FOMO and the Power of “NO”

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Full disclosure, I am one of the 8 million adults in the United States with ADHD. According to the ADAA – Anxiety and Depression Association of America: 

“Attention deficit hyperactive disorder, or ADHD, is a condition characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, impulsiveness, or a combination.

About 60 percent of children with ADHD in the United States become adults with ADHD; that’s about 4 percent of the adult population, or 8 million adults.*

Less than 20 percent of adults with ADHD have been diagnosed or treated, and only about one-quarter of those adults seek help.*

Thought to be biological and most often genetic, ADHD takes place very early in brain development. Adults with ADHD may exhibit the same symptoms they had as children, and although hyperactivity often diminishes by adulthood, inattentiveness and impulsivity may persist.” 

I’ve always suspected that I’ve had it but never really pursued getting treatment or help until adulthood because my parents never thought of it as a possibility in my childhood or adolescence. Having two old fashioned immigrant parents – an organized stereotypical German father and a Tiger Mom, ADHD was looked at like an excuse. I remember my parents saying things like, “Why can’t you sit still? Just sit down and concentrate! Stop being lazy!” In hindsight, these were obvious red flags to get me checked for ADHD. 

All my life, I’ve been impulsive and my mind races in a million directions at a thousand miles per second. Thankfully, since getting help, I’ve learned to live and navigate my ADHD to become a productive member of society (my parents are very proud). 

Which, leads me to today’s topic – FOMO and the Power of “NO.” 

For those of you that have been living under a rock for the last 5 years, FOMO stands for Fear of Missing Out. 

“FOMO is an increasingly common condition plaguing a growing portion of the population numbers of people, who either overcommit and fail to fulfill many of their commitments, or choose to avoid agreements and commitments as much as possible.

In most cases the basis for their actions (or inactions) is motivated by a fear that in making an agreement they are losing the chance to engage in other experiences that could potentially result in greater personal gratification or satisfaction. A commonly-felt sentiment of many people who have FOMO is, “I like to keep my options open.”

FOMO frequently provokes feelings of anxiety and restlessness, often generated by competitive thoughts that others are experiencing more pleasure, success, or fulfillment in their lives than they are. It can also be a response to a conscious or unconscious fear of aging and/or dying. Unless the underlying concerns that drive this desire to compulsively accumulate as many experiences as possible is identified and addressed, FOMO behavior will continue to prevail and diminish the overall quality of well-being, and fulfillment in one’s relationships and life in general.

There is a saying that you can’t ever get enough of what you really don’t need. Accumulating experiences and being possessed by the feelings stress and tension that are amplified by the pursuit of more and the need to avoid missing out cannot relieve the existential anxiety that drives FOMO behavior. Checking electronic devices for text messages, voice mails and emails continually throughout the day creates a obsessive preoccupation that doesn’t quench the thirst for the need for more, it amplifies it. Kind of like pouring gasoline on fire to put it out. Doesn’t work so well.

Perhaps the biggest problem with FOMO is that a relentless preoccupation with activity and novelty makes it impossible for us to be to be fully present and deeply engaged in our relationships and our life in general. And true fulfillment requires both presence and engagement. Like the sign in the casino says: “You must be present to win!”

Excerpt from 

This seems to be increasingly common with people in my generation and younger. I was and still am (to a much lesser degree) a victim of it. My life began improving incrementally as soon as I recognized this and began to prioritize and plan my life out instead of waiting for the next best thing to come up and occupy my time. 

Staying focused and on topic has never been more difficult. We’re constantly being bombarded with information from social media, work, TV, streaming. In fact, I would argue that it’s never been more difficult in human history. 

So what are some steps that I have taken to focus in and lead a more productive life? 

The first step was to learn and feel comfortable saying NO to my friends, family, and even my boss (in the most polite way possible). 

Many of us have a real problem saying no because we ultimately want people to like us. A lot of us have a hard time saying no because we don’t want to disappoint others. 

In my younger days, I would be “down” to go to any party, nightclub, bar even if it meant sacrificing things in my own life like good grades, not being hungover at work the next day, saving money. I didn’t want to be the no-fun police, I wanted to be the opposite and always be involved in the fun. 

When I was younger, my youth and energy was able to fight through the negative effects of always saying yes. I was able to pull all nighters and stay up for 30+ hours to be able to fit in studying for an exam and going to the bar. Not so much anymore. Looking back, how many of those nights out did I truly enjoy or remember? There are a handful of memories and stories that my buddies and I still talk about. It kills me to think about how much more money I would have saved! What about the energy I would have had to pursue other interests? Oh, what could have been. 

Instead of dwelling on lost time and money, I chose to learn from those experiences and improve my life. 

The first step is to take stock of your priorities in life. Write them on a piece of paper and rank them. 

Mine are: enjoying family, having a fulfilling career, physical fitness, mental health and sanity. 

Once you have identified your priorities, start saying no to anything that derails from your focus. 

There’s a party tonight but you need to study for an exam? NO. 

Your friend needs you to be a wingman tonight but you have an important meeting at work tomorrow? NO. 

Someone asks you to babysit for them when you really need a day to clear your head? NO. 

You get the point. Obviously you will have different scenarios but take time to reflect and cut out the non-essential parts of your life. It will not be easy in the beginning. You will have to stay strong and consistent when your friends, family, boss beg and plead for you to say yes. 

STAY STRONG. Don’t give in to peer pressure. You can do it. 

Your life will become the version of life you want it to be. You will have the time and mental space to learn a new skill or start a business or whatever you want. 

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