081: The Joy of Missing Out | Tanya Dalton Skip to the content
July 31, 2018   |   Episode #:

081: The Joy of Missing Out

In This Episode:

We’ve all heard of FOMO, the fear of missing out, but what we need to do is to work to cultivate the joy of missing out. We’ll find the happiness in not following along what everybody else is doing, purposely not following the crowd, and doing your own thing. In today’s episode, we are talking about where our FOMO comes from and the things that exacerbate it. We’ll also learn practices that will help us cultivate solitude and help us discover what we truly love.

Show Transcript:

The Big Idea

Let go of FOMO and embrace JOMO

Questions I Answer

  • How can I stop comparing myself to others?
  • How can I feel like I have more time?
  • What can I do to find balance?
  • How can I find more time for myself?

Actions to Take

Key Topics in the Show

  • FOMO: the fear of missing out

  • Why we struggle our comparisonism

  • Forming an internal understanding of ourselves and our mission in this world

  • Top 5 practices to cultivating time for yourself

Resources and Links

Show Transcript

Welcome to season seven of Productivity Paradox a podcast  focused on using productivity not just to get more done, but to accomplish what’s  most important. Join Tanya this season as she focuses on cultivating happiness  through the power of productivity.  

To get her free checklist, Five Minutes To Peak Productivity, simply go to  Press.com/podcast. And now, here’s your host, Tanya Dalton  

Hello, hello, everyone. Welcome to Productivity Paradox. I’m your host,  Tanya Dalton, owner of inkWELL Press and this is episode 81. As you know, all  season long, we’re talking about cultivating happiness through our  productivity. Today, I want to talk about the joy of missing out.  

We’ve all heard of FOMO, the fear of missing out, but what I want us to do is I  want us to work to cultivate the joy of missing out, find the happiness in not following  along what everybody else is doing, purposely not following the crowd, and doing  your own thing. Basically, you’re blazing your own trail.  

The fear of missing out is this all-consuming fear that you’re missing out in  some way, perhaps in what your peers are doing, what they know about or what  they’re in possession of, and that somehow, their life is better than the one that you  are living. Nearly three quarters of young adults have reported that they have  experienced this feeling, this fear of missing out, and this oftentimes leads to  continuous checking of social media, which we think will alleviate that anxiety. We do  that because it feels soothing, but then it really just exacerbates it. It makes it so  much worse. We get caught up in looking at these other people’s lives through this  little tiny screen, and we don’t really see the real life in there. We see this curation of a  beautiful life and we feel like we’re missing out.  

FOMO comes from unhappiness, and it tends to make us feel that we have this  lower life satisfaction than what we could have, and we feel like it’s just not good  enough, this life that we’re leading. This idea that there’s always something better out  there is based in fear and fantasy. Fear comes from several possibilities, fear of  commitment, fear of being dull or fear of being boring, fear that everyone else out  there is getting all the good and you’re left out in the cold.  

This comparison game is nothing new. It was actually first theorized back in  the 1950s. Psychologist Leon Festinger, who popularized this idea, he argued that  people have this innate tendency to track their progress and assess their self-worth  by comparing themselves to other people, and this ends up leading to feelings of  insignificance and insecurity. He found this way back in the 1950s, long before the  advent of Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest, so think about how much more  prevalent it is now, now that when every time we pick up our phones, we’re able to  get these glimpses at other people’s lives and the comparisons just continue and  continue again.  

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When you compare your life to others or what you perceive their lives to be  like through social media, you start this fear of missing out of these life experiences.  Too often, we’re checking social media first thing in the morning and we see people  we know or that we look up to or even that we envy, and we see that they post these  incredible things that they’re working on, and we’re still drinking our morning coffee  and we wonder, “Are we falling behind?” We’re reminded of all the things that we  have not done. The problem here really isn’t social media. It’s the comparison. It’s us  looking at other people, seeing what they have, and not recognizing that we have  things, too, but just focusing on the things that we don’t have.  

In our comparison-soaked culture, it’s impossible to avoid looking around and  seeing what others are doing without unconsciously slipping into the, “How am I  stacking up?” mode. Remember, we’ve talked about how social media really doesn’t  show a clear picture of anyone’s life. Usually, it’s just the high points and the  milestones. It’s a very curated view of the pieces of their life.  

