Do you ever find yourself dropping something you wanted to do, heading off to do something else more exciting instead; only to find when you get there the allure of the tantalising new offer didn’t meet up to your hopes and expectations?
Or perhaps you find yourself keeping multiple options open, only to realise at the last minute you’ve spread yourself too thinly, or feel so overwhelmed you make no plans at all. Perhaps you simply don’t know what you want to do and follow the crowd everywhere they go for fear of missing out.
FOMO or fear of missing out can strike anyone at any time, but social media often exacerbates it. Those glimpses into other people’s lives online spark a fear inside. Shouldn’t my life be that glamorous, exciting, adventurous and fun? Surely they must be happier, wealthier and more contented than me?
However this isn’t exclusive to the realms of the social stalker. I’m hearing it more with my clients – entrepreneurs who attend every course fearful of missing out on the next big idea, killer deal or crucial contact, parents with kids who are so busy from stacked schedules they’re burning out before they finish school, even highflying corporate clients who think they haven’t gone far enough in their careers to stand out from the crowd, and worry they will be passed over for promotion.
On the surface, FOMO looks like it’s about missing out on something we desire. Wilder parties, an all-important training, a better event with more connected people, something or someone who will propel us to greater things.
However from my work in this area I see the fear is rarely what it seems…
What’s really behind the fear of missing out?
FOMO is really a question of place. An anxiety caused from believing you’re not in the right place, and not being able to trust that where you are at any given time is right for you. When I’m coaching, I regularly see five roots that drive this anxiety:
A belief, often deeply hidden that something is lacking or missing inside of us. A fear that we’re not whole or complete and that we need the missing link – more confidence, more strength, more vulnerability, more authenticity, more power, more kindness, the list goes on. We think that by attending the conference, dinner party or concert we’ll fill the gap. Of course this rarely works for two reasons: firstly, the gap may not actually exist, and secondly, if you want to rebuild internally you have to do it from the inside out.
A lack of trust in who we are, or the world we live in, will quickly scatter us. When we feel scattered we start searching for something stable outside of us to hold onto as a way of creating certainty within the ambiguity. We look to people around us to provide this, hoping their idea, their vision, or their courage will stabilise us. The challenge with this is that the outside world will also be uncertain and we cannot control the uncontrollable.
A lack of grounding can also leave us feeling unstable. Like a tree with no roots being blown in the wind, we will be at the mercy of outside elements. When we’re not fully anchored in who we are, or what we want to create, FOMO is a fun avoidance strategy and a diversion that leads us away from the sometimes tricky path of our true calling. The truth is deep down we are always seeking to be on our true path, any diversion will leave us feeling quickly lost and dissatisfied.
Without our own vision to guide us, the fire of desire is extinguished. We need the tension that sits in the space between where we are, and where we want to be to propel us forwards. When it’s missing, we latch onto other people’s dreams and ambitions or the shiny ‘life saving’ training programmes so often dangled in front of us. The reality is that these are only ever quick fixes that leave us having to keep going around the same cycle time and time again.
A fear of our own power can lead us to play small, following other people’s bright ideas, advice and recommendations rather than steeping into our own brilliance. In this place we are easily led astray and sadly each time we move out of our own power we cheat on ourselves and those we are truly mean to serve.
So how do you tackle FOMO?
Well it’s interesting, but the simplest way to work on your FOMO is to flip the five points around – here’s how:
OK so it sounds cheesy to say, “believe in yourself” but this practice is actually key to loosing the grip of FOMO. It requires us to really live and breathe our true essence. For instance, to be confident enough to know that you’re not just the class clown, but you’re actually truly funny or to be OK if you’re not ‘mainstream’ but you’re adding value to the world by being different. To boldly be ourselves in each interaction knowing it enhances, not diminishes, those around us when we do.
In this context this is less about trusting other people, and more about trusting yourself and the world around you. To be able to tune into your intuition and let it guide you. To make a move and then watch how life responds – does it give you more of what you love or create a shit storm for you to clean up? Learn to read the subtleties of the signs of your life and trust yourself to follow what works and recalibrate what doesn’t.
Get rooted in who you are and what you stand for. Be clear on your values, your guiding principles. Know what makes you tick, what you want from life as you know it now, how do you want to live, how you want to feel. It’s going to make every decision you make much simpler. Promise.
Have a plan and hold it lightly. Know what you want and feel the discomfort of not being there yet. Be OK with the ambiguity of not knowing, and then take a step. Dance, experiment and see how life responds to your desires. Don’t worry if things don’t seem to work – you’re not doing anything wrong, you’re learning.
When you’re grounded in who you are, your essence, you instantly become more powerful. Not in a hierarchical sense because grounding is a great leveller, but you will emanate a personal power. It’s attractive and alluring because you shine more brightly from this place. People will be drawn to you.
In fact from this space you are unlikely to experience FOMO, because now you’re living your life just the way you’re meant to for you. And that was the thing you were always most scared of missing out on.