FOMO has come a long way since it’s early days as the subject of an HBS article written by Patrick McGinnis. It has become the driving force behind most of our stress in this interconnected world. Most experts associate it with Millennials and with social media. Searching for these words together gives us more than 600.000 Google results. The struggle with FOMO is real, and it’s hard to beat it.
In our hands, literally, we all have millions of actual opportunities. Your dream job, your soulmate and even something as small as your next meal are just a click or swipe away. This leads us to a never ending cycle of options, which can easily take over our schedule, our energy, and our mental state if left untreated. It can even make us physically ill. Have you ever felt under the weather during or after a very active season? Yup, that’s FOMO talking.
But, wait! Don’t run to Web M.D. in panic. I’m going to tell you a little bit about each symptom and how to treat it for a more balanced life.
A jam-packed schedule sounds like a dream for you, even if your body disagrees sometimes. The main symptom of FOMO is a constant need to take part in as many things as you can because you fear missing out on them. You feel like you need to go to this event or to that concert, or even to get an iPhone because you’re afraid of feeling out of place if you don't do it.
FOMO can also have you signing up for newsletters, following Pinterest boards and downloading apps with the intention of changing something in your life. But, how many of these are you still using some weeks later?
Trying to do everything and be everywhere will leave you with tons of gray hairs and little time to give your all to the few things that really matter. Ask yourself “What could happen if I miss this activity?”. Chances are, most of the time, your answers will be vague and it’s your mind scrambling around, trying to justify useless actions.
Your time and resources are precious, so try your best not to spend them in the next “hot thing”, if it isn’t something you really could use in the long term.
A surprising solution some FOMO sufferers have found to this conundrum is what I’d like to call a partial yes. You accept the invitation or say you’re “interested” in their Facebook event, but have one foot out, holding out for something else. This isn’t cool at all, especially if you end up double booking your schedule. Unfortunately, teleportation and holograms aren’t publically available to solve this issue.
Something similar has happened to Millennials when it comes to choosing a career. For many years, your parents probably told you that you could be anything you wanted to be. They did it to encourage you, but it could have led you a little unsure of which path to follow after high school. A lifelong commitment to a company or a career isn’t as appealing to Millennials as it is for other generations. Did you know that 91% of Millennials expect to last no more than three years in the same job?
Even though it sounds scary, saying yes or committing to something doesn’t permanently close the door to other options in the future. There are much better alternatives to keeping one finger on the eject button.
Your smartphone and other wireless tech are attached to your hands or surroundings. The first thing you check in the morning is your e-mail and social media profiles. Then, you do it again while you get ready, again at breakfast, again during your commute (hopefully not while driving)… you get the drill.
Social media and FOMO go hand in hand. I can even say that the first one fuels out the other. The more you're exposed to inspiring pictures or articles on how they made and you totally can too, the higher the risk of feeling a sense of wanting to know about everything and pursue anything that comes your way.
Every once in a while, put the phone down and shut down the tabs. Don’t miss out on what your present can bring because of FOMO on the next Kardashian controversy.
Sometimes, life happens. That work deadline is a lot tighter than you thought, or you really can't make it to that party or college alumni get together. The next morning, your timelines are full of pictures and videos of that event or that concert you were so-so about going.
A familiar ping hits your stomach and regret sweeps in. You feel bad for not using a stronger Tetris approach to your schedule to fit in this event. Or you feel jealous of others having a great time while you were grinding away at work or at Netflix. But, why do you feel regret? Is it because you really wanted to go or because you lost a chance for new photos for your Instagram?
Remember that when it comes to almost everything (except probably watching the Halley comet) there are always other opportunities lying ahead.
Because of the weight student debt has put into thousands of Millennials, many of you aren’t giving too much weight to ownership of things. Instead, several studies claim you focus more on having experiences: from the big ones, such as backpacking through Europe to the smaller ones, such as going out to that swanky new restaurant in town.
To have these experiences, many Millennials are playing with fire and using credit cards to pay for those overpriced drinks or overrated tourist attractions. As if it was a matter of accumulating badges of honor, they run the risk of incrementing their debt. This, combined with the fact that they’re making less money than their parents did, is asking for an uphill battle they might never win.
That doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself to something truly special. The key is to make sure whatever you pick (visiting Japan or trying the latest artisan beer), you’re doing it for the right reasons.
A quick glance to your Facebook can make you feel inadequate or unsure of your own path. Folks are getting married, traveling to amazing destinations, cozying up with bigwigs and even becoming entrepreneurs. And, meanwhile, you’re at home, having a case of the FOMOs while scrolling down your news feed.
When everyone seems to have a more amazing life than you, you fall prey to the game of comparisons and jealousy. This, combined with FOMO, can either give you a big push towards getting what you want or make you feel defeated in the invisible competition that life is. After all, you never see the behind the scenes and struggles those friends went through to get what they have -or seem to have-.
Everyone (even you!) shows off on Facebook their life’s highlight reel. If you’re going to have FOMO, let it be fear of missing out on your own path. Pursuing someone else’s… may end up being not so awesome in real life.
If two or more of these items resonate with you, then congratulations! you’re suffering from FOMO. Don’t be confused. Even though the spread of FOMO has made most famous Contagion movies seem like child’s play, there is a cure to this feeling. It does take plenty of discipline and focus on what’s really important, so even though it may feel like it, you won’t regret in your deathbed not drinking those 10$ cocktails on your credit card.
Start today! make the choice of taking control of your future and building the life you want. Make a clear plan and take small actions which can reap benefits in the long term. By focusing on what you envision, you’ll be able to keep FOMO away… or, at least, in check.