Now, I can tell you, stop paying so much attention to how others around you  are doing. Don’t you love advice that’s so easy to say and so hard to do? Yeah, me  either. Listen, if it were that easy, we’d all already be doing that. Life would be simpler  if we could just tell ourselves to stop doing our bad habits and like a snap of the  fingers, they’re gone. Diet books would be like three chapters long, chapter one, stop  eating cookies, chapter two, stop eating dessert, chapter three, start exercising,  right?  

It’s not that easy, but what we can do is we can adjust our behaviors to make it  easier. Whether we mean to or not, we all care a great deal about what others think  of us and how we’re perceived, and because we often don’t have direct access to the  things we want, life can feel a little bit frustrating at times.  

These things that we want, though, these accomplishments or achievements,  they take time. Anything worth having takes investment of time and energy. We have  to plan for the long game. Nevertheless, comparison comes in like a wrecking ball,  knocking the wind out of us and destroying some of our self-worth, and that’s what  we want to avoid. Our fear of missing out actually drives us to miss out on moments  in our real life, and while our lives today have more time-saving conveniences, we end  up spending that regained time hurrying, being busy, and consuming more media,  scrolling through our feeds.  

Thanks to modern conveniences, we actually have more free time than our  grandparents did, but we still feel like we don’t have time for the things that we want  or need to do. We have more information, more options, more time at our fingertips,  but studies have shown that’s not actually a psychological or emotional benefit to  having more, especially if you’re unable to do anything with the information that you  have.  

There’s a certain point where too much access is simply too much. This is that  paradox of choice we’ve talked about before. When we’re bombarded by choices, we  inadvertently choose not to choose. This indicates we’re able to overconsume media  and information, but we really don’t get any benefit out of that information.  

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Most websites now are designed to keep us online as long as possible. It’s why  your Facebook newsfeed is endlessly scrollable with new stories populating at the  top and all your online friends have green dots next to their names so you can easily  strike up conversations. Before you know it, you’ve spent an hour on Facebook  without really gaining anything real.  

Research shows that when we spend more time in front of screens, it actually  makes the physical world seem boring. It’s dull and muted because the colors aren’t  as bright and they’re not as vivid as what we see online. When things move at a  regular pace, it seems slow, and that tends to dull our senses and it’s lowering our  attention spans, and this means that the things that we want, those things that we  just discussed that do take time, we lose our focus on it. That’s happening now more  than ever before.  

A study recently looked at Sesame Street from the 1950s through current  episodes, and they watched at how the show sped up over time. Watching an original  episode is actually painfully slow and the screen change times have actually  increased five times the speed to keep up with our reduced attention spans.  

It’s not just kids being affected in these ways. Adults have been found too to  have decreasing attention spans. Have you watched an ’80s action show recently?  Listen, I loved The A-Team and I couldn’t wait for Tuesday nights when I was growing  up, so when I found a way to stream the old episodes, I couldn’t wait to show it to my  kids. I thought they would love it, so John and I talked it up and it was such a  letdown. The kids thought it was terribly boring, and quite frankly, I did too. I  remembered it being so exciting and action-packed, but compared with today’s  action sequences, it moved at a turtle’s pace. We watched one episode and we were  done.  

This is the thing. Because our attention spans are decreasing, technology  keeps speeding up. Technology online or elsewhere isn’t really designed to be this  neutral force. It’s designed to hook us in with this variable rate reinforcement  schedule, which basically in English terms means that our phone buzzes at random  times throughout the day, creating rewards in our brain and we start to crave those  rewards.  

Video games, slot machines, these are designed in a way to maximize their  addictive qualities, the bells and whistles encouraging us just to put another coin in  the slot. These reinforcers don’t happen by accident. Casinos study human behavior  to maximize their profits, so there’s tons of evidence backing this up. This  reinforcement schedule, this repeatedly receiving rewards like bells and whistles,  explains why we mindlessly refresh our email and our social media feeds. We’re trying  to get more of these rewards.  

Our devices falsely promise that there’s something more urgent, more  important, and more interesting than our present moment experiences. This is  teaching us and our kids that we actually have to be continually plugged in. We don’t  want to miss out on a thing, and unfortunately, this takes away from the learning  experience that emotions and urges arise and pass and that we can actually tolerate  

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a little bit of discomfort. We can miss out on things posted on social media, and  guess what? The world doesn’t end.  

