Embrace the Freedom of Missing Out

Think of missing out as creating margin in your life.

Over 2,600 hours of new podcast content is published every day. That’s 110 seconds of content produced every second.

Now, I love listening to podcasts while I walk or drive. They’re a phenomenal way to stay up-to-date. I subscribe to about thirty podcasts, but I don’t listen to every episode. I can’t devote 35–40 hours (over a fifth of my week) to staying current on every one.

By consciously choosing to miss out on some of the episodes—no matter how good they are—I’m giving myself the freedom to fill that time with something better.

Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / goodluz

In 2004, Patrick McGinnis wrote an op-ed for the Harvard Business School’s student newspaper. He posited two opposing forces that govern our social lives: FOMO and FOBO. The Fear Of Missing Out quickly latches on to any social opportunity because we don’t want to be left out. The Fear Of a Better Option holds us back, slow to commit because we want to make sure we’re committing to the best option available to us. This hesitation and constant scanning leads to a third fear, FODA, the Fear of Doing Anything, because any commitment might limit our options.

All three are manifestations of our human needs to feel important and have meaningful relationships. Somehow, one of our needs isn’t met, and in our rush to fill the hole, we start spiraling out of control. Pretty soon, we start to drift along, paralyzed by the thought of everything we’re not doing, unable to set a course.

So what do you do? The secret to combatting FOMO, FOBO, and FODA lies in understanding one simple, liberating truth and two letters.

First, the truth: You can do anything you want, but not everything you want. Tim Rice nailed it:

From the day we arrive on the planet
And blinking, step into the sun
There’s more to see than can ever be seen
More to do than can ever be done

“Circle of Life”, The Lion King

Podcasts are produced 110× faster than you can listen to them. Now add in YouTube videos, TV shows, movies, musicals, plays, concerts, recitals, poetry, songs, books, tweets, Facebook posts, parties, dinners, games, sporting events, lectures, classes, college degrees, TED talks… Some days, it feels like news happens faster than we can keep up with it.

We have more options for entertainment and enrichment than our grandparents ever dreamed of. But they’re just that: options. Not obligations. Catching some will enhance your life. Trying to catch everything will overwhelm you and ruin your life.

What you need to do is filter with two little letters: no. Select the best things you have available to you. Weed out the things that don’t make sense, the things that pull you away from what you most want to be doing.

When you first start filtering, it’s easy. There’s low-hanging fruit. Then the cutting gets tough. You’re going to start leaving some really good things on the cutting room floor. That’s fine; the stuff that makes the cut is even better.

We all have 168 hours in the week. They’re going to get filled with something. Choose to miss out on the low-value activities. Take your pick from the panoply of options before you. Make your grandparents jealous.

You don’t have time for everything. You have time for the best things, though.

Question: What did you choose to miss out on today? Share your thoughts in the comments, or on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.

About

Colter writes software and blogs about personal growth and productivity. He lives in Silicon Valley (California) with his wife and children, recently took up golf, and watches mostly British TV shows.

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