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The Fear of Missing Out – a Guest Post by Gary Gauthier

Yes, it’s Life List Club Friday and I have a treat for you! Gary Gauthier is here to talk about a fear we all share, the fear of missing out on the fun. After reading this excellent article, jump in with your stories and show Gary  some comment luv.

When you’ve had your fill of fun here, please come join me at David Walker’s blog for my post,  6 Easy Steps to Put Zing in Your Swing! Then feel free to blog hop to all of our other writers listed in the blogroll in my sidebar.

The Fear of Missing Out

We all can relate to the experience of telling young children to go to sleep only to be met with fierce resistance. It doesn’t matter how tired they are. They are ready to wage a mighty struggle even if it’s to keep a weary pair of eyelids from closing shut. Minutes later, they might pass out and if they don’t fully cross the divide into a deep slumber, they might jolt with a snappy nod and be ready once again to forcefully insist they’re not tired in the least.


You may be amused to witness what’s painfully obvious as a fight that can’t be won.

Once a child attains the age of reason, it’s hard to explain the motivation for this behavior other than the FOMO, the fear of missing out. Strangely enough, this fear haunts many of us into adolescence and through adulthood. Some never shake it.

As an aside, let me point out that there are lots of other fears. If I had to venture an uneducated guess, I would have thought anything over 100 recognized phobias was a large number. I was shocked to discover a list of 363 phobias. For all you trivia buffs, there are only two letters of the alphabet that don’t start off the name of a phobia, the letter Y and the letter Q.

I Might as Well Come Clean - I think I’ve just begun to come to grips with the fact that I suffer from the FOMO. As a matter of fact, I’ve lived with this fear for as long as I can remember. The first time I recall showing symptoms of the FOMO, I was sitting on a couch watching TV with a bunch of adults. I couldn’t have been older than four or five.

I remember folks urging me to go to bed, but in response I exercised all the defiance I could muster at that early age. Clearly, I was struggling to stay awake. I don’t think an exceptionally good TV show was on because as I remember, I wasn’t paying much attention. The reason I didn’t want to go to sleep was I didn’t want to miss out on the evening’s ambiance.

An Artist’s Insight - What prompted these musings was a quote I recently read by Thomas Kinkade, the painter. He draws an analogy from his life’s work to give a valuable piece of advice.

I learned early in my career as a painter that limited or filtered light is inherently more interesting and beautiful than direct sunlight. I learned that people are irresistibly drawn to depictions of dappled sun on a wooded path, morning light sifted through mist or clouds, lamplight piercing the gloom of dusk.

Filtered light is soft and gentle. It feels safe and comforting rather than harsh or glaring. And it still does its job of brightening and illuminating the world.
— Thomas Kinkade

Filtering the Noise - One exercise in filtering the noise (what’s not important) in our lives is for us to pause and write down a list of items we want to experience or accomplish. This is what our Life List Club is all about. Once you have this list, commit to an active vigilance that filters the day to day noise so you can remain focused on what’s important.

Striking a Balance - At times, we might behave like the inexperienced painter and allow too much of one thing or not enough of another. This can leave us with less than optimal results even with our best intentions. Sometimes we overlook the fact that it is important to maintain a healthy balance in all things.
A pleasing painting contains a balance of light and dark and is very often a study in contrast.

Asher Brown Durand

Asher Brown Durand

The Lure of Distractions - Kinkade uses light as a metaphor to make a greater point. His advice is to be wary of distracting influences that get in the way of the intended result. Sometimes we allow things—some we might be afraid to miss out on—to enter into our lives and either lure us away from our goals or otherwise confuse our sense of priorities.

Facing the Challenge - Part of the challenge is that we are not always in full control. Difficult decisions will sometimes crop up even when we are focused. You may not be able to attend your daughter’s soccer game while remaining faithful to the looming deadline for the big project that needs to get done.

The Takeaway - The habit of maintaining an ordered list of priorities confers a number of benefits, not the least of which is filtering out unnecessary distractions so you can stay focused and get things done. If you are lucky enough to develop this habit, there is a good chance, when all is said and done, you will be rewarded with one or two accomplishments that you can point to with pride.

Have you recently faced the fear of missing out? How did you resolve the situation?

Gary GauthierGary Gauthier is working on his first novel, a crime thriller set in New Orleans just before Hurricane Katrina’s landfall. His blog, Literary Snippets, gives him an opportunity to express and share his appreciation for art and literature. He occasionally posts articles as well. Some of his favorite writers are Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe. But this changes from time to time. Stay tuned!

Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.

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Discussion

  1. Elizabeth Varadan  March 7, 2012

    Good post, Gary, and timely. I do relate, especially in the area of all the distractions online. I’m a writer and blogger, and so I love to network, but let’s face it: there are only so many online newsletters and blogs you can read, so many networking groups you can join, before you find yourself being spread too thin to do the actual writing that pulled at your heart in the first place. I love all the possibilities on the Internet, but I’m stepping back a little from some of the distractions and focusing more on what is truly relevant to my getting the writing done these days.

