January 26


What is FOMO? The 3 Absolute Best Ways to Deal with FOMO!

By Harry Heijligers

January 26, 2021

Fear of Missing Out, FOMO, How to deal with FOMO, What is FOMO

What is FOMO? Good question because the word FOMO is all the rage these days. In fact, the Oxford English Dictionary added the term FOMO in 2013. But what is FOMO really? And better yet... How to deal with FOMO?

In this article you are going to discover not only the answer to the question What is FOMO...

You will also discover the simple 3-step process so that you know how to deal with FOMO.

Let's dive in!


What is FOMO?

FOMO is an acronym which stands for Fear Of Missing Out.

FOMO is the feeling of lacking something that your peers have or doing, or they possess more or something better than you.

You end up checking social media over and over and over again to feel like you're not left out. So you know you're doing okay. So you don't feel left out.

But wait! There's more to fully answer the question What is FOMO...

It's also the feeling that you are missing better opportunities you could have done yourself.

Is this just an unfortunate consequence of modern life? Is it not such a big deal? And if so, what can you do to break it?

But wait! There's even more!

Because FOMO is a lot worse than you might expect! More about this in a minute...

What is FOMO - How to deal with FOMO

What is the origin of FOMO?

2004 was the year Patrick McGinnis, a student at Harvard Business School, coined the acronym FOMO. It stands for Fear Of Missing Out.

FOMO is the fear of missing out on a social situation.

Or on a new opportunity at work.
It's also the fear of missing out on an attractive sales offer.
Or the chance to meet someone special.

It's also the fear that you are missing out on the latest news or gossip.
It's the number one reason that a lot of people have developed a cell phone addiction.

Another term coined by McGinnis is FOBO. It's the fear of better options. As you can imagine, this is positively related to FOMO. In this article, I will only talk about these two important questions:

  • What is FOMO?
  • How to deal with FOMO?

The answers to these questions will also cover everything FOBO.

By the way... was this the first time that people talked about FOMO?

No! As a matter of fact, already in 1996, Dr. Dan Herman, a marketing strategist, already coined this term fear of missing out.

What is FOMO versus MOMO?

MOMO stands for Mystery of Missing Out. This is a particular variant of FOMO. MOMO arises for example when you are paranoid about what your friends are doing without knowing exactly what they are doing.

What is FOMO versus JOMO?

JOMO stands for Joy of Missing Out. It's quite the opposite of FOMO. It's the deliberate choice to not comply with what everyone else is doing. Instead, someone practicing JOMO deliberately chooses to follow their own path.

What is FOMO versus YOLO?

YOLO stands for You Only Live Once. It's used as an excuse to give in to the feeling of FOMO.

What is FOMO versus FOLO?

FOLO stands for Fear of Living Online and this is a special case of FOMO. It's the fear especially the younger generation has of not being online for a longer period of time.

Speaking about this generation...

What is FOMO Generation?

The Millennials (aka Generation Y) born in the last 20 years of the previous millennium, are also the FOMO generation.

I'm not saying that people born after this period, don't experience FOMO. Or, for that matter, the people born before this period. Because, as you will read in this article, everyone experiences FOMO in one shape or another.

But Generation Y has been more exposed to FOMO due to the internet. Never before, people were so exposed to the tremendous possibilities the world has to offer...

While at the same time we as human beings still remained very limited in our learning capacity and ability to focus our awareness. This is why this generation is the FOMO generation. 

What is FOMO in social media?

Social media is one of the main drivers of FOMO in all of us. Nowadays, we are exposed all day long to posts of our peers which can give us the feeling of being left behind or left alone.

What is FOMO in business?

It's the fear of missing out on a big opportunity. This can be a business deal or, an interesting project or maybe a better job opportunity.

Every person experiences FOMO since the beginning of times

Probably every person on earth since the beginning of mankind has experienced FOMO. It's just part of human nature.

The question is not if you will experience FOMO or not. The question is how often will you experience it.

The Dark Black Hole that Drains You Dry!

Your FOMO is a result of your unhappiness... of your sadness... of you feeling incomplete. FOMO is dissatisfaction with life in general.

