Personal Growth & Human Nature

Missed opportunity? It is high time we rethink FOMO

Missed opportunities in life? Not everything that comes into our experience is an opportunity. In this post we re-examine opportunity cost vs potential and rethink FOMO
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A lot of us suffer from FOMO. Fear of missing out.

Why? We fear that by not doing something, we are no longer part of the crowd, we fear that we are gonna be left behind, we fear that we have missed out on an opportunity.

But not everything is an opportunity though.

I used to be that person who saw every single request as an opportunity.

Anything someone asks me to do at work or proposes something to me, I will tell them it’s a good idea! Without really thinking about whether I have the time for it or not.

And it’s usually more a case of people-pleasing than anything else.

I always said yes to whoever asked me out – friends, potential dates etc. I was like gosh – what if I’m seen as anti-social and miss out on a great conversation??

What opportunity are you perceiving?

When you are thinking of how something can be an opportunity, it’s useful to explore what sorts of opportunity are you thinking about. When you accept that extra assignment at work, how are you thinking it will benefit you in the long run?

A promotion? Pay rise? Recognition? Status?

Your answers may surprise you.

Taking on extra responsibility is not an opportunity. Opp for what exactly? To do more work for the same pay? Talk about my story of staying somewhere waiting for a promotion, if it ain’t happening.

Attending everything and going on dates with everyone you are introduced to. Cause it might be an opp to meet someone new and if you don’t date – you won’t meet anyone. But chance for what exactly? – to date and get married to the wrong person?

The problem with thinking everything is an opportunity

Opportunity is not potential

The mistake that many people make with opportunity is that it is not rooted in the here and now. Many people think of the future benefits that they might reap.

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The potential. And this is where it can turn awry.

There are many problems with potential. Most importantly, it may never even materialise! You are thinking you might take on this extra task and get more recognition at work, but in reality, it might just be something that isn’t really important in the grand scheme of things.

Or, staying at an organisation just cause you think you are going to get a pay raise. You are waging a bet on something that may or may not happen in the future.

Do what works for you NOW. At least you have current information to work with. Base your decisions on that, instead of the what-ifs that haven’t come to fruition.

Over-emphasising the special-ness of opportunities

As humans, we tend to over-emphasize the special-ness of opportunities. Especially ones we’ve missed. We didn’t get to taste them so we assume they are better than the path we chose.

But, you absolutely don’t know for a fact that the missed opportunity was a good one because you didn’t live out that choice. You had no experience of it at all.

As humans we tend to fantasise about things we don’t have, we fill in the gaps when we don’t have enough information.

That leads to us “bigging up” opportunities we think we’ve missed because we engage too much in fantasy and thinking that things will play out exactly how we imagined them to.

But life never works that way!

Trying to control outcomes

When we indulge in too much fantasy and attempt to predict the outcomes of our opportunities, we are trying to control something that isn’t in our control –

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Life never works the way you think it should. So trying to outsmart it by thinking stuff like – “I should take this on/date this person, this will improve my chances of getting married/getting promoted etc”

Let go of this perfectionist tendency to want to determine how life should pan out and just flow with it.

When everything is an opportunity…

Then nothing is an opportunity anymore.

I used to think that I needed to say yes to every guy who asked me out – even if I didn’t like them. I was always thinking “OMG, this could lead me to something – maybe he’s a great guy and we can start a relationship, maybe he can get me a new job!”

Let’s be more discerning and boundaried in what we consider an opportunity.

Because when you are saying yes to everything under the sun, what kind of toll is that taking on your energy levels and bandwidth?

We’ve all only got 24 hours a day to live our lives, if we are rushing around trying to take on all these opportunities, you will quickly find that you don’t have the time or energy to do the things you really want to.

Something we forget…Opportunities do come around again

I know, I already can hear you saying, but-but what if… it never does?

Cut that out. And stop attempting to control your circumstances (See point above).

Yes sometimes there will be regret. For instance, I knew someone who left her job and three months later the company shut down and paid people out generously – around 15-20K. She could have totally regretted missing out on that much money.

But it doesn’t matter at the end of the day actually. It was about what her priorities were in life and she did what was right for her in the moment. And the right thing was to leave (she was having panic attacks from having to work with a narcissistic boss).

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Also, when you pass up on the wrong opportunities, you are allowing space in your life for the right ones to come in.

Some people ask me what are the “right” opportunities? You will know it when you see it. “Right” is different for all of us so listen to your gut on that one.

If you need time and help with developing that side of you – your intuition, gut feelings and inner voice, do check out my intuition challenge below:

Last words

The next time you are giving yourself a hard time because you think you missed out on an opportunity, ask yourself what do you think you are missing out on? Are you working with probabilities of things happening or do you have sufficient information that the opportunity is going to work out the way you think it will?

And don’t forget that opportunities do come round again. Sometimes when we think we’ve missed the boat, a better thing comes along. We just need to be ready to receive it.

Your thoughts?

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  1. TMP

    at 11:59 pm

    Coincidentally, I was watching the movie Yes Man last night and now I came across your post. The movie is a bit biased. He does say yes to absolutely everything (not just opportunities or events but favours/requests even like giving a ride and all his money to a hitchhiker in poor condition). Everything leads him to something good. A few things are a direct result that he could have decided on rationally like working harder to earn his promotion. If I said yes to everything in life like that, it would be a bit disastrous.

    1. Sara

      at 9:01 am

      Interesting! I’ve seen bits of that movie years ago and I too would agree it’s biased and unrealistic. It might be suitable for someone who’s never really ventured out and tried anything in their lives. But I think it focuses too much on the “see, try all these things and only amazing things are gonna happen to you!” which isn’t the case at all in life.

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