Fomo, or fear of missing out, is real. And many a cozy night in has been ruined by it.
There you are, waiting for your illegal movie to download when you idly open your Facebook and Instagram just to see what’s up. And you spot your buddies and their partners on their weekend trip to Paris, clearly having The Best Time Ever without you. A variation on this happens all the time. Sometimes, you’re not even aware of what ruined your evening.Fomo happens because of insecurity about our own choices Click To Tweet
Fomo can eat away at your soul if you’re not careful. However, like any feeling, it can also teach you something important.
This post suggests some ways to use your fomo fits as a force for good in your life.
Fomo, as we know, is based on the perception that something awesome is happening elsewhere.
The thing is, around 90% of the time, that is probably an accurate perception. The perception isn’t inherently troubling, if you aren’t combining it with a negative judgment about where you are and what you’re doing.
And so a reasonable conclusion is that fomo is partly about insecurity over your choices. So overcoming fomo means developing more trust that the choices you are making for you are the best ones, which you do by being more connected with your values. We will talk about how you do that in a minute.
Anytime we are feeling fomo, there are two main possibilities:
- the dissatisfaction is purely brought about by a poor use of attention.
- you aren’t making the best choices and living a life that you love.
How do you know what fomo you have?
So how do you distinguish between fomo that is brought on by your awareness of choices, and fomo that hits the nerve of unfulfilled desires?
You have to know yourself well enough to understand what actually makes you happy. As I have written, developing self-knowledge is a challenging but urgent task in a person’s life.
The next part of this post is for you if you believe your fomo is generally a result of having so many choices.
What to do if you actually like your life
I have three suggestions for you.
Get a good mindfulness game
You’ll enjoy your life more if you practice mindfulness and gratitude. It’s cliche, but these things are what actually help you to be present and to fall more in love with what you do have.
I wrote about how to practice mindfulness here.
Grow up and make your peace with trade-offs
Additionally, you may have to be a grown up and make your peace with something hard: all choices involve trade-offs.
Practicing acceptance is very helpful here. Acceptance helps you to admit to yourself that yes, you are not doing the coolest thing every single moment, and sometimes, you feel like a turd. Personally, since practicing acceptance, I no longer feel obliged to feel anything other than what I am feeling. Which is a large relief.
The author John Steinbeck wrote it in a letter to his son: “Nothing good gets away.”
That sounded like a platitude when I first heard it, but it has stood the test of time in my life. There is nothing that I was upset to lose at the time I lost it, that I still want now.
We can never really know for sure what we have missed out on. We can speculate, but we cannot prove that what we chose was the inferior choice.
Use social media more wisely
If you use social media a lot, then you might have to calm down a bit.
Fomo isn’t new, but it is a hell of a lot more intense now, and we all know why: our ability to peruse other people’s lives (the good bits anyway). Our perceptions of other people’s lives is usually way out! Steven Furtick said it best: “Never compare your behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”
Tempering your social media use should help you to develop a deep work habit too.
The next part of this post applies if you fall into the second category: you feel that your fomo is a result of choices you are/are not making.
What to do if you dissatisfaction is legit
If you feel a little envy mingled in with your fomo, then take note. Envy is a huge clue that you aren’t doing the things you truly want to do.
For you, the advice is different: examine the source of your fomo before dismissing it, and possibly let that feeling drive new actions and adventure. Seen this way, feeling fomo can help you to grow and develop yourself.
Until we are a lot clearer on what exactly what gives us purpose and fun and meaning in life, then we need to expose ourselves to loads of different experiences. Only then will we know what to say no to.
People talk a lot these days about how important it is to say no to stuff. Here’s one such article.
I agree: saying no most of the time has changed my life for the better. But as I said, to know what to say no to, you have to say yes a lot. This is how we get clear on our values in life.Before you can say no a lot, you must say yes even more Click To Tweet
(You don’t need to try absolutely everything. That would be absurd! I can tell you, for example, that I’m probably not going to enjoy a swingers event. I don’t need to try it.)
Knowing what to say yes to
In knowing what experiences to say yes to, be aware of cognitive biases that can lead you to think you’ll enjoy something when you won’t.
Projection bias, for example, is ‘the tendency to overestimate how much our future selves share one’s current preferences, thoughts and values, thus leading to sub-optimal choices.’ A different cognitive bias, rosy retrospection, has us dwell on the favorable aspects of a past experience.
Some choices result in painful learning. In my mind, those are still ‘yes’ experiences.
Here are a few questions for self reflection, when you are deciding on a course of action.
- How will doing this likely make me feel?
- What are the costs of doing this?
- Will doing this take me closer to who I want to be?
- Is this broadly in line with what I value, even if the value is finding out about myself?
- What is it about doing this that is compelling?
- Am I just avoiding alone time?
- Do I feel curious about this?
- Might this add something new to my realm of knowledge/experience?
- Is it going to be fun?
Fear and inertia
Sometimes, it’s feelings such as laziness and fear that stops you from being fully mobilized by your fomo. Whatever the particular emotion is, know that you do have the power to subordinate it to your aspirations.
For me, the key skill is practicing mindfulness. That’ll help you to learn to surf the shifting tides of your moods instead of being thrown around by them.
Final thoughts on fomo
If you follow these suggestions, your fomo should be greatly reduced. I barely feel any fomo at all these days.
If you do start feeling the funk, you know what to do. Ask yourself: what has brought this on? And what do I need to do about it?