Your attitude toward life is focused on everything you are missing in the outside world. It's a focus on scarcity, on everything you don't have.

With FOMO, you probably do not feel good about your life. Unhappiness tends to lead to FOMO.

Quick check:

How satisfied are you with all aspects of your life at the moment (on a scale of 1 to 10)? (10) means you're totally thrilled to be alive, and 1... well...

And on a scale of 1 to 10, how fulfilled do you feel at the moment?

With high scores, you won't have FOMO. However, if you score low, you're probably suffering from FOMO... more than you'd like to. So... what is FOMO in your life doing?


Because when you feel sadness, unhappiness, loneliness, or fear, that's like having a big dark hole inside of you.

A void that is screaming to be filled.

You try to ignore this unpleasant feeling. But this feeling is more profound, terrifying, uglier, scarier, and worse than those other negative feelings. You can't miss it! There is no way that this feeling let itself unheard!

This means... you want it gone as fast as possible!

What's your standard operating procedure when it comes to getting rid of sadness, unhappiness, and so on ... in other words, that Dark Black Hole That Drains You Dry?

You want to fill it quickly with whatever gets your attention first.

As soon as you hear the voice screaming for attention inside you, you start distracting yourself. You start doing whatever it is you do to not feel that feeling of incompleteness.

People go check their Facebook timeline. They go watching television. They start eating some ice cream or drinking some wine. Whatever it is they think of to distract themselves. Or, at work, where you can't do all of that, they go for a cup of coffee and start gossiping with other colleagues.

So, whether you realize it or not, as soon as you don't feel well, you start looking for all kinds of distractions. The only thing you don't do is solve the problem by filling the void inside you to feel complete again.

And that, my friend, is a problem!

Because in the end, all those distractions won't make you feel better. No. They will make you feel worse...

Even when distractions are seen as a solution for FOMO, it is never a lasting solution. As soon as the thrill of the new thingy you chose as your distraction is over, the fear of missing out creeps back in.

Every distraction is a short-term solution if a solution at all. So, now you are disappointed because the distraction didn't work.

In fact, you will even feel worse because the distraction didn't work.

This is the happiness equivalent of putting someone with a nut allergy on an all-nut diet!

According to research, passive Facebook consumption correlates to a marginal increase in depression. In other words, instead of talking to a friend in real life, reading about him on Facebook makes you slightly more depressed.

How does FOMO affect us?

What is FOMO you ask? Well, it is part of every day life. And it has a sever effect on our lives as well. Let's take a look at some statistics:


39% of people feel envious of their peers or the Joneses because they want the same thing they do.


30% of people are sad and disappointed with what they have achieved in their lives.


60% of people report reacting to FOMO by making a reactive purchase in 24-48 hours.


About 50% of people attend live events, so they can share what they see online on social media like Facebook.


40% of people spend too much or get in debt trying to keep up with their friends.

As you can see... FOMO is not only a real thing...

FOMO is also a dangerous habit!

Research shows that people with FOMO stop paying attention to life and start relying on social media for happiness.

A study found that students with FOMO pay less attention in school and have a tendency to check their phones all day long.

You are at an awesome party. You are having fun.

But then...

Your friend arrives and tells you what happened at that totally exclusive event she was at. Now you feel like a schmuck for not being there.

Or even worse...

You are at an event. The problem is, you forgot your phone. Now, suddenly you want to take a picture to post on social media. You need your phone, and you need it now! Suddenly, you can't enjoy the event anymore.

The only thing you can think of is how stupid you are to leave your phone at home. You are angry at yourself. You leave the event way earlier than you had planned to.

Do you recognize yourself? Of course, you do because this is a very universal experience.

We all suffer from FOMO in one shape or another.

And here is why:

The Reason Why You Experience FOMO

The real reason why everyone of us experiences FOMO is two-fold:

  • Every human-being can actually only focus on ONE thing at a time due to our limited consciousness and limited working memory.
  • Due to hedonic adaptation human beings always seem to want more and more and more...


As soon as you have a GOAL or you need something to do...

