Wikipedia describes FOMO or Fear of missing out as a form of social anxiety, whereby one is compulsively concerned that one might miss an opportunity for social interaction, a novel experience, profitable investment or other satisfying event.
I’m sure you’ve experienced FOMO at various times in your life. It turns out graduate school is a fantastic lab to study FOMO. Given the intensity of competition between various priorities, FOMO could be a huge problem if you let it. Author and Professor of psychology, Dan Ariely, claims that FOMO is fear of regret that we have made the wrong decision on how to spend our time as “you can imagine how things could be different.”
FOMO is the sort of problem that can plague us through our life. As business leaders, entrepreneurs, and investors, it will always be tempting to follow the latest fad. As parents, it will be tempting to push our kids towards the latest and greatest achievement. As people, we’ll be sorely tempted to try various external quick fixes in our own pursuit of happiness.
So, how do we avoid FOMO? Based on my limited experience, here’s 3 thoughts that might help –
1. Understand your core priorities. First, no matter what we do, understand why we’re doing what we’re doing and what our priorities are.
2. Do you own homework and go in with a hypothesis. The biggest cause for FOMO is when we don’t do our own homework. This lack of work can lead us to believe everyone else around us knows exactly what they’re doing. The solution to this is to always go into what we’re doing with a hypothesis. Top venture capital firms are increasingly adopting the idea of a thesis-driven approach to investing. And, the best hypotheses/theses are aligned firmly with core priorities.
3. Be willing to have discussions around your hypothesis and change your mind. No hypothesis/thesis is final, of course. It is completely okay to decide to change your mind after discussions. People around us often have incredible insights about us that will help us on our journey. But, at the risk of repeating myself, it matters that we always have a clear thesis that we’re testing. We’re the drivers here.
The underlying principle here is to shift focus from what everyone else around us is doing to what we’re doing. No one really knows what makes sense for us. That’s not to say we know much better but we probably have the best shot at it. So, let’s use the privileged position to figure out what would actually work.
In that sense, avoiding FOMO becomes really easy when we realize that it isn’t about “them.” This is all about us. It’s our life and it is up to us to make it meaningful, to make it count.