Have you heard of this thing called FOMO? It's a popular buzzword with entrepreneurs these days, and it stands for the “Fear Of Missing Out”. The idea behind FOMO is that we say yes to everything that comes our way, because we're afraid if we say no to something we will miss out on an opportunity.
I've noticed that many people use this term as sort of a badge of honor, much like they use the term “workaholic”. Even though we know sacrificing our personal life for the sake of our job, or money, is not a good idea, nor is it an admirable quality, many people still seem to get some kind of collateral pleasure from identifying themselves as “workaholics”. As if it were a virtue.
FOMO Is the New Workaholism
I hear people using the term “FOMO” as if it, too, like “workaholic”, were some sort of damaging admission, but the undertone is clearly that they are really bragging about how much they are able to take on. How devoted and dedicated they are to “crushing it”.
Don't buy into this dangerous lie. The Fear Of Missing Out will actually cause you to miss out … on the most important opportunities in your life.
5 Ways the Fear Of Missing Out Causes You to Miss Out
- Takes You Out Of Presence. “Being present” is an important practice. It means you are focused on what you are doing, at this moment, where you are. It means you are actually listening to the person sitting across the table from you, rather than daydreaming, running through your to do list, or mentally cataloging how you're going to refute everything they just said. You and I both know it's possible to be in a meeting physically and not be mentally present. And while most of us understand that this can be risky (have you ever been called on to answer a specific question during a moment when you were not “present”?), we still do it. The Fear Of Missing Out definitely robs you of being present, because no matter what you are doing, there is a background channel running in your brain, constantly buzzing about all the other things you could be doing instead of what you are doing. Not fair to you, not fair to the people you're with.
- Leads to Fear. While this should be obvious, because of the name of the term FOMO, I think it is lost on most people. Especially those who seem to want to boast about their “Fear Of Missing Out”. Always having the sense that you are missing something tends to make you fearful. Some ways this shows up include fear of rejection, fear of loss, fear of failure, fear of appearing foolish, and fear of being “found out” as not being “on top of things”. Answer this question: do you operate at your best and highest level of capability when you are in a constant low-grade state of fear and anxiety? The answer, in case you don't know ,is a resounding “no”. Fear was designed to protect us from the lion about to pounce on us from the bushes, not to protect us from the fear that we will be the only one in the room hasn't read the latest article in Entrepreneur magazine. Unfounded, low-grade fear almost never improves the future, but certainly destroys the present.
- Leads to Depression. While the previous emotion (fear) is future-based (you are afraid of what might or might not happen in the future), depression is the other side of the coin. It is based on the past. As you contemplate your Fear Of Missing Out, it is possible to start cataloging all the times in the past you have missed out, and how that has cost you. Current neuropsychology demonstrates clearly that thinking about sad or depressing events from the past instantly lowers our self-esteem, and floods our brain with chemicals that lead to depression. Depressed people tend to be less than high achievers. Depression will definitely cause you to miss out. (If you suffer from clinical depression, this may be a completely different problem, and you should seek professional help. You can't “jolly your way out” of clinical depression, which is an actual brain disorder.
- Diminishes Brainpower. Turning again to the most current neuroscience, we discover that constant states of low-grade fear and anxiety shave points off your IQ. In other words, FOMO makes you stupid. Your decisions will not be a smart as they could be if you were free from this ridiculous fear you might be missing something. So, do you want to be one of the “cool kids” and brag about your “Fear Of Missing Out”, or do you want to be smart?
- Makes You Less Effective. This is the real capstone to my argument that you should abandon all association with the so-called “Fear Of Missing Out”. Coddling or cultivating this fear is really a way of secretly multitasking. Your mind is never on where you are, what you're doing, right now. It's always running two or three other threads simultaneously about what you could be doing instead. This is what I refer to as “hidden multitasking”. There is plenty of good research showing multitasking diminishes your effectiveness at everything you're doing. In fact, I've seen some reports indicate multitasking has the same effect as having several alcoholic beverages, or smoking marijuana. You certainly wouldn't come to work drunk or stoned. Yet if you indulge in this popular new “fear”, that's exactly what you're doing.
How to Stop Being Afraid You're Missing Out (and Stamp Out FOMO Forever)
Banishing FOMO is actually quite easy, and requires only three simple steps.
- Decide to do it. That means you don't “try”. It means you commit to the promise that you will no longer engage in this practice of “hidden multitasking”.
- Determine what is truly “essential” in your life. If you have no idea how to start this project, I recommend reading Essentialism by Greg McKeown.
- Declare a moratorium on thinking about all the things you “could be doing”. Once you have decided what is essential, have the courage of your convictions and focus only on the essential. Purposefully, willfully, and stubbornly ignore everything else.Let's put an end to the “Fear Of Missing Out” and instead begin declaring a Celebration Of Being On Purpose.