Do you have FOBO and FOMO?
When my brother and I were younger I remember my dad jokingly saying to Heath “When you say yes to one woman, what you’re really doing is saying no to millions of others.” It was meant to be funny, and I remember that we both laughed.
Setting all humor aside though commitmentphobia (the fear of commitments) is a really prevalent issue especially in my generation.
Priya Parker did a TED Talk back in 2011 where she defined two problems: one causes us to constantly be on the look out for new, better things to do and the other keeps people from committing. They’re known as:
- FOMO: the Fear Of Missing Out
- FOBO: the Fear Of Better Opportunities
The fear of missing out means that we’re interested in hearing about the latest happenings; it’s why we check Facebook while talking to our friends (or worse, on a date). But we also want to make sure that we have the best possible experience so the fear of a better opportunity coming up prevents us from committing to any one thing. So now instead of us being out having a good albeit perhaps slightly sub-optimal time with genuine friends we’re instead at home reading everyone else’s Twitter feeds and being jealous of everyone else’s Instagram photos.
A few good quotes from a CNN article by Priya Parker:
“The way I think about it metaphorically is choosing one door to walk through means all the other doors close, and there’s no ability to return back to that path,” one subject told me. “And so rather than actually go through any doorway, it’s better to stand in the atrium and gaze.”
“Those with the most options in this generation have a tendency to choose the option that keeps the most options open. Wrap your head around that for a second. It’s one of the reasons that management consulting has become so popular among today’s young elites.”
I recently read a book called Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. One of the things the author said was that “an essential intent is one decision that settles one thousand later decisions. It’s like deciding you’re going to become a doctor instead of a lawyer. One strategic choice eliminates a universe of other options and maps a course for the next five, ten, or even twenty years of your life. Once the big decision is made, all subsequent decisions come into better focus.”
So instead of being trapped in the atrium smug that you have so many doors in front of you to choose from, OPEN ONE OF THEM and move forward with your life! Figure out what your essential intent is because it’ll end up greatly simplifying your life.
In large organizations one term that gets thrown around is “high-potential”. The directors and executives can single out these high-potentials and help move them up in their careers. But one of my friends in HR told me that “you don’t actually want to be known as a high-potential. Because what that is really saying is that you haven’t accomplished anything yet!” Better to do something meaningful and be known for it than to have others think that one day you might be able to do something amazing but thus far you haven’t amounted to much.
“The Latin root of the word decision–cis or cid–literally means “to cut” or “to kill.” Similar words are scissors, homicide, or fratricide. “Since ultimately, having fewer options actually makes a decision easier on the eye and the brain, we must summon the discipline to get rid of options or activities that may be good, or even really good, but that get in the way.” -Greg McKeown
When Cortés needed to ensure that everyone on his expedition had no choice but to move forward with conquering the Aztec Empire he sank his own ships; he literally cut of the possibility of going home. And then he and his men were free to concentrate on the task at hand instead of being consumed with FOMO and FOBO. The sheer maintenance required to keep many options open can be extremely exhausting; eliminating options can take a huge weight off your shoulders! Even if you do end up doing something that is slightly less than the absolute best thing you could do, you’ll likely enjoy it more because you’ll be focusing on it instead of worrying about your opportunity cost.
At the risk of advertising that I’m a child of the ‘90’s Sheryl Crow said it best: “It’s not having what you want; it’s wanting what you got.” Happiness is not bestowed upon you; it comes from within. And being content with who you are and what you have is an important part of becoming truly happy! Don’t be so consumed with having the optimal experience that instead you have no experience at all.
One concrete examples that you can implement:
Play the Phone Stacking Game: once you sit down for a dinner everyone piles their phone upside down in the middle of the table. The first person to pick up their phone pays for everyone else. If the bill arrives and nobody has picked up their phone, everyone pays for themselves.