The Biggest Distraction: FOMO

A coach's leg is chained to a squat rack to illustrate FOMO in the fitness business.

I know, I know: The other gym owners are running ads on your Facebook stream.

I’ve seen it too: The other gurus are all on Clubhouse.

I got the invite: All your members and coaches are going to Jamie’s house on Saturday night.

How can you do all this stuff? How do you fit it all in?

Or if you already know that you can’t do all of it, how do you choose? How do you withstand the pressure to show up, mark your territory and control the conversation?

How do you beat the FOMO?

Here’s Bonnie Skinner with the answer.


No Mo’ FOMO—Developing Your Mental Fitness


The fear of missing out is typically discussed as a worry or feeling of anxiety but is better understood as your brain’s response to input overload.  

At any given moment, your brain is receiving and processing an endless stream of information from your five senses—mostly outside of your conscious awareness.

As you sit there, your brain is receiving information about the feeling of your clothes against your skin, the taste of your morning coffee and any ambient background noise, all while taking in the words of this article. To conserve energy and manage the continual onslaught of information, your brain filters the input, only allowing what is deemed relevant into your conscious awareness.

While this shortcut helps keep your brain from information overload, it also increases the risk and worry that you might miss something of significance.

This is FOMO. 


Avoiding FOMO

The best tool for managing FOMO is a clear vision. The more clarity you have about what you are trying to accomplish, the more your brain can protect you from distractions. 

Consider this example: 

You have an afternoon of sales follow-ups booked to help you reach your monthly revenue target. Your friends send a text, not so gently pushing you to meet up with them for some post-lockdown patio time. As they plead their case, you remind yourself how close you are to hitting your target (which will be a monthly record) and how good it will feel. 

You turn and look at the whiteboard with your target and you start to feel a sense of re-commitment. You tell yourself you can always go for drinks but ignoring this goal will mean starting all over again next month. You decide to focus on hitting your goals and commit to making the calls. You tell your friend (and your brain) this is where your focus needs to be. Just like that: #NOMOFOMO!


What Causes FOMO?

FOMO results from ignoring the fact that missing out is inevitable and even necessary when you are pursuing something meaningful to you. By defining what your current focus needs to be (hitting the revenue target), you give your brain permission to stay focused on what is relevant (sales calls) and release the rest (patio time). 

You might still feel a little down about missing out, but here is the truth: You are always missing out on something. 

While you are reading this, you are missing the chance to snuggle with your special someone. While you are checking your email, you are missing a comical exchange in your group chat for friends.

Missing out is only a big deal if you make it a big deal. The emotional responses to missing out come from the story you tell yourself. If your story goes “poor me—I should have been there,” then missing out will feel crappy.

In contrast, if your story is about how you are choosing to stay focused on what matters most to you (based on your goals and vision), you will be less likely to feel stuck or sad.  


4 Steps to Avoiding FOMO


1. Clarify your overall vision. 

  • If you have large or long-term goals, make sure your complete vision is clear. This will help your brain decide what is relevant and what might be a distraction.
  • If parts of your vision are unclear, work with your mentor or take some time to reflect until things come back into focus. 


2. Break everything down into smaller steps. 

  • Break your annual goal down into quarterly goals. Break your quarterly goals down into monthly goals. Break your monthly goals down into weekly goals. Then break your weekly goals down into daily actions. 
  • Taking small steps helps your brain attend to only the information that is required in the moment, saving energy and reducing the risk of overwhelm. 


3. Accept that missing out might be necessary. 

Consciously and intentionally accepting the possibility of missing out reduces the emotional draw it has on you. By saying, “I choose to focus on X even if it means I may miss Y,” you program your brain to pay attention only to what will serve your current focus.  

4. Create space for downtime. 

FOMO might also occur when a need is continually ignored. If, for example, you have been working long days for weeks with little time to relax, distractions will feel harder to refuse. This can be avoided by building time into your schedule for rest, reflection and relaxation. No fun isn’t any fun at all.


Still Fearful?

If you have mastered the tactics above and still struggle with FOMO, it might be time for deeper investigation. To start this process, take out a piece of paper and work through the following questions until you have more clarity: 

  1. What am I afraid of missing? 
  2. Why is that important to me? 
  3. Does it conflict with my goals? 
  4. Am I able to find a compromise?
  5. Is there someone else I can ask for help with this? 


Your goals matter, but if they are to be achieved, you will need laser focus and a crystal-clear idea of what matters and what does not.

Optimizing your mental fitness means making sure your brain is working with and not against you. For more information on sharpening your focus and developing the six pillars of your mental fitness, check out www.yourmentalfitness.ca.

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