Inversion Thinking (Part 3): Why Goal Setting is Incomplete and How to Fix It

Access Part 1 in the series HERE.

In Part 2 in our series on inversion thinking, we learned from Charlie Munger and James Clear how we can avoid living a miserable life by learning to drive our brains in reverse.

Here in part 3 of our series on inversion thinking, I will be sharing a cool goal setting technique that fixes many of the limitations with traditional goal setting and helps us face our fears in the process. I first heard about this technique from a TedTalk presented by Tim Ferriss from 2017.

Tim Ferriss: Define Your Fears, Not Your Goals

Another form of exposure therapy is described by Tim Ferriss in his TedTalk , “Why you should define your fears instead of your goals”. In this presentation, Tim Ferriss shares a process that he calls “Fear Setting”

In his introduction, Ferriss shares how he struggles as a entrepreneur being bipolar. As a bipolar creative myself who also has an affinity for business and entrepreneurship, I really appreciate his candor/willingness to be open about his mental health struggles.

In a previous post I shared, I talked about the limitations of postive thinking. Our culture is inundated with this pseudo-scientific pop-culture psychology that leads to a very limited and naive way of interpreting the world.

Sure, having an optimistic outlook is better than the alternatives, but this optimism must be rational. This is why inversion thinking works so well. Not only is it more in line with the way our brains are wired, but it helps us forecast potential pitfalls and envision solutions ahead of time.

Lean Into Your “What If’s”…

Having combat related PTSD, something as simple as going to the grocery store when it’s busy can cause me anxiety. For this reason, I used to avoid grocery shopping alltogether. Thankfully, I learned about exposure therapy and gradually exposed myself to certain environments and no longer struggle as much as I used to.

On top of exposure therapy, I also lean into all the “what if’s” I start ruminating over a specific task or environment that may trigger me. By thinking of what if this happens… or what if this person does this… or what if I can’t do this… ahead of time, I’m able to define my fears, come up with prevention strategies, and create coping mechanisms ahead of time.

This. Works. Wonders.

It works so well that I now deploy this strategy in all my business planning and to my clients/their teams a version of it when I’m consulting.

Not Either or, but, both, And

I’m not saying to throw out the proverbial “baby” with the “bath water” here. Continue to set smart goals. Just add the fear-setting strategy to it to make your process more complete. This isn’t an “either or” situation. It’s more of a “both and” situation.

Lay out the things you want to accomplish… making them Specific, Measurable, Attainable (Add a Streach Goal), Relevant, and Time-based.

After you have done so, personalize Tim Ferriss’ “Fear Setting” process and tether it to your smart goals. Win, win!

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2 responses to “Inversion Thinking (Part 3): Why Goal Setting is Incomplete and How to Fix It”

  1. […] Inversion Thinking (Part 3): Why Goal Setting is Incomplete and How to Fix It […]


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