from doing what we need to do. Define the worst case, accept it and do it. I’ll repeat something you might consider tattooing on your forehead: What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do. As I have heard said, a person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.
6. What is it costing you — financially, emotionally, and physically — to postpone action? Don’t only evaluate the potential downside of action.
It is equally important to measure the atrocious cost of inaction. If you don’t pursue those things that excite you, where will you be in 1 year, 5 years and 10 years? How will you feel having allowed circumstance to impose itself upon you and having allowed 10 more years of your finite life to pass doing what you know will not fulfill you? If you telescope out 10 years and know with 100 percent certainty that it is a path of disappointment and regret, and if we define risk as “the likelihood of an irreversible negative outcome,” inaction is the greatest risk of all.
7. What are you waiting for?
If you cannot answer this without resorting to the BS answer of “good timing,” the answer is simple: You’re afraid, just like the rest of the world. Measure the cost of inaction, realize the unlikelihood and repairability of most missteps, and develop the most important habit of those who excel and enjoy doing so: action.
Excerpted from Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Tim Ferriss. Copyright © 2017 by Tim Ferriss. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.