Today we are going to look at an interesting TED talk by a popular American author called Tim Ferriss. In his speech, he talks about a radical idea: defining our fears instead of our goals. He explains that humans are often afraid of failing, and so it is useful to think about failure so that we understand it is not so bad.


First, watch the TED talk. As always, don’t worry too much about understanding everything. Just try to glean the main idea, and follow as much as you can. It is ok to repeat a part of the video, but just think about watch it completely one time and absorbing the information naturally.



Here are some of the useful or important words that Tim Ferriss uses in his talk:

  • Suicide
  • Full-blown
  • Methodical
  • Self-destruction
  • Stoicism
  • Conversely
  • Simplicity
  • Incessant
  • Anxiety
  • Inaction

Get a dictionary and work out the meaning of each of these words. Ask yourself what the part of speech is for each word. How could it be changed into another part of speech and then used in a sentence?

For example, “He committed suicide. He was suicidal.”

Try filling in the blanks with some of those words:

  1. When trying to figure out a problem, it is helpful to take a ______1______ approach.
  2. The woman was depressed and thought about ____2____.
  3. The opposite is complexity is _____3____.
  4. I don’t like going out in public. I feel that I have a sort of social ____4____.
  5. Some people are worried about making a mistake, but it’s worse to regret _____5____.

(Answers are at the bottom of the page.)


Go back to the video and watch from 04:58. Try listening and filling in the blanks below:

And I did find a quote that made a ____1____ in my life, which was, “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality,” by Seneca the Younger, who was a famous Stoic ____2____. That took me to his letters, which took me to the exercise, “premeditatio malorum,” which means the pre-meditation of ____3____. In simple terms, this is visualizing the worst-case scenarios, in detail, that you fear, _____4____ you from taking action, so that you can take action to overcome that paralysis. My problem was monkey mind — super loud, very ____5____. Just thinking my way through problems doesn’t work. I needed to capture my thoughts ____6____. So I created a written exercise that I called “fear-setting,” like goal-setting, for myself. It consists of three pages. Super simple.


Here’s an IELTS speaking part 2 question:

Describe a goal that you hope to achieve in the future

You should say:

  • what this goal has to do with your life
  • when you started thinking about this goal
  • how you will achieve it

and explain why this goal is important for you.

This is my sample answer:

I have this sort of unrealistic goal for my future. Honestly, it seems silly to say it aloud but I really want it to come true. My dream is to sail around the world! I know, it sounds crazy because I can’t even sail! But just imagining it makes me so happy.

I started thinking about this goal when I was a kid. You see, I’ve always been fascinated by the sea. I’m in love with the mystery and beauty of the wild ocean and all the amazing animals in it. I love going to the beach and fishing and swimming. I’ve been on boats many times before and I always enjoy it, although I don’t know how to actually sail the boat.

Achieving this dream would probably cost a lot of money. As such, I don’t think it’s very realistic. I guess if I was to achieve it, I’d have to work hard and save up for many years, and then buy a boat. Of course, I’d need sailing lessons, too! There’s a lot of expensive equipment and all sorts of permits to arrange… but at the end of the day, it’s something I’ve always dreamed of and so I think it is important in a strange sort of way.

Fear-setting and Goal-setting in IELTS

How can this video help you with your IELTS preparation?

Everyone knows about goal-setting. Many students know what IELTS score they need for school or work or immigration. They say,

I need to get a band 6.5 by next January.

That’s good! Setting realistic, tangible goals is really important for success.

However, you may also want to consider fear-setting. This can help motivate you, too. It can help reduce some of the stress you face, and therefore make you more efficient at learning.



  1. Methodical
  2. Suicide
  3. Simplicity
  4. Anxiety
  5. Inaction


  1. big difference
  2. writer
  3. evils
  4. preventing
  5. incessant
  6. on paper