2 Ways Your FOMO is Killing Your Focus
And ONE simply agonizing way to fix it
This is not a goal-setting article. We all know how to set a freaking goal and create steps to achieve it. So, if you’re looking to get S.M.A.R.T., move along buddy. You won’t find that here.
If you’ve stuck around, you’re likely well-versed in setting yourself up for goal achievement. But you also are probably sticking around because you’re not completely content with the way things have worked out so far.
Welcome to the club.
If you set a tangible aim years ago and you still feel you aren’t reaching it, it is highly likely your FOMO is getting in the way. FOMO, you ask? Like, the fear of missing out that a teenager might experience when she is grounded and can’t go to the mall? Yes. Like that. Sorry grownups, we have it too.
When we experience FOMO, we take on new projects that divert us from our original goals. “I’d never do that,” you say. I said that, too. But it’s so easy to create exceptions. Let me explain.
Let’s say your principal aim is to build a business and you see a friend in Instagram running a marathon. “I’d like to run a marathon,” you say. It’ll take place of my regularly scheduled workouts. So, you sign up and get to running.
But, two months into training, you’re rocking 12-mile runs which take you a total of two hours (much longer than your regularly scheduled workout time). Then, for the following two months, you spend even more of your time and focus running, recovering, plotting routes, buying gear, etc. Eventually, you’ve spent upwards of 40 extra hours on your new hobby. Bingo! Your FOMO has pushed you away from your principal aim.
I remember dancing on Broadway in the ensemble and understudying leads. I decided that, in order to have a better chance at actually booking leads in musicals, I should go to Los Angeles, get a series regular role on a television show, and then use that clout to come back to New York and vie for roles in musicals. All my friends were doing it, so I figured I would as well.
Television, my friends, is a very different goal than Broadway. I spent years pursuing television and then lost my momentum on the great white way. I soon shifted my primary focus to higher education, and never made it back to New York. Again, FOMO reared its ugly head (in more ways than one).
Primary focus is everything.
And, it’s one of the main indicators of someone who will succeed. In her brilliant book Grit, Angela Duckworth says:
“Grit is about holding the same top-level goal for a very long time. Furthermore, this “life philosophy,” as Pete Carroll might put it, is so interesting and important that it organizes a great deal of your waking activity. In very gritty people, most mid-level and low-level goals are, in some way or another, related to that ultimate goal. In contrast, a lack of grit can come from having less coherent goal structures.”
The goal is to have one goal. And to not let FOMO get in the way. It’s difficult in today’s world. It’s also difficult when you have a family. But at the end of the day, the more focused you can be, the less distracted you can become, the more success you’re bound to earn.
So how, exactly, does FOMO kill your focus? Well, there are two ways. It can eat away at your focus from the inside and from the outside.
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FOMO and time
The most obvious way FOMO is killing your focus is that it is taking time away from your primary goal. No matter how small an obligation seems to be, it still reduces your time and effectiveness in working toward your main objective.
Let’s say your goal is to become a full-time content creator, but you decide to join your friends for a wine tasting weekend. If you need the break/vacation, awesome. Bust a move. You will return refreshed (maybe you’ll even write about it!). But, if you just have FOMO and agree to go because you don’t want to miss out, you have just taken time away from your content creation career.
And like it or not, if you have kids and raising them is not your primary aim, they’re taking away from your time spent on your goal as well. Now, I’m not saying not to take care of your family, but it’s important to be aware that duties to a family split your focus. If you don’t have kids, this is something to think about before heading down that road. If you do have kids, this reminder might help you maximize quality time.
When you look at your calendar, if you are not spending the majority of your time working toward your primary goal, it is highly likely you will not be as successful as you probably want to be.
FOMO confuses people
A second way FOMO is killing your focus is that it confuses people. Yes, we all know that we all are complex human beings with multiple talents and interests, but we tend to put each other in boxes for simplicity’s sake. Sandra is an interior designer. Greta designs websites. Norbert is a yoga teacher.
This is not only helpful for helping people get a baseline for remembering you, but it is also helpful when the are looking for someone. I will call Greta when I need my website redesigned and I will call Sandra when I want to redo my living room. If Ingrid is a content creator and entrepreneur who has an Etsy shop, teaches yoga, coaches little league, and acts in commercials, it is very hard to remember everything Ingrid does.
The next time I am looking for a yoga instructor, will I call Norbert who only does yoga or Ingrid who does…well, you probably won’t remember everything she does enough to pinpoint the yoga.
You get the idea. FOMO confuses people.
And if you don’t tell people your principal aim — what you really want — they can’t help you make the connections to get there.
What to do about it
You know what I’m going to say. It’s simple and maddeningly difficult. The simple answer to this conundrum is to…say no. Even when the opportunity is exciting, the answer should be no.
With each extraneous project you turn down, you gain time to work on your principal goal and you solidify your goal in the eyes of others who can help you along the way.
And if you reeeeeally want to say yes to something that isn’t related to the one thing you want to achieve more than anything else right now? Well then, maybe you should reconsider what you are aiming for. Maybe you are working toward the wrong goal.
Last but not least, you can want many things. I know I do. But, I know that the fewer goals I focus on, the faster I can achieve them. One at a time. So, the next time you’re feeling like signing up to take adult karate lessons, joining the PTA, or starting a book club, consider your primary objective. And consider whether you can afford to lose that small amount of focus in your pursuit of your main goal. Bye bye, FOMO. Hello, success.
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Thank you for reading!