Fight the FOMO with gratitude

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth.

Don’t let the fear of missing out ruin your chances at success

Have you ever had an itching need to attend a party at the cost of your schoolwork? It’s like you can’t help but wonder what exactly you would be missing out on. Your friends will probably have the time of their lives. They’ll probably run into Beyoncé and do the “Single Ladies” dance together, and you’ll miss out. Or at least that’s what your brain convinces you will happen. That’s FOMO knocking on your door.

For those who don’t know, FOMO is the online acronym for the “fear of missing out” on something. According to Boston Magazine, it was coined in 2000 by Dan Herman, a marketing strategist. An article in Time magazine highlights how FOMO is strong enough to make you pay less attention at school, and cunning enough to convince you that you’ve got your priorities all wrong. It’s a thought that strikes nearly every millennial to their core.

An article by Huffington Post presents studies showing how FOMO generates a sense of detachment and discontent in people, and that social media fuels these feelings. The fact is, many of us check our social media frequently—before sleeping, after waking up and even during meals. We just don’t want to miss out on anything.

Personally, I’ve come to realize that I experience FOMO when deciding what to eat. Sometimes, I’m scared to pick the wrong item from a menu—not because I’m worried it will taste bad, but because I don’t want to miss out on something better. Let’s be honest, most of us get nervous when thinking about missing out on a hot, cheesy burrito.

Truthfully, I believe the only way to overcome FOMO is to understand that focusing on your work moves you closer to achieving your goals. Temptations to postpone work will always be there—that will never change. What can change is your ability to say no to FOMO. But let’s be real: that’s easier said than done.

Let me paint you a picture. The day before a class quiz, I decided to spend the evening studying hard for it. I was happy to sacrifice my love of sleep—and then my phone rang (I probably should have kept it on silent). It was a friend calling to invite me to her house party that night. To make matters worse, I could hear “Single Ladies” playing in my head, tempting me to leave my room and go out. I started daydreaming: what if I meet a guy at the party and sparks fly? What if I miss out on all of that?

In that moment, I was convinced my decision to study was stupid because the quiz counted for just two per cent of my final mark. I started blaming my career choice for making me miss out on fun. Nonetheless, I’m proud to say that I chose to study that night. But it wasn’t easy for me to make that decision.

Two weeks later, here I am with a perfect score of 10 on the quiz. I realized that fulfilling your
goals brings greater happiness than the temporary pleasure of a party. Now, I am not saying you should only strive for long-term happiness. Rather, I believe moderation is the key.

According to an article in The New York Times, rewarding yourself for the hard work you’ve done is extremely valuable when battling FOMO. So, the next time you’re faced with FOMO, try to focus on your goals and pat yourself on the back when you do. When I was growing up, my parents used to get me a new pencil case whenever I got good grades. I am not that into pencil cases now, but I still like to reward myself when I work hard throughout the week.
I also remember to be grateful for the little things. According to the same Time article, research shows that feeling gratitude makes you a happier person, and it’s correlated to an objectively better life. Gratitude can also reduce someone’s FOMO, according to the same research. By practicing gratitude, I have stopped worrying about what events I might miss. It’s my weapon against FOMO.

Every time I am one step closer to my goal, I take a deep breath and thank myself for missing that party. I pay attention to how rewarding it is to work hard. To be honest, this practice is addictive. In fact, I now have a fear of missing out on thanking myself. Initially, it wasn’t easy for me, but cultivating strong, positive habits is always a work in progress. No pain, no gain. Right?

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

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