FOMO threatens your enjoyment of life. Here’s how to beat it.
In our previous blog we addressed the concept of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and the dangers of being possessed by this insidious condition. FOMO plagues a growing portion of the population—people who either overcommit and fail to fulfill many of their commitments, or choose to avoid agreements and commitments as much as possible. In most cases, the motivation for their action or inaction is a fear that in making an agreement they are losing the chance to engage in other experiences that could result in greater personal gratification or satisfaction. A commonly-felt sentiment of many people who have FOMO is, “I like to keep my options open.”
Below we suggest 10 practices to help free you from the grip of FOMO and enhance the quality of your relationships as well as your overall well-being.
- Slow down. Most of us move at a faster pace than is necessary or beneficial to our best interests. Practice taking your time when eating, driving, talking, making love, or engaging in the tasks of everyday living. It can be helpful to post reminders of this intention in prominent places in order to support yourself. We used to have a sign in our kitchen that simply read, “Slow down.” It worked. Enlisting the support of others, particularly those with whom you live or with whom you have close relationships, can also be very helpful.
- Practice discernment in regard to distinguishing what is truly important and necessary from what is merely desirable, and choose to eliminate some of the things that don’t contribute to the deepening of the quality of your life experience. Be willing to say “no” to more things. This will provide you with more time to devote to those experiences that are more deeply rewarding. Remember: More isn’t necessarily better. Focus on the kinds of things that enhance the quality not the quantity of your experiences.
- Go for the experience, not the symbol. There are always going to be people we admire and perhaps envy. It’s “the grass is greener on the other side” syndrome. Envy can easily become resentment if we fail to recognize the opportunities available in our own lives to create experiences that are life-enhancing. Focusing on the experience—a feeling of accomplishment, adventure, connection, fun, self-respect, freedom—that underlies the object or symbol—wealth, marriage, a sports car, a luxurious home—helps us distinguish what is truly fulfilling from that which can only provide a temporary feeling of pleasure. Pleasure is wonderful, but an obsessive preoccupation with it can diminish our ability to experience the deeper fulfillment that comes from nourishing our soul.
- Be willing to not have it all. Needs are limited. Desires are endless. Accepting the essential futility of trying to fulfill every desire we have is much wiser than indulging all of our impulses for gratification. Prioritizing certain activities enables us to let go of others. Decide what your highest priorities are and focus on them. The word decide comes from the Latin decidere, which means “to cut off.” Deciding what to prioritize requires us to cut off other options, but makes it possible to give clearer attention to those have heart and meaning for us.
- One thing at a time. Even if those around us are multitasking, we don’t have to. Since the 1990s, psychologists have conducted experiments on the limits of multitasking, and the studies are conclusive: Subjects exhibited severe interference when asked to perform even very simple tasks simultaneously. The human brain can only respond to one action request at a time. Psychiatrist Edward M. Hallowell describes multitasking as a “mythical activity in which people believe they can perform two or more tasks simultaneously as effectively as one.” When people attempt to apply themselves to too many tasks at a time, they are usually not successful. When they are focused on a single task, and give their full attention to it, not only are they more likely to be successful in producing a high quality result, but their level of satisfaction while performing the task is much higher.
- Practice Mindfulness. Rather than chasing after what may be just an illusion of happiness, we can gently strive for the deep satisfaction that comes with the cultivation of mindfulness—the practice of being present in our lives and giving non-judgmental awareness to our moment-to-moment experience.Rather than desperately seeking rock star recognition, cultivate the mastery of enjoying mundane pleasures. Sylvia Boorstein’s book, Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There, provides insights into how you can integrate this practice into your life.
- Prioritize relationships over acquisitions. In terms of our well-being, quality relationships trump quantity of possessions and experiences every time. Investing time and energy in relationships, and cultivating the skills that they require, may be one of the best things that we can do to bring higher levels of fulfillment into our lives, which is a wonderful antidote to the compulsive activity that characterizes FOMO.
- Savor the moment. Take time to linger over pleasurable experiences rather than rushing through them in quest of the next thrill. Really smell the coffee (and the roses and the other delightful scents that you encounter). Take the time to thoroughly take pleasure in the sensory delights that enter into your field of awareness and cultivate the fine art of savoring the tastes, sights, and other sensations that you encounter in your daily life.
- Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Instead of chasing fantasies we believe will fulfill us, we can cultivate gratitude. This practice allows us to more deeply appreciate what we have rather than focusing on what we lack or desire. FOMO is fear of not having something that is necessary for our well being. Gratitude allows us to count the blessings in our life right now, in this moment, where life is actually going on.
- Enjoy the process. Integrating these practices into your life can be a labor of love and can be experienced as a blessing and an opportunity, rather than a series of obligations. Let yourself take pleasure in the the heightened level of relaxation and ease that comes into your life as you gift yourself with these experiences. It’s not just you—everyone in your life that benefits from losing FOMO!