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Link between FOMO and work-life integration

People have three basic psychological needs: competence (I can do this), autonomy (I can decide if I want to do this), and connectedness (I belong in this group). FOMO is the result ofnot having one of the psychological needs met.

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The first time I heard about fear of missing out (FOMO) was on Hidden Brain, a podcast discussing social science. The research went like this: If you watched an excellent movie alone while your friends watched a mediocre movie together, you would be less happy. Your friends will be talking about the mediocre movie, and you can not partake in this conversation as you did not watch the movie.

FOMO is the

fear of missing out on an opportunity for social interaction, a novel experience, a profitable investment, or other satisfying events.

In other words, you can experience FOMO in every part of your life. How awful!

Where does FOMO come from?

People have three basic psychological needs: competence (I can do this), autonomy (I can decide if I want to do this), and connectedness (I belong in this group). This is based on self-determination theory, which is about being able to make (the right) choices.

FOMO is the result of not having one of the psychological needs met. If you think you cannot do something, you keep on looking for ways to learn the right skills. But not in a healthy way, but in a bad way. You put on too much pressure, do not plan properly, and end up doing tasks that do not help you accomplish your goals.

The fear of missing out on something is a big red flag, and it screams at you: SOMETHING IS MISSING IN YOUR LIFE. Instead of calmly reflecting on this fear, you start freaking out and jumping at the first opportunity to drown the voice inside of you. In scientific speak: You do not properly regulate your behavior.

Polish researchers have shown that FOMO can be traced back to not having a meaningful life . Teenagers who had a purpose for their life reported way lower levels of FOMO than those students who had no clear purpose. Having a meaningful life is like a guidebook helping you decide what you should or should not be doing.

Another driver of FOMO is the belief that time is a finite resource. I know that a day has 24 hours and that our time on earth is limited. But that explanation might just be a reflection of my (mostly) German upbringing. If time is limited, tasks need to be done on time, and bad things happen if you miss a deadline. Other cultures view time as cyclical. That means it is unlimited. You can not run out of time. Time can not be wasted. Based on that view, it is more important to do things right.

If you see time as a limited resource, you only have one shot at doing something on time. That is a recipe for FOMO. If you can not meet your friends today, you will have missed an opportunity to connect with them, and you will never ever get that chance back. However, if time is an unlimited resource, you have multiple opportunities. There is less pressure on doing a task, accepting a job offer, or paying for an experience right now. There will be a next time.

On consequence of FOMO.

A lot of studies on FOMO are about social media use. People have an unhealthy relationship with social media because they do not feel connected, and that’s why they constantly need to check their feed and what other people are up to. Clearly, this is unhealthy.

However, extending the conversation of FOMO to other life areas, it should be clear that its negative impact goes beyond spending too much time on your favorite social network sites. FOMO has a negative influence on people’s time.

When people experience FOMO they are not redeeming their time properly: With FOMO, people do not make the right decision. This means they are engaging in activities that are not meaningful or healthy for them. They are doing activities and tasks that do not help them fulfill their basic psychological needs but drain them even more. As a consequence, they feel rushed and have a unhealthy work-life integration.

Another consequence of FOMO is dissatisfaction. Often, people who experience FOMO are also not happy with their life. This is because they believe something is missing, and they are trying to fill this hole. But everything fails, and they only feel a greater sense of despair.

On how to not have FOMO

If you experience FOMO, there is help. For those living in western cultures, I think beginning to view time as cyclical and not linear is one of the best solutions. However, this isn’t easy, and you have to unlearn one of your fundamental world views.

Tip 1: Have a purpose in life

An easier solution is to develop a purpose in life. This means knowing your values and what you want to achieve in your life. Tania spoke last time about personal values. She described a little exercise to help you define your values, and I included it in this email as a little nudge to do this. I love this exercise because you can do it on a computer, or using pen & paper, or just think about your values while walking, driving, cycling, and swimming.

Make a list of the values you hold. This might help you with the list.
Choose 3-5 most important values
Think of the last choice you made. One professional (if you are working) and one personal.
Check to see if they were aligned with your values. If not, write down what you could have done differently to have them aligned.

Tip 2: Adopt JOMO

Did you know that the opposite of FOMO is JOMO, the joy of missing out? JOMO is about being happy that you are not doing certain activities. Of course, you can fake happiness and lie to yourself. But after a while, this will not work. Better is to sit down, stop worrying, and figure out why it is good that you are not doing a specific task or activity. Reflect on the experience and write out why you are happy that you are not doing it.

To wrap it up, people experience FOMO because one of their basic psychological needs isn’t fulfilled. This leads them to make less than ideal decisions about how to use their time. Consequently, their life is out of balance, and they do not achieve good work-life integration.

 

Tiny tips

1. Have a purpose in life

Know your values and what you want to achieve in your life. 

2. Adopt JOMO

JOMO is Joy of missing out. Reflect on the experience and write out why you are happy that you are not doing it.



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