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  2. hawleywood40  March 3, 2012

    Oh, yes! FOMO is a formidable foe! I was THAT kid you describe, as I think we all were at some point in time. As a grownup, when I am focused on my goals and priorities I am worried that I am missing out on special spur-of-the-moment times. When I’m just having fun or doing something spontaneous, FOMO is reminding me of how much longer it will take me to “get there” if I don’t stop playing and get serious. It is a daily balancing act, isn’t it?

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  3. Angela Orlowski-Peart  February 26, 2012

    I don’t usually suffer from FOMO but I sometimes get easily distracted. I also tend to put things off – which sometimes results in missing deadlines. Sigh.

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  4. Bridgette Booth  February 24, 2012

    Great post, Gary. I don’t (often) suffer from FOMO – not sure how I’ve missed this particular tendency! – but I do get unbalanced in my approach to life. I can justify social media as “work time” because of the role it plays in writing, but when, in reality, I’m just putting off finishing a project. I love the example of the lighting. That resonates with me quite a bit.

    Always learning over here at your blog, Marcia!

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    • Marcia  February 25, 2012

      That’s what it’s all about, Bridgette! Everyday we find something new to learn from one of our fantastic friends! Thanks for coming by!

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  5. Gary Gauthier  February 24, 2012

    Thanks for hosting me Marcia!

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    • Marcia  February 24, 2012

      I always love having you here, Gary! Thanks.

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  6. Sonia G Medeiros  February 24, 2012

    I also know all about FOMO. Distractions are challenging for me. Sometimes I can tune everything else out and just work…other times not so well. Guess I need to keep practicing.

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    • Gary Gauthier  February 24, 2012

      Sonia, we can all use some practice. I find that if I’m multi-tasking, I’m less prone to distractions. It’s like keeping myself distracted with work.

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      • Sonia G Medeiros  February 25, 2012

        There’s a fine line for me. If I’m multitasking too much I’m much more distractable.

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  7. Ali Dent  February 24, 2012

    I know all about FOMO. It makes me really unproductive and at the end of the day I feel terrible. I must admit, when I stay on social media more than I should and shirk my commitment to myself on my WIP it’s because I fear missing out. The illustration about the painter resonates with me. Thank you having this post on your blog, Marcia and Gary your insights into FOMO are very encouraging and enlightening. I have a Life List and I work it day to day but sometimes I chase the things I fear I’m missing. I’m going to practice your metaphor about a painting being less interesting when it has too much light. Thanks, Gary.

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    • Gary Gauthier  February 24, 2012

      Thanks for visiting, Ali. I’m glad you could relate to the post. Social media is definitely a problem for all of us. It can be insidious because we may justify it as being helpful to our work.

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      • Marcia  February 24, 2012

        Wow, I’d say you nailed that on social media! As you said we all experience FOMO from time to time…hard not to. But as Ali said, your advice on a painting with too much light being less interesting is what i will keep in mind.

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  8. Lara Schiffbauer  February 24, 2012

    Great post! I think my biggest downfall to staying focused to the goal at hand is the “challenge”. Things seem to crop up that I have no control over, and then something has to give! FOMO definitely comes into play, because I think “but what happens when I’m not there!” Thanks for a good lesson.

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    • Gary Gauthier  February 24, 2012

      Nice to see you, Lara. Don’t you just love it when you’ve been planning something for a month and then the unexpected happens to throw a monkey wrench into the works? Yep, I’ve been there!

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  9. Sherry Isaac  February 24, 2012

    Gary, IMHO, social media is the epitome of FOMO. What will you miss if you don’t log in to Facebook? How many tweets will twit by if I don’t check my Twitter stream? What if I don’t go back to the blogs I commented on this morning, and miss the return responses? ACK!

    Fun video, and fun post. Thank you.

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    • Gary Gauthier  February 24, 2012

      I agree with you Sherry and can definitely relate to checking in every so often (sometimes too often) to see what going on.

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  10. Jess Witkins  February 24, 2012

    Hi Gary! I think all of us could clean about fear of missing out. It’s a lot like Lara’s post about playing the What If game. Both concepts allow that fear to rule our lives, and as humans, it’s going to happen. But, there’s hope. Tools like you provided and support groups like LLC or any group that gets you motivated and focused are ways to combat that fear so it isn’t ultimately a fear of success. Well done post, Gary! I loved it.

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    • Gary Gauthier  February 24, 2012

      Nice to see you Jess. I agree with you, there is hope. You’ve just given me the idea to write a post on the importance of keeping a hopeful and optimistic attitude.

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