How To Cope With FOMO
How do you choose what to attend and what to skip?
For my husband, it’s easy. He’s got a clear set of priorities and if something doesn’t fit into one of the buckets, he doesn’t do it. No anxiety, guilt or anguish before or after the fact.
All I can say is, “Wow. Can I have some of that?”
If you’re one of those lucky people who can parse through the myriad of choices we have in life dispassionately, the rest of us would like to learn from you.
FOMO Can Happen to Anyone
I was reminded of this when reading Jayne Ronayne’s post “The Conference Conundrum: FOMO” where she writes about the Fear of Missing Out when choosing which conferences to attend.
FOMO /‘foe-moe/ Fear of Missing Out
noun – Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere
– Oxford Dictionaries
As a longstanding FOMO sufferer (expert?), I had two reactions.
First, what a relief that there’s finally a 2-syllable diagnosis that I can even admit to in public. And second, I am not alone. Right now, I’m just loving the 21st Century and the Millenials (and fellow FOMO types) who coined the term!
All that said, it’s really worthwhile to get over the FOMO state of living. It’s exhausting and keeps us from doing our very best work. And the world needs us to do our very best.
4 Ways To Handle FOMO
Here are four strategies I’ve learned to cope with FOMO (well, actually I’m still working on it…!).
You can use logic if you’re a [left] brain type. Ask yourself these questions. The answers should clear a path to the best choice for you.
- What’s my ultimate goal?
- To what extent does this opportunity contribute to my achieving that goal?
- What is the likelihood of this opportunity (or a similar one) coming around again later?
- What the upside of saying yes versus the upside of saying no?
This is particularly helpful if you’re an empathizer (rather than a systemizer – see Simon Baron-Cohen’s book, The Essential Difference: Men, Women and the Extreme Male Brain) who doesn’t want to hurt people’s feelings, has a hard time saying no, and has a strong sense of obligation. In which case, here are a few questions to ask yourself before saying yes:
- What assumptions am I making about the other person’s feelings, and what proof do I have that they are accurate?
- Is it really going to hurt the other person if I say no?
- Am I projecting my own feelings and my worst fears onto them?
This one is about trusting your gut instincts. You have to create the conditions that allow those gut instincts to shine through. That means stepping back and creating a calm headspace to figure out the following:
- What’s a time when you felt truly in your element? That’s a 10 on your gut check scale of 1-10.
- Then think of how this opportunity makes you feel – how does it rate on the gut check scale?
- If it isn’t at least an 8, then don’t do it.
The truth is, of course there are other interesting events going on and you will be missing them. In fact, you’re missing things right now that you don’t even know exist. And is that ruining your life? No.
So stop worrying about making the wrong choices. Just choose one, learn from it, and make adjustments the next time if necessary. You’re going to have loads of choices to make.
Leaders Say No To FOMO
The bottom line is that if you’re going to be an effective leader, you’re going to need to make choices about how you spend your time, what projects you take on, and where you place your strategic chips.
That means staying “on mission”, and saying yes to only those things that keep you on the through-line to your goal. And keeping that FOMO under control.
Sometimes, saying no creates more opportunity than saying yes. And experience is what helps you make the right choices. So, the more choices you make, the better you’ll be at making them… and making them well.
Just keep choosing, and know that to succeed, we will by definition miss out on more things than we take on.
Now, what’s your best strategy for dealing with FOMO? Share it in the comments below.
As I advance in leadership, I find that FOMO is connected to removing myself from previous leadership tasks that I still oversee, but no longer directly oversee. I’m now training new people to take the projects that previously occupied my brain and my passion. I appreciated your comment about constantly making choices about how we spend our time. I’m challenging myself to support new leaders, and give them the freedom to evolve a project, while I internally shift to new projects. My missing insight in this shift was the experience of FOMO. Thanks for this insight!
Great comment, Erin. Thank you for sharing it. Sounds like you’re making a good transition – the very fact that you recognize these shifts need to be made puts you ahead of the game.
I find that having the pull of new challenges helps me “let go” of previous ones that I’ve mastered and allow someone else to enjoy mastering an “old” challenge (which is, of course, new to them!). So, maybe it’s leaning into your “shift to new projects” that can best draw you into a new way of spending your time and accelerate your leadership progress in the process.
I am struggling with myself how to learn say “no”. I have fear to miss out some events and not build relationships with people important for my network. Also I worry to hurt people if I say no.
I appreciated your comment that “saying no creates more opportunity than saying yes”. I will try to use this insight. Thanks for that!
Yes, it’s hard for most high achievers to say “no”. Saying “yes” has been part of your success – continuing to take on more and to challenge ourselves in order to learn and grow.
But at some point, we all max out, and saying “no” becomes even more critical to success. And there’s a way to say “no” with love and grace so you don’t hurt others’ feelings. Another tip is to say no right away if you’re going to say it at all – that way, it leaves people more time to readjust and invite someone else to take on the task. There’s nothing worse than the “slow no”…
I really connected with this post. I am constantly experiencing FOMO – obligating myself to say yes to everything! And I can see that it’s been impeding my ability to lead. Having these checks so that I can confront my own issue and get outside of my own head is fantastic. The next time FOMO kicks in, which it invariably will, it will be an opportunity to practice checking myself.
My strategy recently has been to be in clear communication from the get-go of feeling FOMO and not allowing myself to put off the issue and hope that it gets decided for me. I can’t succeed living by my old excuse that I am inherently indecisive. Being the leader of my own life and making decisions “on mission” is freeing.
It’s terrific that you now recognize those FOMO moments and declare them from the get-go, Renee. That’s the first step to making better choices. And even better that you’ve decided to be the leader of your own life. Thank you for sharing your strategy. Keep living free!