A chair and a bag on a hilll overlooking a blue ocean
A chair and a bag on a hilll overlooking a blue ocean
#FOMO #badforcreativity

FOMO is Destroying Your Work and Life; Drop It in the New Year

Paul Kiernan

Fomo, Fear of Missing Out. It has become a problem that mental health specialists are now weighing in on and warning us it could have serious negative repercussions on our lives.

Fomo, Fear of Missing Out. It has become a problem that mental health specialists are now weighing in on and warning us it could have serious negative repercussions on our lives. It’s been around for a long time and has become exacerbated by social media.

But it’s more than social media; it could affect how you’re running your business and how clients view your care and concern about their needs.

We’re not big on new year’s resolutions, but this behavior may be something you need to keep in check as the new year dawns, changes in business demand your attention be fuller, and you be more present.

Let’s look at FOMO and the subtle ways it controls you and how you can ease yourself away from it.

What is it

FOMO, fear of missing out, is a form of social anxiety that causes compulsive behavior that, if left unchecked, can become antisocial behavior that will damage your life and relationships in and outside work.

Boiled-down FOMO is being in one place but searching for a better place. If you’re socializing with friends but constantly checking your phone to find out where the better party or the more hip crowd is, then you’re in the midst of FOMO.

This fear of missing out on something better will actually work to make you miss everything that’s going on. It’s dangerous, personally, but what doe this behavior say to your clients and co-workers?

The damage it does

People who experience FOMO are unable to be in the moment. This means they don’t stop, look, listen and appreciate what is right in front of them because they “know” something better has to be going on somewhere else. Or they “know” that a particular group or individual is somewhere doing something that they just have to be a part of.

Think about how this must feel to the people throwing the party. They have taken time, planned, and laid out a wonderful evening, but you’re checking your phone to see if you have a “better offer.” So, what you’re telling the host is, this is fine, but I know I can do better.

This behavior is rude and off-putting, and it’s destructive. Eventually, you won't receive an invitation to anything, and you’ll be alone at home; you’ll no longer fear you’re missing; you’ll know you’re missing out.

Your relationships

Silhouettes of a couple in an argument

All romantic, friend, and business relationships need attention, time, care, and being present. Attention, honesty, and hanging in are all parts of keeping strong relationships in work and life. FOMO and the compulsive behavior it spawns are antithetical to forging good relationships.

Over time, friends and clients will feel they are not a priority to you and slowly drop away. Some may remain, but they will no longer be close friends, just acquaintances. As for clients, they may stay for a while, but eventually, your lack of care and attention will drive them away, and you’ll never build any true brand loyalty.

Your Job

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to get ahead and get a better job with higher pay, better benefits, vacation time, and the like. We all want to advance and get to a place where we’re happy in our work and comfortable in our lives.

But, if you’re constantly thinking about leaving your job because you “know” something is better out there, FOMO may be the problem.

Even if it is not the perfect job, being good at your job takes effort, concentration, time, and dedication. You should strive to be good at your job even if you won’t be doing this particular job forever.

If you’re constantly checking job sites, and talking to friends on the phone about better opportunities, eventually, your boss and co-workers will figure out what’s going on. Either you’ll get fired, or your co-workers will lose trust in you in that situation.

No one can trust you if they feel you’ve got one foot out the door all the time. They will resent you for wasting their time, not holding up your end of the work, and viewing them and the job as beneath you so much that you constantly look for a way out.

Your creativity

We discuss creativity a lot here, and that’s because it’s a driving force in a lot of work businesses do. If you’re a company that’s trying to up your creative game, FOMO will trip you up every time.

If your creative team is experiencing FOMO, they must be fully present. To be engaged creatively demands that you are a100% present in the room, with the people in the room and what’s being said. If your team has one eye on their phone, waiting for the new offer, they are not engaged in the creative endeavor at hand.

Creative work needs the participants to be open to whatever happens and to roll that into something else, some campaign or idea that will be the next step in the creative process. All the senses must be engaged, and all the participants must be present and participating fully.

Let’s use a brainstorming session, for example. In a brainstorming session, the idea is that everyone is present and engaged, ideas are being thrown out and written up on a whiteboard, and people are not allowed to say no, or any form of negative that won’t work, that’s dumb or any phrase that stops the progress. That’s how a good, productive brainstorming session works.

No, imagine in the middle of that; everyone is open, everyone is risking, and one team member continues to look at their phone. What does that say? It says I am not here; I don’t want to be here because I “know” there is a better job with better people elsewhere.

There goes the trust, focus, and possibilities of that brainstorming session.

a vortex of books

Why KNOW is in quotes

You keep seeing know in quotes because it's not true.

One of the symptoms of FOMO is knowing something better is going on without having any proof. People with FOMO think they know the world is passing them by; they think they know where the better party, the better job, and the more entertaining people are, so they keep searching.

This is very different from being somewhere and getting a text from a friend saying, hey, come quick, we’re at this party, and Sting just showed up, and he’s playing guitar; you’ve got to see this. In this situation, something quite remarkable happens, and you have a chance to witness it. It’s a fact.

With FOMO, there is no fact, no text; there is an underlying fear that something better might happen somewhere else. So the FOMO person just keeps searching and searching but never finds what they need.

This is a fact about FOMO; you’ll never get what you need. Even if you go to the must-be at party, if your life is infected with FOMO, that’s not going to be enough; you’ll still be looking for the better place.

The person experiencing FOMO does not KNOW; they just think they know. But they don’t.

Let 2023 be FOMO Free

It’s not easy if you’re deep into FOMO and are ruled by your social media accounts, but you need to dump this fear of missing out.

Here are a few things you can do to help. Stop comparing your life to the lives of others on social media. That’s the root of this insidious condition. You look at everyone's fun and exciting social media posts, think that’s how people live their lives all the time, and you want that. Why? Because you believe all the fun posts and don’t think for a moment that they have problems and struggles. You compare yourself to them, their exterior to your interior, and you think it’s lacking. So, stop. Stop comparing your life to others on social media.

Go somewhere and be fully present at the event and with the people there. Before you go to the party, set a timer. Give yourself one hour to be present, listen, talk and enjoy where you are at the moment. Do this for one hour, no checking your phone or texting to find out where something better is. One hour, be present and then see if you need to leave.

Listen. Yes, listen. Listen better, be present with the people you’re speaking with and listen to what they have to say. Listen and ask questions. Better listening forces you to be present, be in the moment, and connect. Once you’re engaging in active listening, you’re not thinking about where is a better place and who are the better people. This works in social and work settings; Better listening leads to deeper communication and stronger relationships.

It takes work, especially if you’ve been sucked into the social media machine and stuck there for a while. But, with effort, you can stop looking for the better thing, be more present, and start to experience the life you’re missing because you’re always looking elsewhere.

In 2023, enjoy where you are and who you’re with, and be in the moment more. You will be surprised what you have been missing.