FOMO Desconstucted: The Optimizer’s Survival Guide to the Age of Overwhelm

“Want to join me for a hike today, Brian?”

A seemingly innocuous question from a pretty good friend who is a walking Pretty Good Joke Book. I truly wish the answer was as simple as the question seems.

The opportunity cost of every action and decision can drive an optimizer mad if left unchecked. Any given day yields some internal dialogue to the effect of:

  • You should get in nature and spend time with a friend, but no you shouldn’t because you did both yesterday and need time to catch up on life and success.
  • Have I over-rotated toward enjoying the present at the expense of progressing my future and goals? Am I in balance? Is it inherently impossible to be in balance if you constantly worry about being in balance?
  • I need to spend some time alone to upgrade my health by meditating, stretching, working out, walking, etc. But wouldn’t spending time in nature on a hike with a friend be better for my health anyway?
  • I should probably work on growing my business; lately I’ve been saying I want to be successful more than I act toward that end.
  • You could try to be a better guy, but to understand a Gemini, Angel, devil, it’s both him and I
  • I really need to finish my book. On second thought, who am I kidding, I’ll still be dealing with my same problems after finishing it. What’s the rush?
  • I didn’t call my cousin back and I told him I would this weekend. Should that take precedence over hiking with my buddy from the gym? Fortunately, I can apply my pricey Economics degree here to shed some light:
    • (better/closer/family friend)x(less personal of a communication medium) greater or less than (less good friend)*(more personal communication medium/in person)?
  • What’s my true north? Maybe I should just make Sunday’s a zero decision or plan day since I seem incapable of answering the simplest of questions at the end of the week.
  • What’s the over-under on the number of bullet points here until I look like a crazy person. Fairly confident I am within spitting distance.
  • If I decline his invite, will he stop inviting me to future events? (probability of decreased invites)*(degree to which I care)=FOMO level

Abundance has its downsides. Entire books have been written on the paradox of choice and how more choices and decisions inundates us to the point of decision fatigue and in my case, Sunday Funday utter collapse. 

Hell, as I am writing this I am in the kitchen with my family for Thanksgiving because I have the simultaneous fear of not finishing a post this week and of not spending enough time with my family. Both will suffer accordingly; something about trying to catch two rabbits you catch none. 

Enough diatribe asides,  let’s get to the guide part. Make one decision that solves an infinite number of others. For example, decide and set Sunday as your day to regroup and catch up on what you deem most important: reading, writing, stretching, etc. or what I’ve coined A & A – Align and Admin. If there is an earth-shatteringly good reason to break your Sunday ritual, so be it, but have it be a true anomaly.

The second piece is a bit harder to implement. If you’re feeling too exhausted or have too many variables on the table to run the optimizer mental algorithm, tap into your intuition/subconscious and make the decision you “know” you want to make. It’s usually what you know you want to do but are too afraid to voice it for fear of how others will perceive it. Respectful but honest communication is your new vehicle. If you try to please everyone you will both fail and destroy yourself in the process.

“Make your peace with the fact that saying ‘no’ often requires trading popularity for respect.”

Greg McKeown, Essentialism

P.S. As a third bonus that I don’t expect to be followed by most, try eliminating every phone app you really don’t need. In my case, Instagram and all dating apps. I can no longer relapse to these intermittently throughout the day. Find a new default. Pick up a book. Call a friend. Better yet, see one. Work on yourself harder than most.