What is FOMO - The Real Reason Why You Experience FOMO

Due to the fact that we can only focus on one thing at a time...

You need to CHOOSE what you are going to focus on.

So, you need to choose to fully focus and immerse yourself in doing the task at hand.

This means to you need to IGNORE the endless sea of other valuable opportunities that are out there.

The problem is that more often than not this will lead to feeling the Fear Of Missing Out.

And that results in a sea of negative emotions and negative consequences:

  • Procrastinating on doing what you have to do.
  • Feeling overwhelmed.
  • Feeling stressed.
  • Lacking the focus you need.
  • Loosing time and money.


Since you still haven't finished your goal or the task you needed to do...

The circle starts all over again.

Good FOMO, Bad FOMO: The hidden drivers behind our fears and impulsive behavior

Why do some people always seem happy?

It's not by chance, and neither is it just by choice.

Recent studies have shown that how we feel has nothing to do with external circumstances.

Instead, happiness is controlled by two different emotions: joy and fear.

Understanding the impact of these two emotions on your brain...

gives you insight into why some people seem to be happy all the time, while others seem sad all the time.

What you focus on determines how happy you are

Your focus is a two-sided sword:

  • Focusing on things that drain your energy will make you unhappier.
  • Focusing on things that give you power will make you happier.

It's quite simple. You can change your feeling of happiness or unhappiness in the blink of an eye by changing what you focus on.

That's great news for your FOMO! Because the moment you begin to focus on positive things, your FOMO will vanish as if it was melted in the sun.

To end FOMO, focus less on the negative things and focus more on the positive things.


Is it possible you are unaware when you focus on negative things? Probably so, since the way we think and even what we think is mostly subconscious.

For example, in which year was the word FOMO first covered in the dictionary? Anyone...? Well, scroll back to the top of this page to find out! You already have read it... but you forgot. As soon as you continued reading the rest of this article, it immediately sank into your subconscious mind.

This is how it goes all day long. Most things we think about, most decisions we make, sank very soon deep into your subconscious mind. The big reason for this is because our conscious mind can only process very few information at any given moment.

This means that you might experience FOMO without even being consciously aware of it.

The vicious FOMO cycle that holds you hostage

It already begins in childhood...

You want those new pairs of shoes because your classmates have them.

A friend of yours has been to the latest movie, and you want to see it too.

And then later, when you were a bit older, you were invited to a party.

You wanted to do something else instead, but you went anyway because you were afraid to miss the latest gossips.

But …

As soon as you had that new pair of shoes...

as soon as you had seen that movie...

as soon as you had been to that party...

All you are left with is a feeling of unhappiness and dissatisfaction.


What you were really craving for was to fill that black hole inside of you.

That feeling of wanting something, needing something, but you don't know what.

And one thing is for sure, the shoes, and all the other stuff in the world, can't fill that black hole. Therefore, unhappiness, fears, and dissatisfaction remain. This results in a greater need for instant gratification. And you want it now!

You seek instant gratification.

The problem is that actions focused on instant gratification are not focused on long-term gratification. They are not adding up to achieving your goals.

The decay of instant gratification is very quick. You will soon realize that you haven’t come closer to your goals. Instead of having closed a few loops in your head, you have opened a few new ones. The clutter in your head has increased, and so has the feeling of having an internal black hole.

This is a vicious cycle which leads to continuous growth of clutter in your head. And which brings you further away from achieving your goals.

Most people turn outward to look for fulfillment. They think that 15 minutes on Facebook will make the black hole disappear. This isn’t true, unfortunately.

In fact, it will make you feel even worse. According to research, passive consumption of Facebook correlates to a marginal increase in depression.

So, what do you do?

You want to escape the uncomfortable feeling of missing something without exactly knowing what it is you miss.

What do you do?


You distract yourself.

You start looking for things that give you immediate gratification. Eating, drinking, watching Netflix, checking Facebook, gossiping, whatever. As long as it diverts your attention from yourself.

This is a problem.

It increases your FOMO because you are still missing something. The black hole is still there. Distractions breed distractions.

