We all have fears of various kinds. Some are afraid of heights or spiders, while others fear people or the lack of them. And although we are to fear God alone, there is one fear that can easily cause us to make incorrect decisions because of its conniving approach. All fears move us to action, but there is one that I would highly encourage you to avoid. This is one that I’ve fallen to and hope to help you overcome. This fear is called the Fear of Missing out a.k.a. FOMO.
What Is It?
FOMO is really simple. It’s a form of herd mentality. It’s a mentality that presupposes that if you’re not part f the crowd then you must be missing out. And in fact you are missing out. You are, truly, not participating in that event. The question is, “what are you missing out on and what are my other options?” FOMO assumes you’re missing out on something good, something important, and something worthy of your time, energy, and effort. The underlying fear isn’t just missing out, but it’s a fear of non-belonging, a fear of forgoing being a part of something, experiencing joy of some kind. FOMO presupposes that that which you would miss out on, is most worthy cause.
If you search “FOMO” in google, you get the following: anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website. Rather than living the life that God has given us, rather than taking care of what’s in front of us, rather than working our own land, we are building up our discontent, covetousness, and envy by wasting our time looking at what others are doing.
Where’s the deception?
The problem with this, is that the presupposition isn’t based on your own judgement, but rather the judgement of the crowd. We typically make decisions on the fly. It’s not that we sit down to make a pros and cons list before every decision. They are made as we move along throughout the day or as we are having a group discussion of some sort. And as we gather in groups, we tend to equilibrium. We tend to make sure everyone is on board and that there aren’t any nails sticking out, otherwise you’ll get hammered.
I’ve had FOMO many times. There have been opportunities that I’ve given up simply because I didn’t want to miss out on what was going to happen with where I am now. One that comes to mind was when I had an opportunity to travel to a different state for the summer to do some door-to-door sales. Everything seemed to check out, the door was open, the ducks were in line. The only thing that didn’t was the question: At what relational cost? I didn’t want to miss out on a summer with my friends. The camping trips, the BBQ’s, the social gatherings. These priorities trumped my priority for working.
On the other hand, we can also have FOMO towards working. We might be selecting work over our relationships in the sense of fearing that we’ll miss out on opportunities for financial gain over our relational developments. I’ve had this experience as well. In an attempt to right the wrongs, I’ve feared missing out on work opportunities at the expense of relationships. What we often forget to keep in mind is that both are important.
So what do we do? We obviously can’t take an hour every time we approach a deadline for a decision. But there are thing we can do as part of our daily or weekly routine in order to clarify and align our priorities.
One approach, and I’m still learning this, is to decide on a time where we sit down specifically to review our current trajectory and adjust as needed. I don’t want to give specific processes for doing this. Nor do I want to give a specific amount of time or frequency of doing so, but rather for you to know that it ought to be done and it ought to be done frequently and without to much structure (at least in the beginning): start thinking on paper.
This also must be done with prayer, understanding that “a man plans his way but the Lord directs his steps.” I’ve tried following templates of various kinds, but found that unless you make it your own, it’ll be hard to follow. We can copy ideas from people, but I would hesitate to take the same exact approach as someone that you do not know. Once you have this down, decisions will be easier to make because you will be asking if the current decision is on track or does it require adjustments.
When you have FOMO, you fear missing out on what’s most important according to the crowd. The problem isn’t necessarily the missing out part, but rather that the priority of what’s important is determined by the crowd rather than intentional decision. To help solve this, it is important to take time to pray, think, contemplate, and then act. Our life isn’t one of thought alone, but one of impacting culture toward a Christ honoring life and advancing the kingdom that people may be blessed.