We think technology is connecting us, but it’s really reinforcing just the  opposite. Sherry Turkle, a professor of the social studies of science and technology at  MIT, says, “If we don’t teach our kids to be alone, we will teach them to be lonely.”  This is true for kids and for adults alike. We need to be able to deal with emotions  internally, not just by looking at others or on a screen, and that’s what’s happening.  We’re beginning to learn and teach others how to self-soothe through our  technology. Ultimately, only looking outward teaches us to be lonely and too busy to  attend to our real life needs.  

What we need to do is cultivate more of an internal understanding of ourselves  and our mission in this world, because I can guarantee your mission is not to consume  just for consumption’s sake. When we look instead at what we want to do with our  lives, we can find a really good reason to take more breaks from media consumption.  Instead of using the internet as a time filler, we can think of it as a tool to help us get  started, and then put real human interaction first, whether that’s time spent with your  kids, being with your partner or your friends, in general, just valuing the people  around you.  

If social media, screens, and technology don’t make us happy, what does?  Really, it comes down to where we focus our attention. What you pay attention to  affects you in many ways. The joy of missing out is all about focusing on what is really  most important to you. It’s relishing relationships with others and ourselves. It’s about  focusing our lives into building deeper connections. When we focus on these  experiences, we lose that need to be constantly updated. We feel grateful for what  we have, and we lose that need to look over the fence and wish for that greener  grass.  

We talked last week back in episode 80 about gratitude, so if you haven’t  started already, you can start by paying attention to gratitude. One great place to  start doing this is by paying attention to yourself. Give yourself space and solitude  and really practice finding gratitude. Practice some self-love and some self-care. This  is what it truly means to be mindful. Instead of checking out, mindfulness teaches us  how to be with ourselves and have that capacity for being alone.  

Being curious and mindful reveals that the present moment is both interesting  and important. When we live in the present, we allow our brain to figure out how it  feels about what’s going on and decide whether the moment is pleasant, unpleasant,  or just neutral, and we can form connections with our current and our past  experiences. This builds a richer life for ourselves when we build these connections.  Alone time is really pretty good for us.  

Solitude is defined as the time you spend getting to know yourself, but often  doesn’t feel like it’s socially acceptable to do this, right? This may even sound boring,  but a little bit of boredom is good for us. Daydreaming promotes creativity and a  decrease in external stimulation can encourage us to go after our goals, and this  might be connected to research showing that alone time can boost cognitive power  and overall wellbeing, especially with the best ideas coming from a quiet inner place.  

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Have you ever noticed some of your best ideas happen when you’re in the  shower? That’s because we’re alone and it’s quiet, right? When we spend time alone,  we can engage in deliberate practice in the things that we love, and this ultimately  leads to improvement and quicker learning to achieve expert levels of our practice.  

I wanted to talk about a few ways to really cultivate this feeling of being alone.  As I mentioned, there’s lots of other parts in the joy of missing out, and I actually go  over those in my YouTube video this week. I wanted here on the podcast, though, to  focus in on how to feel a little more comfortable with ourselves because I think that is  one of our biggest stumbling blocks is feeling comfort in our solitude, so I wanted to  talk about five ways you could really grow that.  

The first thing is let yourself be uncomfortable. If you haven’t practiced being  alone or quiet in some time, you’re probably going to feel uncomfortable at first, and  that’s okay. Start small and try sitting quietly for 10 minutes or go on a 15 minute walk  without your phone. Choose activities you enjoy, like sitting outside on the grass,  reading, sitting at a coffee shop, doing yoga. Resist the urge to grab your phone and  let yourself feel a little uncomfortable. After some time, that will dissipate and it will  feel a little bit easier to be on your own.  

The second thing you can do is practice by going to dinner alone. Does having  dinner alone sound crazy to you? Think of it instead of time to yourself as time to just  enjoy a meal without the need to hold a conversation. Just sit and enjoy your food.  This is easier than sitting and meditating or finding a quiet spot alone with your  thought. It actually gives you a little activity, which is eating, and that can help you  feel a little more at ease. How does it sound now when I talk about eating dinner  alone? If you think of it as time for yourself to enjoy an activity, the activity being  eating, sounds a little easier, right?  

Now, if sitting at a table all by yourself still feels uncomfortable, try sitting at  the bar. You can usually still get full meal service, but you probably won’t be checked  on as much by the bartender as you would by a waiter or waitress. You might even  notice how other people are also there enjoying a meal or a drink alone. Look around,  enjoy the people watching, enjoy your food, take the time to really enjoy each and  every bite. That can make a big difference.  