Instant gratification breeds the necessity for instant gratification. FOMO breeds FOMO. It's a soft addiction. It's a negative vicious cycle:

What is FOMO - The FOMO Cycle

This negative vicious cycle for FOMO is rather universal for all negative emotions you experience.

You can easily replace FOMO with Worrying and Negative Thinking. Or with perfectionism, self-doubt, or fear of the unknown.

They all are an expression of that "black hole feeling" you have.

Luckily there is a very simple solution to this. You can switch to a positive cycle with a few simple steps.

Besides the question What is FOMO, the more important question is:

How to deal with FOMO?

The answer is to use the Focused Mind Cycle to set you free!

The solution to deal with FOMO and all the other negative emotions is to break out of the FOMO cycle and step into the Focused Mind Cycle.

What is the Focused Mind Cycle?

Most of the time, life can be pretty sad or boring. Still... you want to focus on the positive to deal with your FOMO. You want to focus on what you have, not on what you don't have.

So... what can you do?

You may be surprised because the answer is actually quite simple.

Exercise Gratitude!

What is exercising gratitude the answer to your FOMO? Well, let me explain that in a minute... But first I want to introduce to you The Focused Mind Cycle:

What is FOMO - Focused Mind Cycle

The first thing is that you start paying attention to what you have instead of what you don't have.

Look around in your life.

What "stuff" do you have? What relationships do you have? What responsibilities do you have. What's the work you do? What skills do you have? What character do you have? What goals do you have? What's the vision for your life you have?

Now, that you have taken inventory of your life...

Be Grateful for everything you have!!

As you know, everything has a positive and a negative side. So, in everything you have there must be a lot of positive things. Be grateful for that!

Let's your gratefulness one step further...

What things are you taking for granted? Things that actually are quite good. What about your home, your family or your friends? Think about it for a minute!

Just imagine for a moment that these things were taken away from you. How would that make you feel? Well? As you know... bad things happen to us all randomly. Life is filled with surprises. So, you must be fortunate to have what you have right now!


By now, you have completed important steps of The Focused Mind Cycle:

  • Focus on what you have.
  • Be Grateful for what you have.

Doing this will help you to look more positively, at least more neutral, to the state of your life as it is.

This will help you to take an important next step: Close Your Mental Loops.

Your FOMO is greatly caused by the way your mental filters are programmed. To clear your mental filters, and destroy the cause for your FOMO, you need to clear up the mental loops in your head.

Mental loops are those little apps that keep running in your background memory. They absorb a lot of your mental energy. They also draw your attention to the wrong direction. They make it difficult for you to focus on the positive things in your life.

Every time you think of something less positive, take note of it. Write it down. And then later ... when you are in a positive mood, deal with them. Close them.

This will help you create the last step of The Focused Mind Cycle: The Focused Mind!

With a clear head it is much easier to focus on the things that are important to you.

And with this skill it will be even easier to turn back to the first step: Focus on what you have.

The Focused Mind Cycle will help you develop a laser focused mindset that blows your FOMO away!


You can increase the power of this positive cycle each and every day by practicing gratefulness!

Now, I hear you thinking? What?! This is it?! This can't be that simple!

Research shows that it works! By mentally subtracting cherished moments from your life, you will appreciate them more. It makes you grateful. It makes you happier.

In ancient times, the Stoics had a term for this: negative visualization. A practice the Stoics exercised daily.

Science shows that the more grateful someone is, the less likely he will experience negative feelings such as jealousy, anxiety, depression, and loneliness.

Comparing yourself to the lives of others makes you feel as though you have less than they do. Instead... you will feel as if you have more when you consider how lucky you are to be alive and all the possessions you already possess.

Gratitude transforms you from someone stuck, distracted, and unhappy to one who is focused, confident, and ready for anything.

How to deal with FOMO once and for all?

Based on The Focused Mind Cycle, I have developed a simple 3-step process to help you deal with FOMO once and for all. I call it the AWE-process:

What is FOMO - How to deal with FOMO

The AWE-process to deal with FOMO

How to deal with FOMO once and for all? Uplevel your life to AWE with this 3-step process:

Step 1: Advance your Awareness (Become aware of your FOMO)

Step 2: Watch your Focus (Pay attention to what you focus on)

Step 3: Exercise gratefulness

Let's dive into each step a bit deeper:

Advance Your Awareness around FOMO

The first step in dealing with your FOMO, is to be aware of it.

