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Exploring the Perils of FOMO

Text and Image Copyright Notice. Published under copyright by Loveawake Chile. © Copyright 2010-2021. All rights reserved.

Most of us are pretty familiar with FOMO–the Fear Of Missing Out. Children who hate going to bed at night are prime examples of those with FOMO. However, the FOMO I’m concerned with usually strikes your freshman year of college when you are barraged with a smorgasbord of interesting people, clubs to join, and super-specific classes like African American Crime and Mystery Novels (yes, I took this class in college). You don’t want to waste one minute of this feast of fun, and you end up exhausting yourself trying to go to every documentary film showing, protest, panel discussion, and beer pong tournament on campus. FOMO then continues on indefinitely until you slow down, think of what’s the most important to you, and make it a priority. For those of us like myself who want to have it all, FOMO might seem like a great asset rather than a weakness to be managed.

However, FOMO can keep you from achieving your dreams in several ways:

1. It saps your time and energy.

If your dream is to start your own cleantech consulting firm, you are going to need to invest a considerable amount of time in networking, building experience and expertise in the field, and cultivating a client base. If you’re nickle-and-diming your day away on things that have little to do with achieving your dream, you’ll leave yourself little time to do the necessary tasks to getting closer to your goal. It’s important to be social, adventurous, and involved in your community, but it’s also important to take a moment to evaluate what percentage of your time you spend on low value-add activities as opposed to those that will get you closer to the things you want.

2. It saps your money.

Keeping up with the Cool Kids isn’t cheap. Whether you’re spending your money on plane tickets to weekend trips to Iceland (I go to Harvard. It happens.), tickets to every concert that rolls through town, or on buying the latest outfit that beckons to you from the shop window, you’re letting money that could be used on you and your dreams disappear. Now, if traveling, live music, or fashion is truly your passion, by all means, use your money to pursue what makes you happy. Just make sure to think about whether or not FOMO is driving your spending. Remember, this is your seed money for the boutique you’re going to open in Cambridge, the round-the-world trip you’re going to take with your best friend, or the natural hair salon you’re going to open in two years.

3. It silences your inner voice.

As you struggle to simulataneously listen to all the noise clanging around you, you slowly listen to your inner voice less and less. You’re too busy running in the rat race of trying to get or keep the prestigious job with the six-figure salary that you can barely hear the voice inside you saying you want to start your own ski school in Colorado. Meditation is the antithesis of FOMO in that you have to slow down, shut everything out, and just be. It’s when your mind and body relaxes and your inner voice has your full attention. Don’t confuse the chatty thoughts that chase you during meditation with your inner voice.

Combatting FOMO:

1. Admit you have a problem.

If you’re falling asleep in class, if you’re desk is so messy you can’t work at it, or if your refrigerator is completely empty because you haven’t eaten at home in a month, you have FOMO. You don’t sit still long enough to get any of the normal life maintenance things done. You just stay on the move, always saying things like, “I should really get that fixed/cancelled/cleaned.” Admitting that you have FOMO is the first step in reclaiming your energy, time, and money.

2. Reject the notion of boredom.

I believe that there is no such thing as boredom. There is always something you can be doing to get yourself closer to your goals. I don’t mean this in the “be industrious and hardworking” way (although that’s good too). I mean that when you feel a gnawing feeling of boredom on a random Thursday night, it’s your body telling you to pick up your paintbrush and finish that self-portrait you started two months ago. It is not your body telling you to check Facebook to see what bar the gang is hanging out at tonight. I usually find that after I’ve “cured” myself of boredom with some restless activity (which is usually some sort of unplanned adventure that I trick one of my friends into), I realize that I’ve forgotten to do something really important like apply for financial aid for school next year. I’m crossing my fingers now, hoping that FOMO isn’t going to keep me from getting my much-needed financial aid!

3. Snack instead of Gorge at the Smorgasbord.

Instead of joining eight committees at work, join one or two and find a role you really enjoy in each of them. Join your friends on the trip to Mexico but leave a day or two early to have some time to yourself before going back to school. You can tame the FOMO monster by feeding it enough to keep you social and active without letting it turn into a parasite that saps away your valuable time, energy, and money.

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