What Is FOMO

If you want to know more about FOMO, you’re in the right place.

You may not know this but the phrase FOMO was created by Patrick J. McGinnis, while he was a student at Harvard Business School.

What started as an acronym for the “fear of missing out” now has scholarly articles written about it due to the effects we’re seeing individually and collectively.

What Is FOMO?

The dictionary defines FOMO as, “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media.”

For example, if you aren’t at your sister-in-law’s event, and you see photos of it on Instagram, you might say you have major “FOMO” because you’re not there.

Even though FOMO is common lingo these days, it’s really interesting from a mindset perspective because of what’s happening in your brain.


How To Overcome FOMO

You can absolutely train your brain to stop having FOMO. It’s not easy, but it is possible.

You can shift into JOMO (the joy of missing out) instead.

JOMO takes the alternative approach: it’s being joyful knowing you made the best decision for you. You’re experiencing joy where you are instead of wishing you were somewhere else.

Here are my best tips to transition from FOMO to JOMO…

Tip 1: Understand the real cause of FOMO (in your brain)

You experience FOMO because you’re thinking a thought that’s causing the feeling of anxiety or lack. You fear there is a better option than what you are doing at the moment.

Typically, you experience FOMO after you check social media. But it’s not the Instagram photo that’s causing the photo. It’s your interpretation of the photo (your thought about it), that’s causing the anxiety.

The thought is from scarcity. It’s wishing you were somewhere you’re not. It’s thinking you’re going to be “left behind.”

This is not your fault. Your brain is doing its job. Your brain wants to be social (humans are social beings) and be included in the “pack.” Your brain also cares a lot about status. So, you want to be at “important” events (whatever deems important to you).

The thing is, there is always more to do. More events. More invitations. More fun things. At some point, it’s too much. And that’s when saying no has to be a priority.

This isn’t a problem until you see what other people are doing. Then you get up all in their business and have a thought like, “oh no, I wish I was there—I’m missing out on the fun.”

This is just your default thinking. You don’t have to keep these thoughts. You can change them (this is the work we do in Grow You).


Tip 2: Balance negative input (like social media) with positive input

While it’s always your thoughts that cause your feelings (i.e. how you think about the photo on Instagram that causes you to feel FOMO), that doesn’t mean you want to scroll social media all day.

In fact, the more you scroll on social media, the harder it is for you to manage your mind. There’s too much input for it to sort through. And if you’re trying to have a healthy mindset, it’s even harder.

What I suggest is to balance your input and output 1:1. This means for every 30 minutes of negative media you input (like the news or social media), you balance it with positive input (like a book, personal development podcast, etc).

This tip, however, presupposes you know what “negative input” is. Negative input doesn’t mean it’s bad, per se. I use social media and periodically watch the news.

Here’s what I mean by “negative input”…

The news and social media were both designed to be successful.

What makes the news successful? Ratings. How does the news get ratings? Putting “danger” on TV. Why does this work? Because our brains are always trying to protect us by looking for danger. We actually only want to watch the news to look out for what’s “dangerous” so we can stay safe. Our brains are always scanning for what is wrong. So, this is what news stations produce. If they produced all the good news happening all over the world, no one would watch.

Social media is similar. What makes social media platforms successful? People using the apps. How do companies get users to use their apps? By making social media really addictive to use (the scroll and feeds are designed based on our habits so we get a dopamine hit from usage).

When you watch the news or use social media, you’re “inputting” information into your brain (programming it) that’s negative because it either is altering your brain to danger (the news) or habitualizing it with false pleasures (social media).


Not great!

Of course, you don’t want to be a hermit and never use social media and you also probably want to stay informed.

SO, that brings me back to this point.

Balance your input. For every 1 negative, do 1 positive. This will help your brain out tremendously.

For more on this, listen to a podcast episode I did on this topic here: Input Vs. Output Podcast.

Tip 3: Practice mindfulness (such as 10 minutes of silence every day)

Mindfulness is an excellent way for you to overcome FOMO.

Mindfulness is the practice of being mindful. In fact, there are many ways to do this. I recommend and personally love 10 minutes of silence every day.

You sit in silence for 10 minutes near a window or somewhere different (not your desk or couch), and you just breathe. This is helpful because it’s a time for you to create space in your mind. And because FOMO starts in your mind, this is the perfect chance for you to overcome it.

If you make your mindful practice (like sitting in silence for 10 minutes per day) a daily practice, you’ll also start to look forward to it.

I can say for me that I love my 10 minutes of silence every day. I look forward to the designated time to slow down and feel good. It has genuinely increased my personal level of satisfaction. I highly recommend it!


Tip 4: Write down the thoughts and feelings you’re experiencing

Finally, I suggest coaching yourself by writing down the thoughts and feelings you’re experiencing when you feel FOMO.

Thoughts can be kind of “slick” in that they spiral quickly. If you write them down, there’s more certainty. From there, you can see what’s going on and change your thinking.

Depending on your level of FOMO, I particularly recommend this if you have a higher level. If you find yourself really experiencing lack, scarcity, comparison, and despair, and even a little jealousy, writing down the exact thought can really help.

For example, let’s say you log onto social and you see your friends having a good time, and you immediately think you’re experiencing FOMO. Write down the thought you’re thinking. It might be something like, “I wish I was there. I’m having major FOMO right now.” Then write down the feeling (in one word. Examples: lack, anxious, disappointment, worry, jealousy, etc).

So often we confuse our thoughts and feelings. Simply separating the thought from the feeling will increase your awareness exponentially. When this becomes a practice you’re on your way to blowing your own mind (this is the practice we do in Grow You).


A Final Note!

When you learn how to manage your mind, you take control of your life (and FOMO).

Then you can turn your FOMO into JOMO—the joy of missing out.

You can enjoy your decisions to NOT do things, and you can let others enjoy their choices, even if they’re different than yours.

For more on this, check out:

Bottom line: FOMO is modern-day fear. It’s what we as young people have now instead of what our ancestors had with respect to being excommunicated from the church or banished from the town.