Recall a time when you missed out on something—a great sale, a happening party, or the inside joke everyone was talking about at work. Usually we strive to avoid these situations because we don’t want to be left with regrets, or a sense of being on the outside looking in. This perspective of being excluded from a rewarding or enjoyable experience is commonly labeled as the Fear Of Missing Out.
Historically, our brains are wired to look for threats to our survival. In our ancestral past, not being part of a group could have dire consequences for a lone individual. Today, though, this fear of being left out can translate into repetitive checking behaviors, as we constantly ping our social media and email accounts looking for the latest news and events. Paradoxically, these hyper-vigilant efforts don’t soothe our fears, instead they tend to increase our stress and anxiety.
We’re most susceptible to these effects when our baseline mood and satisfaction with life are low:
Fear Of Missing Out (or FOMO) underlies many of our decisions, yet there’s a lesser known acronym that’s worth exploring:
The Joy Of Missing Out can be defined as the pleasure and peace of mind you experience when not obsessing over what other people are saying or doing in your absence.
So in the spirit of simplifying our environment and letting go of stress, I’d like to invite you to release your anxiety about all the things that you aren’t seeing, sharing, or doing. In contrast, let’s practice placing our attention on what is present in our lives—the things we have which bring us authentic happiness. It’s a lot easier than you’d think, if you’re willing to surrender the idea that you must or should have it all.
Let’s start by acknowledging that our anxieties are real. One of the best ways to release these deep-seeded worries is to face them straight on. This post on moving through your fear can give you some help getting started.
If we want to reframe FOMO into a delicious opportunity to disconnect, then we need to start by recognizing what it is we’re afraid of happening. Only then can we examine the truth behind these limiting beliefs and make a choice which moves us towards happiness.
The common thoughts behind our FOMO:
Like all fears, this one starts with a grain of truth—the latest thing in that ad, those unopened emails, or that hip promotion might be cosmic. Yet when we obsess over not being in the loop or following the current fad, we’re falling prey to a scarcity mentality.
It’s important to remind ourselves how less can be more…
When you find your thoughts sinking into a spiral of wanting, consider that your life might continue to be just fine as it is. And in the long run, you might be better off for not having spent your time and energy chasing something that won’t last. By deliberately choosing to skip the newest fad, you’ll have more availability for the things that matter to you—which so often aren’t things at all.
Embrace the joy that comes from acknowledging you have enough, you are enough. You only have to start noticing what surrounds you. When you cherish and appreciate your life, you won’t miss a thing.
Despite clocks ticking down and threats of limited time offers, most of the sales we encounter aren’t especially time sensitive. They’ll come around again, likely with the same prices, so waiting for the right time makes sense.
And if they don’t? Occasionally a window of opportunity will close. In which case, we can admit it probably wasn’t the best choice or time in our life—because otherwise we would have pursued it without any doubts.
Choosing to set aside FOMO and let an occasion pass still leaves plenty of options to choose from. The fact is, we all have more choices than we could possibly sample. As human beings with limited time and resources, we’re going to miss quite a few because we can’t do or have it all.
So why miss even more opportunities by wasting time worrying about the ones that have already passed by?
Embrace the joy of having more time to pursue experiences you’re presently a part of—those that matter deeply to you.
Missing an amazing event or not understanding the “in-jokes” with your friends can leave you feeling less connected at the next gathering. But ask yourself, aren’t you living for more than keeping up with the latest gossip or trends? Do you desire more for your time—things that fulfill you or promise real achievement?
True friendships and meaningful relationships don’t live or die based on a single event. The people worth having in your life will still be there even if you miss out on a couple of occasions.
So embrace the joy of having the ability to choose how to spend your time. It’s a gift to be able to embrace the people with whom you share your precious moments.
I’ve certainly fallen prey to this insidious fear—that if we disconnect from what’s going on, or turn away from the constant stream of media and social updates, we’ll be less for it. It conjures up feelings of disappointment and rejection from childhood. In trying to avoid those painful emotions, we attempt to be available for anything, to keep up with everything.
The problem is that by opening ourselves up to every little thing, we stop living our own lives and instead become consumers of other people’s stories. Then we’re confronted with the suffering and longing for what we assume others are having.
And that’s when we actually experience less—not realizing it’s a self-created and self-perpetuated feeling of lack, which has little to do with missing a status update or an evening out.
To release this type of suffering, embrace the joy of living with less…
Less frantic following, less comparison, less feelings of inadequacy, less of letting your own life pass you by. By focusing on a few authentic connections, we create the opportunity for more genuine contentment.
For people suffering from these types of fears, embracing joy can be a real challenge. Fortunately, the shift is easier if we adjust our awareness. When we get all caught up in our anxieties about what might happen in our absence, our focus is external—on what we perceive might be better than what we currently have. As a result, we stop participating in our own lives and give attention to everything and everyone else.
But we can change the direction of our thoughts. We can tune into the real world surrounding us. Notice what happens when you’re mindful of the present moment. Try a focus on gratitude for what you have in order to chase away the fears of what you don’t.
The Small Step for this week is to consider what you’d like to start missing out on…
Read through the examples below and then grab this week’s free worksheet to find your very own source of JOMO.
Unsubscribe from sales pages that encourage you to obsess over what you don’t have. Or try a service like UnenrollMe to bundle them into something easily ignorable.
Create limits on your social media time, or delete an app from your mobile device if you can’t stop compulsive checking.
Set aside one day a week when you just say no to all invitations. Simply respond that you have prior commitments…no one else needs to know that they are with yourself.
Filter ads into junk mail boxes and toss weekly circulars. Stop paging through catalogues or window shopping at the mall.
As you practice letting go of your first small thing, you’ll likely notice the fears starting to creep back in. So pause for a moment, take a deep breath, and deliberately embrace the joy. Remember what you can do to move through those fears.
Make a point to observe and be grateful for what you do have…more time, more energy, more peace, more connection, more joy within your life.
For my own real-life example, I took a critical look at my creative writing resources. You see, I had a back-log of emails from a myriad of writing-related websites. And I felt compelled to save and read each one…as if somewhere buried in those posts was the miraculous key that would turn me into a better writer.
In reality, however, the years have taught me I didn’t need this avalanche of advice. Along with a few essential resources and two amazing instructors, all I really had to do was to keep putting words onto the page. Reframing my fear about missing out on these valuable tips allowed me to let go of most of my subscriptions, and devote more time to writing my own stories. This increased freedom of time and mental energy transformed my fears into joy…the joy of creating, of doing something I truly love.
I think we’ve all had moments of missing out that ended up being our best possible outcome. We just don’t often reflect and realize that our deepest experiences of peace and connection happen in the absence of many other options to which we’ve said no.
So instead of worrying about what your NOT seeing, sharing, doing or experiencing, try placing your awareness on:
Pay attention to the joy you feel when not obsessing over what everyone else is thinking or doing.
After all, it’s your life…if you’re present to what’s happening around you, then you’re not missing anything at all.