October 3, 2018

Move over, FOMO, there’s a new acronym in town.

You’re by now well-acquainted with FOMO—the all-too-real Fear of Missing Out. On what, you ask? Well, everything your friends are doing: all those Italy vacations on Instagram, the late-night drinks you skipped because you needed your eight hours. With every choice we make, there are 16 “coulda shoulda woulda” options you left on the side.

But there’s another kind of guilt I want to talk about—it’s a self-directed FOMO.

Have you ever felt guilty for not doing all the things you know you’re capable of? Because, sure, you could start that podcast, throw a weekly dinner party for friends, or start writing poetry.

Of course you’ve felt this way—you’re human! We have a natural desire to want to live up to our expectations. Over here at Shine headquarters, we’re calling this powerful—and powerfully distracting—feeling FOND, aka the Fear of Not Doing.

This feeling stems from the tension of knowing you can do anything but struggling to accept that you can’t do everything. Welcome to FOND life. You’re probably living it.

Playing the comparison game often makes FOND rear its fearsome little head. Because most of the side projects you see other people succeeding at are the product of behind-the-scenes work—and also intense dedication to one project.

FOND makes you feel like you’re missing out on your own abilities and potential. It whispers in your ear: You could be doing so much, so why aren’t you?

FOND makes you feel like you’re missing out on your own abilities and potential. It whispers in your ear: 'You could be doing so much, so why aren’t you?'
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So if you’re feeling guilty about all the things you’re not doing, here’s how I’m trying to combat my own FOND feelings.

Quit Circling and Pick 1 Thing

The funny thing about FOND is that it doesn’t actually like you to do anything at all. If you’re struggling with the idea that you’re not doing what you should be doing, often you can become frozen—and not do anything at all.

I spent a few years knowing that I wanted to write in different mediums, but I didn’t know which (screenplay? play? poetry? longform articles?) and then beating myself up that I wasn’t immediately an expert in all of them—before I had even started.

The solution is to pick one thing. If you go all in on one project, I promise that you won’t remember all the other things that you think you should be doing. FOND pokes you the most when you’re not doing anything and goes away when you decide and accept what you are going to focus on.

FOND pokes you the most when you’re not doing anything and goes away when you decide and accept what you're going to focus on.
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Choose an End Date

If you’re worried about wasting time on a project that might not result in any meaningful returns, give yourself some constraints, even if they’re self-created.

You might want to write more and start a blog, but instead of being overwhelmed by this open-ended task—omg I’m going to write 5,000 words a day for the rest of my life!!!—tell yourself you’ll write a short post every day for a month. Or, signing up for a class will help you along and make you feel more serious about the task you do choose.

Create Tiny Habits

If you still feel like you’re leaving all your other talents on the table, try to move forward with baby steps. What’s the smallest possible action you can do to progress on those other projects?

If you want to read more, don’t tell yourself you must read for two hours in bed every night. Instead, read for 10 minutes on your commute every morning! Or, if you want to develop your green thumb, don’t tell yourself you need to spend $200 on plants and commit every weekend to digging your hands in soil. Why don’t you gather some research first and maybe read one article a day about flower and those fiddle-leaf figs?

You’ll tame FOND’s fear of not doing because you’re actually doing.

Remember There's So Much Time

Life is a long game. No matter how old you are, you have plenty of time to do the things you want to do. That’s what you have to keep telling FOND. There is plenty of time, my FOND friend.

The only way to counteract the feeling that you’re lacking and simmering below your expectations is to remember this: You will have time for the things that you decide are most important.

The only way to counteract the feeling that you’re lacking and simmering below your expectations is to remember this: You will have time for the things that you decide are most important.
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You can spend an entire year working on your pottery skills, and make dozens of gorgeous vases—and then decide to do something completely different the next year.

Or, you can decide that you don’t want to have a side project right now. That’s fine, too! Maybe you want to devote more time to your relationships or prioritize sleep or go out every night or go running every morning. You can choose—and change your mind later.

There is joy in being free. There is joy in being ambitious. But the most joy comes from letting go of that fear of not doing—and choosing exactly what to do in the moments you do have.

The most joy comes from letting go of that fear of not doing—and choosing exactly what to do in the moments you do have.
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Read next: How to Get Over Your Fear of Missing Out

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