This is article #41 to be published on the Get The Guy blog from my brother Stephen. Steve helped co-write the Get The Guy book and is a wealth of knowledge on dating and relationships.
(Photo: Nicholas Shore)
You and your best friend are sat drinking coffee, when one of you gets a text:
“ARE YOU GUYS COMING OUT TONIGHT? THIS PARTY IS GONNA BE AMAZING!”
You ask your friend what she thinks. She tells you she’s not really up for partying tonight. To tell the truth neither are you. You’re both just enjoying hanging out together. Besides, you were both out late last night. The thought of drinking and dancing for a second consecutive night doesn’t fill you both with excitement.
But another thought enters your brain: What If I’m Missing Out?
What if your friends never shut up about this party you’re about to bail on?
What if the night you chose to stay home goes down in the annals of your friends’ collective histories as “THAT NIGHT” whose very mention for years to come will be greeted with riotous laughter, your friends doubling over with mirth when they remember “what Katie did with the barman” and “that way Mike danced on the stripper pole”.
Now your brain is polluted with a concoction of anxiety, indecision, and guilt and you can’t help but squander the next hours fretting over your decision to skip a potentially awesome event. You don’t really want to go, but you’re terrified of missing a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience with your friends.
This what we call FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).
What You Need To Know About FOMO
FOMO is a plague. It’s a disease that has gone viral in an age of Instagram pics and Facebook albums teeming with photos of your friends, all of whom are always having a better time than you are.
Nowadays, there’s not only the possibility that you might miss something awesome, but there’s a good chance that you missing out will be repeatedly rubbed in your face by a string of captured memories in profile pics all defined by one common feature: YOU’RE NOT IN THEM!
And so what happens? You either become:
(a) That person who never truly enjoys any decision because you always fear you are missing THE BEST PARTY EVER (i.e. you sit at home with your friend watching movies and both spend the entire night trying to decide whether or not to go out).
(b) That person who says yes to everything, even if it makes you miserable and isn’t what you want, simply because you can’t bear the thought of missing out.
The danger of FOMO is obvious then. It either leads you to constant dissatisfaction and anxiety, or leads you to live life on others’ terms instead of your own.
Luckily, this is a disease we know how to combat. But first you’re going to have to admit you have a problem. Only then can your read the steps below and start the course of medicine that will bring you back to sanity and control of your life once again:
Rule No. 1 – You are ALWAYS where the party is at
The best way to get over your fear of missing out is to realise that you don’t need to be someone who chases good time when you are someone who knows how to have a good time.
The more fun you’re able to have in your own company, the less you’ll worry about the company you’re missing at any time.
This is a mindset you have to get into, but it’s one of the most charismatic qualities you can have. The people we want to be around in life are those who seem to make an art out of every moment, and we want to be close to them whether they’re hanging out at home watching movies or letting loose at the wildest party in town.
Rule No. 2 – Stop buying into other people’s marketing
Facebook is a marketing game. People are always selling you an image of their life – memories look sweeter, romance looks brighter, and parties look WAY more fun.
If you live your life buying into this marketing game, you’ll never overcome the fear that someone is always doing something cooler than you are. Remember this is a trick. Even holidays have boring moments, and even the crowd you assume are the most fun are usually sitting around looking to each other to alleviate their own boredom.
Rule No. 3 – There are ALWAYS other nights
FOMO tells you that you’re missing a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Usually you’re just missing a night out, another trip, another day in the sun with friends that you can always do tomorrow. Or the next day. Or next week.
There are always other nights out. I don’t recommend this mindset for everything in your life, but do put it in perspective: Some experiences are truly once-in-a-lifetime, but for all the others you’ll get many more chances to indulge in them. Move on and look forward to the next one. If nothing else is on the horizon, start arranging your own fun night immediately and invite a great bunch to come and join you next week. Get excited by scheduling something fun in the future.
Rule No. 4 – Every second you are missing out SOMEWHERE
If you’re having a glamourous night in New York, someone is having a better night of debauchery in Vegas. While you’re enjoying a day out at your local beach, somewhere your best friend from pre-school is scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef. Oh, you’re tasting sushi in London? Well, that guy you fancied in college is sampling sashimi in Tokyo.
