The Fear of Missing Out
Even before the digital age, mankind has come up with thousands of innovative ideas including technology. With the advancement of modern developments, these thousands mixed with the limitless possibilities of the digital space have evolved into billions. In finance, currencies have evolved to more than just dollars or euros; we have successfully stepped into an age where in the digital space has its own cryptocurrency, and these developments are changing the way startups, companies and businesses are being formed.
The unlimited number of possibilities could induce what I call Business FOMO or the problem with having too many business ideas. The term FOMO literally means “fear of missing out”, which could basically refer to a condition wherein a person would literally grab all kinds of ‘opportunities’ without filtering or discerning which kinds of activities should be prioritized.
Many freelancers are guilty of having business FOMO, and the overused cliché “Jack of all trades, master of none” could easily be a personification of this theory. Freelancers tend to grab every job or work opportunity without thinking about what they really want to achieve in the long run. While some have mastered their craft and have honed their own niche in the long run, a lot are guilty of spreading themselves too thin in the beginning especially where jobs are concerned.
Barry Schwartz wrote about the “Parody of Choice” as a way to describe the dilemma of living in a world with too many choices available. In his TED Talk, he says that “with so many options to choose from, people find it very difficult to choose at all”. The statement basically means that the more choices are present, the less likely you’d be to arrive at a clear decision. This is true in any facet of life, and more so in a business or career sense.
The Problems with Having Too Many Choices
A person experiences paralysis instead of liberation. An individual ends up less satisfied with the result of the choice from many than if there were only a limited number of options to choose from. The more options that there are, the easier it would be to see the better qualities of the options that have been rejected; while fewer options tend to make a person more satisfied with the result.
There was a study that was conducted on different flavors of jams, where people were introduced to each one and made to choose which one they liked best. With only 6 flavors to choose from, 40% of the people tasted at least one of the jams and 12% purchased some; however, when there were 24 flavors to choose from, 60% had tasted but only 2% purchased any.
Apparently, the paralysis is a direct result of having too many available choices. You’re crippled from making a decision because of the fear of regretting the wrong choice so you end up not making any at all. That’s how I currently feel about entrepreneurship and career choices at the moment. I’m struggling like crazy on what I want my future to be, and what I really decide to commit 100% of my time into creating. By the end of 2017, I threw myself in all directions since I couldn’t decide on committing to a single thing; and I didn’t make a concrete decision because I was so afraid of making a wrong one.
Another problem with having too many options is known as opportunity cost. It comes from the principle that we often find value on a thing depending on what we compare it to, and the problem with having too many things to compare to is that it is easy to highlight the strong points of other options.
Personally, I was worried that if I took the wrong direction then the opportunity cost would be way too big. However, the problems with not making a decision outweigh the cons of going in what we perceive to be ‘the wrong direction’. The inability to choose is problematic especially in a business sense, because of the following reasons:
- You’re not getting ahead.
- You’re not learning about a path and its compatibility with your goals.
- You’re not moving any closer to your goals since you don’t know which options don’t work for you and your plans. In an entrepreneurial sense, you are not spending your time to gain valuable knowledge of what your customers want or don’t want.
Talking to my entrepreneur friends made me realize that we’re guilty of the same thing: the inability to focus on a single idea. They are so distracted, running in different directions that they don’t have enough time to build a foundation and focus on the real business so they can’t get ahead in the way that they want to.
I’ve felt it for about a year now. Ever since my last business went downhill, I was looking for different ways and exploring various ideas. I had to choose one idea from the thousands of ideas, and one business industry from hundreds. I have tons of ideas and that’s not the problem. The real issue was making a decision and fully committing to it.
So, to remedy my indecision, I told myself that I’m taking a step back this year just to get my mind fixed, to learn all the problems that other people have and to find a service or product to invest and commit into.
Getting Rid of Business FOMO
It’s not easy being paralyzed by the fear of making a choice, and I realized that I’m not alone in this struggle. I’ve come up with solutions to overcome my own indecisiveness, and I hope that these steps could somehow help another person who has found himself or herself in the same decision black hole. Here are some of the things I think would help:
- Just pick an option, it doesn’t have to be the best one, but it can be the most convenient or most feasible one. It helps when you stop thinking about all the other options once you choose and commit to one. You can list down all your ideas and maybe come back to them in 6 or 9 months when your first attempt doesn’t work out. What’s important is that you start.
- Practice patience. People nowadays, especially with the onslaught of the digital age, expect immediate results. Personally, I was impatient about a lot of things and when I didn’t immediately see the results that I wanted to have, I was quick to switch to other tracks. Patience is very important in going to the kind of direction you want.
- Take a step back to look at the bigger picture and concentrate on that one choice that you made. Make sure that you focus and work properly. I focus a lot on meditation and I do a job that I may not enjoy fully, but allows me to look into a lot of things. I get to see business people, businesses and the kind of struggles that they face. It gives me the chance to reevaluate my own frustrations, and it also gives me the motivation to continue another path, as soon as I’m ready.
- If you’re not doing anything else, work on yourself. About 2 years ago, my self-worth was very attached to accomplishments. Eventually, I realize that I was putting myself down and I should be more focused on the worth of my ideas and their potential.
- Enjoy and be passionate about your craft. Focus on the execution and not just the idea or concept. Enjoy the process of taking an idea, nurturing it and eventually developing it into something great. I believe that everyone has the potential to come up with a blockbuster idea with the right execution; and at the same time, a great idea with terrible execution will look like a terrible idea as well.
- Do what you are truly passionate and interested about. Think about what you would like to do even if you weren’t paid for it. I believe that this is really true, especially since I’m in that point of re-discovering my passion and interests. If you want to pursue something, make sure that the idea is where your interest lies; otherwise, you will just be wasting your time chasing a path that you won’t be passionate about in the long run. Don’t do something because it’s “hip” or “cool”, do it because you like it.
They say that different folks operate in different strokes, and while I may find that these work for me, they may not work for everyone. The main point of conquering the paradox of choice is to just decide and accept all the possible outcomes that those decisions. Anyway, in life, as long as you keep on moving forward, you can never truly lose. You can only gain victory or gain experience and lessons, and each venture should be a step closer to the future or goal you want to eventually have.