Fun to say, but not so fun to live with, FOMO – the Fear of Missing Out – drove me toward debt and burnout.
If you’re anything like me, around the age of 10 or 11 you started worrying about your clothing and hairstyle. Certain schoolmates were popular trendsetters, and their taste in fashion, music, movies, television, and even slang dominated the choices and behavior of everyone else. If you wanted to fit in and gain respect, you made sure not to miss school dances, sporting events, or parties. The Fear of Missing Out determined much of your behavior.
FOMO often continues into adulthood. We feel anxiety about missing activities, information, opportunities, trends, and connections that might make our lives better. We have the feeling that others are experiencing more fun and excitement than we are, and that we’re being left out of the good times.
FOMO made me want to keep up, to be noticed, included, and valued. But it also kept me from looking inward to discover what really mattered to me and pushed me to look outward at peers and influencers, desperate to have what they had and do what they did.
FOMO kept me crazy busy, unhappy, and unfulfilled.
You might be suffering from FOMO if you
• say yes when you’d really rather say no
• scroll endlessly through social media to see what others are doing and thinking
• obsessively check your phone for texts, tweets, and likes
• buy things you can’t afford to keep up with “everyone else”
• spend your days in a rush
• choose popularity and convenience over quality
• constantly compare and criticize yourself and others
• exhaust yourself (and your family) trying to do it all
Is there any way to overcome FOMO? Yes – we need to get real. We need to accept that we are gifted but finite, and start making choices based on our true needs and desires.
6 Ways to Face Reality and Overcome FOMO
1. Limit devices.
We say we keep our phones on in case someone needs to reach us or there’s an emergency. And then we act like everything is an emergency that needs our immediate attention. We respond to rings and dings and notifications as if our lives depend on it, and our attention is constantly diverted from what is real to whatever bits of information arrive on our devices. After all, who knows what we might miss if we don’t look at everything?
Find a way to make your devices good tools by setting limits for their use, and stop letting them take precedence over the people, work, and experiences happening right in front of you.
We often behave as if every bit of news, everything that slows us down, everything that doesn’t go exactly as we expect is a legitimate cause for drama and stress. We do nothing to help ourselves develop patience and tolerance. So every day we stumble from one “crisis” to the next, and may even feel a sense of self-importance about how many “dire” situations we face.
Choose to under-react. The reality is that sometimes things go smoothly and sometimes they don’t. Taking time to respond thoughtfully, with grace, will help you put the little difficulties into perspective and give you the resilience to handle the real problems that occur. You’ll have a better chance of making decisions based on fact rather than frustration and fear.
3. Say “Hell yeah!” or say no.
This rule comes from author and entrepreneur Derek Sivers. The reality is that we can’t do everything, and we shouldn’t. Busyness and over-commitment keep us tense and scattered. They rob us of the chance to focus on activities that are a perfect fit, where we will shine.
So if you can’t say yes wholeheartedly, don’t say “ok, I guess so.” Say no.
4. Take a break.
When we were kids and got tired, we took a break. In fact, our parents and teachers planned for them. They were called “nap time,” “recess,” and “bedtime,” and no one expected us to function all day every day without them.
We may be grown up now, but the reality is that we need to rest. We need to put away our to-do lists and relax in ways that make us feel happy and re-energized. We might need to sit quietly, take a walk, sing a song, paint a picture, read a book, climb a tree, or watch the sunset.
5. Go deep.
Which is more fulfilling – to push through a bucket list of 100 or more items just so we can say we did them, or to choose a handful of important experiences to savor?
The check-it-off-the-list FOMO-driven mindset is shallow. If we’re worried about missing something, we won’t be able to plumb the depths of what we really care about. If we’re struggling to keep up or catch up, we’ll have to hurry past the profound encounters that might change everything.
Be more like Henry David Thoreau, who chose to “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”
6. Give thanks.
FOMO is an attitude of lack and deprivation – the belief that something important is passing us by. Instead of paying attention to what we already possess, we’re chasing something else. We betray a lack of appreciation and gratitude.
When we start paying attention to the good things in our lives, and giving thanks for them, our sense of completeness grows. We’re less inclined to feel inadequate or covetous, and better able to find joy in the here and now.
Start a gratitude practice, and you’ll find that FOMO loses its grip.
About the Author: Karen Trefzger is a writer, singer, teacher, wife, mother, and grandmother who has been choosing a simpler life for over 20 years. She is the author of Minimalism A to Z, and blogs at MaximumGratitudeMinimalStuff.