Here are some common signs of people who suffer from FOMO. Check for yourself if you can relate to any of these signs:

  • You are constantly on your phone.
  • You say yes even when you know you shouldn’t.
  • You always ask people about their weekend plans.
  • You fear others may enjoy more rewarding experiences than you do.
  • You can’t stand inside jokes.
  • You want to be everywhere.
  • You are willing to live beyond your means.
  • You often engage in gossip.
  • You don’t fully commit in case something better shows up.
  • You feel bad when you realize that you have missed something.
  • You refuse to leave parties even when you are tired.
  • You feel that you can’t catch up.

If you can relate to any or more of these FOMO signals, chances are you also suffer from FOMO.

Now, pay attention the coming days. Every time you see yourself doing any of the above things... ask yourself: Why?

Chances are that the answer you will give yourself is that you fear missing out.

To advance your awareness even more...

Keep a FOMO diary for the next couple of weeks.

Rate yourself every day: how good or bad was your FOMO that day?

This will lay a good foundation, to proceed with the next step:

Watch your Focus

The second step in dealing with your FOMO is to pay attention to what you already have, instead of paying attention to what you don’t have.

In other words: watch what you focus on. Be mindful of what you focus on.

The solution to decluttering your head, being more productive, and feeling satisfied and happy, is to pay attention to the right things.

>> Do you pay attention to what you don’t have?

>> Or do you pay attention to what you do have?

If the first is the case, you will suffer from FOMO, have a cluttered head, be unproductive, feel unsatisfied, and suffer even more from FOMO. This is a negative vicious cycle.

Instead, start looking at what you do have.

Exercise Gratefulness

The third step in dealing with your FOMO is to be grateful about what you have right now.

Look around you, right now. What good things do you take for granted? Your family? Friends? House? Job? Car? What?

Imagine that all those good things were taken away from you. How does that make you feel?

You never know what life will bring you. Bad things happen to everyone. Do you see, how lucky you are, that you still have all those nice things around you? Be grateful for that.

Paying attention to what you do have will make you grateful. This is a very positive feeling which gives your mind the clarity to better focus on what’s important.

It will help you to close some loops.

It will also help you to prevent yourself from opening unnecessary new loops. The result will be that your brain will be less cluttered.

Conclusion and summary of everything FOMO

To summarize everything in this article about the fear of missing out (FOMO):

What is FOMO?

FOMO (the Fear of Missing Out) is a human emotion that starts with negative feelings like sadness, loneliness, unhappiness. Those emotions are caused by a dark black hole inside you - a sense of emptiness that needs to be filled quickly.

Furthermore, we discussed in this article:

  • What is FOMO versus MOMO?
  • What is FOMO versus JOMO?
  • What is FOMO versus YOLO?
  • What is FOMO versus FOLO?
  • What is FOMO Generation?
  • What is FOMO in social media?
  • What is FOMO in business?

How do people try to solve FOMO in most cases?

To fill the black hole as quickly as possible, people seek distractions, mostly social media these days. This isn't the answer. Unfortunately, it makes the FOMO even worse!

What is FOMO and How to deal with FOMO

How to deal with FOMO the right way?

The best way to deal with FOMO and to create a life of AWE is to follow these 3 steps:

  • Advance your Awareness (Become aware of your FOMO)
  • Watch your Focus (Pay attention to what you focus on)
  • Exercise gratefulness

What is FOMO for You?

I'm curious...

What is FOMO according to you?

Which role does it play in your life?

And... have you found a way to cope with it?

Let me know in the comments below:

Harry Heijligers

About the author

Harry Heijligers has more than 25 years of experience as a Project Manager and more than 17 years of experience as an NLP Trainer. He has a Dutch blog about NLP here: HarryHeijligers.com.
If you'd like to know about the Smart Leadership Hut, please check this: Smart Leadership Hut.

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