The competitive game of experience-junky-one-upmanship never ends. Be humbled by this and realise that, even people having the best nights of their life are being upstaged somewhere.
There’s no reason to be paranoid if you accept you’ll always be missing out somewhere in the grand scheme of things.
Rule No. 5 – Re-state your own purpose
Much of FOMO comes from lacking our own direction. We are looking to be led by others and reassured by our peers that we are spending our time on the right things, going to the right places, or more pathetically, being seen in the right places.
I’ve always found the easiest way to combat this is to re-connect with your own overriding purpose. What do you live for? How can you do something productive/passionate/fun/interesting in this moment? Even if you’re at home watching TV, couldn’t you spend that time even just watching a classic movie that you can talk about the next day, instead of just flicking through mindless reality shows? Maybe you can just use the time you’re at home to re-connect with a family member or old friend and do something positive for them.
Stuck in your studio for the night? Fine. Channel your inner Picasso and spend the night in your studio working away on something beautiful. Even if it’s tiny progress. The key to eliminating FOMO is to stop wasting the time you spend alone. Use the fact that you’re not doing what everyone else is doing to your advantage.
Rule No. 6 – Get Present and be grateful
This is the most spiritual sounding rule and also one of the most effective.
FOMO is really a symptom of not being grateful for what you have right now. You’re constantly dreaming of other potential moments instead of being thrilled with all the present moments you’re experiencing right now.
Do a 20-minute mindfulness meditation and then write down TEN things you are grateful for today. It might be hot water in the shower, the chance to call a loved one, the library of books on your shelves and all the art you have yet to discover. The more grateful you are for everything around you the less you feel like you’re missing anything at all outside of this moment.
Rule No. 7 – Some nights it’s good to be missed and loved
Not showing up for everything can be an advantage. It means you get to save your company for when you’re feeling on great form, instead of forcing it when you frankly have better things to do.
And sometimes not wanting to be at the party is just a sign you really do have better things to do. Better to leave and get them done rather than stay and worry all night.
Rule No. 8 – You never get FOMO when you’re kissing someone hot
Sometimes I like to take Fear Of Missing Out as a challenge. And that challenge is: Can I find something more memorable to do this evening/weekend than the thing I think I’m missing out on?
Are you missing out on your friend’s awesome weekend birthday trip to California? No problem, could you find yourself a date for Saturday night and end up kissing a hot guy instead? No-one gets FOMO when they know how to create great moments in their own life, and no-one wishes they were somewhere else when they’re having coffee and morning cuddles with a sexy co-worker (joke! Please for the love of God cuddle with people outside of your work).
Rule No. 9 – It’s not a crime to stay in, it is a crime to be bored doing it
FOMO can just be a sign that you’re not being creative enough.
If you truly were trying, you could find a thousand alternative ways to spend the night you’re missing out on. Do something instead that will make you feel proud the next morning, so that no matter what event you happened to forgo, you spent that time damn well (and now you’ve put yourself in a position to say ‘yes’ to another great night later).
For example, sometimes FOMO is inevitable because you have to work on a weekend, or because you’re behind on a big project you have to go home and finish. Just remember, in the grand scheme of things it’s probably better you save your career than have another picnic in the park with your friends that you can do anytime again.
Rule No. 10 – Don’t miss out on things for stupid reasons (like being behind on work!)
This is maybe the hardest rule to follow. I’ve often had FOMO in my life because I have to finish some piece of writing I’ve been putting off, and if I had only got it done earlier in my working hours I would now be free to hang out with my friends and have an enjoyable evening in their company.
This gets me angry about missing out because it means I’m missing out for a bad reason. If I had procrastinated less and got my work done on time, I wouldn’t have to skip events and stay up until 3am to finish a piece I should have handed in by 5pm.
To avoid this kind of remorse, the best tactic is to be more organised and have a stable, routine working life so that you’re more able to have spontaneous fun when the chance arises.
What are some of your ways of limiting your Fear Of Missing Out? Let me know in the comments below!
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