The third thing you can do is bring along a safety blanket, kind of like Linus  and his blanket, right? We feel a little bit more comfortable when we have either  somebody there with us or something else to do. Think about a time when you’ve  been waiting for someone in a coffee shop. What’s the first thing you did when you  realized it would be more than a minute when they arrived? You probably picked up  your phone, right? Think of what you could replace your phone with that would still  be a comfort to you, a book, a notebook, a sketchbook, whatever will help you not  worry about what on-looking strangers think of you sitting there alone at a coffee  shop. You can always have your phone with you, but try spending time not on social  media or playing games. Maybe you download the Kindle app and read a chapter of  your book, or you read a few news articles instead. Don’t get caught into that vortex  of social media.  

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The fourth thing we can do is unplug for some time each day, or even  throughout the day. Solitude doesn’t mean picking up your phone every time it  buzzes or sitting alone doesn’t mean sitting there while you scroll through Instagram.  Instead, spend some time away from your phone for a few minutes, a few hours, or  we can build up to this, even a whole day. That might mean leaving it in another room  or turning it off completely. At my house, we do tech free Tuesdays. Especially in the  summer where the kids are home all day long, it’s easy for them to want to watch  screens and to scroll through social media all day long. On Tuesdays, though, we  spend time focusing less time on our phones and more time on ourselves.  

Tiffany Shlain, the founder of the Webby Awards, instituted this practice in her  own life with her family. They build tech free time into their week from Friday at  sundown to Saturday at sundown. Now, if the founder of what the New York Times  calls, “The internet’s highest honor,” if she can put down technology for 24 hours, you  can, too. Give that a try. It really is amazing. It’s almost like a cleanse for yourself  where you’re really being mindful and putting away your phone so you’re not  tempted by it.  

The fifth thing you can do is remember, car time is primetime. Next time you’re  in the car by yourself, think of this as a little bit of alone time. Create a playlist of your  favorite songs and play them loud. I have a mix I call my Happiness Mix that I play  anytime I’m alone. I know all the words and I sing a little bit too loudly.  

On the other end of the spectrum is that you could use car time as silent time.  I find this to be incredibly therapeutic and productive, to be honest. I often drive to  Charlotte, which is about two hours away from my house, and there are times where I  ride the entire time in silence. After the chaos of my days and all the noise that I’m  surrounded by daily, it feels good to just enjoy my thoughts. It gives me the space to  work through problems or questions that I have. To me, there’s no uncomfortableness  because no one else has any idea. All those cars driving by you, they have no idea  that you’re sitting there in silence. That’s a great way to get used to some time for  you all by yourself without worrying about that discomfort, so think about that the  next time you’re in the car by yourself.  

Here’s what I want you to take away, though, from this episode. I want you to  schedule some time for yourself so you can really get to know yourself, and I think  that’s really a key component on building this joy of missing out is really being happy  with you and where you are in your life. Schedule time that you’ll spend alone, just  like you would exercise or a meeting or a doctor’s appointment. It’s basically a  meeting with yourself, right? Write down some things to help you be accountable.  Find out what works through some experimentation. Explore and discover what you  truly love to do on your own.  

I really want to encourage you to find the joy in missing out and not being part  of the crowd and not following what everybody else is doing. Find that joy inside of  yourself. That is truly where happiness lies, so I want to encourage you to find a little  bit of alone time for yourself this week.  

I want to encourage you also to check out that YouTube video. Every week on  Tuesdays when I release a new episode, I also have a video that works alongside the  

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podcast episode, and this week, the YouTube video is called Five Ways to Cultivate  the Joy of Missing Out. I talk about some different techniques and exercises that you  can do to really help cultivate this joy of missing out. Just go to inkWELLPress.com/ youtube to access my channel.  

Next week on the podcast, we’re continuing to talk about happiness and  cultivating that through productivity. We’ll be talking about the importance of taking  breaks. In the meantime, I would love to connect with you in my group. We’ve talked  about this joy of missing out and not experiencing the fear of missing out. That’s a  great way to do it. My group is a great place to come, find ways to talk about  productivity, cultivating happiness, and all the goodness we talk about on the  podcast. I would encourage you to join. I’m in there on a regular basis and I’d love to  see you there. Just go to inkWELLPress.com/group to request an invitation to join. All  right, until next week, have a beautiful and productive week.  

Thanks for listening to Productivity Paradox from inkWELL Press. To join  Tanya’s free group, simply go to inkWELLpress.com/group.