How to stop making decisions based on FEAR

Every decision you make is driven by 1 of 2 human emotions: HAPPINESS & FEAR.

That’s it!

Think about it for a second. Think of every decision you made, no matter how small or large.

You decided to save money? It’s either because you’re saving to buy something that makes you “happy”, or because you “fear” the unexpected in the future.

You decide to give to charity? HAPPINESS.

You check your spouse’s phone? FEAR.

You cook something you like? HAPPINESS.

You slow down when you see a police car? FEAR.

You ask someone to marry you? HAPPINESS.

You ask for a divorce? either HAPPINESS or FEAR.

Every single decision we make in our lives is driven by these 2 emotions. BUT WAIT!

We also know from extensive research in psychology that we DON’T FEEL THE MAXIMUM POWER OF THESE EMOTIONS WHEN THE ACTION HAPPENS, we feel these emotions mostly BEFORE they happen.

For example: research has shown that when you buy an expensive sports car, the maximum feeling of HAPPINESS happens :when you’re doing your research, shopping, test driving, and making the decision”.

This feeling of HAPPINESS starts to GRADUALLY FADE once you buy the car, and a year later, that feeling of HAPPINESS is almost gone (replaced by a far less powerful feeling of “satisfaction”).

It is always the ANTICIPATION and JOURNEY that brings the Happiness, NOT the destination.

It’s the same with FEAR.

Think about it: that VAST MAJORITY of the times you fear something, you FEAR something THAT HASN’T HAPPENED!

In fact, psychology research has also shown 2 things regarding FEAR:

- It is most powerful when you’re THINKING about the FUTURE (so you fear something hypothetical); and

- The vast majority of the things you fear NEVER ACTUALLY HAPPEN.

This is what Seneca is talking about in the quote in this picture: we often develop strong emotions of FEAR over something that hasn’t happened yet, and we let that fear of the “theoretical” drive our decisions!

Remember what I said earlier: all of our decisions are driven by Happiness or Fear.

So if we FEAR something that hasn’t happened (and most likely will never happen), then we’re making “life decisions” BASED ON FEARING SOMETHING WHICH WILL PROBABLY NEVER HAPPEN!

The way to overcome this is not that difficult (with practice):

1. Learn to identify which emotion is driving your decision. Stop, think, contemplate. Spend 5-10min writing down your decisions and which emotion (FEAR or HAPPINESS) is driving them.

2. Identify whether the source of the FEAR is REAL or THEORETICAL.

3. If it’s real, then what is the likelihood of that thing happening? 10%? 20%? 50%?

4. Have a plan to deal with it if it happens: having a plan removes one of the biggest reasons people suffer from anxiety: Uncertainty.

Finally, another powerful way to stop yourself from being driven by FEAR is to read and adopt Stoic philosophy.

When I discovered Stoicism a few years back, it radically changed my perspective on everything in my life. I almost never get upset, angry, or fearful.

Stoicism teaches you 3 EXTREMELY POWERFUL concepts for living:

1. Mentally rehearse the “worst case scenario” of everything in your life, including the loss of things you hold near and dear to your heart.

2. Develop a plan to deal with the “worst case scenario”, no matter how ugly the idea of it may be.

3. Teaches you to “accept” things you cannot change and be content and happy to just live with them.

These 3 powerful concepts will make you mentally resilient, tough, and far less likely to make decisions based on fear.

Additional resources:

Video: How to Develop Mental Toughness

Video: The Single Most Powerful Word to Live By

Article: How to build a resilient and anti-fragile mindset


Letter from a Stoic - Seneca

Antifragile - Nassim Taleb

Meditations - Marcus Aurelius