Having more choices, more options, means having more possibilities to be perfectly content, right? Well, maybe not so much. While surfing around the web recently, I came across an article describing a new Millennial phenomenon called “F.O.B.O.” No, I’m not confusing it with “F.O.M.O.” and while I disagree with most of the “social ills” many people like to attach to us Millennials, I whole-heartedly agree with this one.
“F.O.B.O” or “Fear of Better Options” is a paralyzing epidemic spreading through our generation, affecting aspects of our lives from choice of cable company to dating prospects to college choice to something as simple as toilet brushes. Yep, toilet brushes. Did you know Amazon has 20,661 different kinds of toilet brushes? WHA?! Yeah, I know this because I was curious if there was a better way to go about the unglamorous task of toilet cleaning so I decided to search the goods conglomerate for options. Ah, options. Such sweet, stressful little things.
The world today is a fascinating place where phone companies introduce new products to market at every turn, a dozen different social media websites exist to display our lives via video, picture, status, or tweet, and if you want to buy a toilet brush, you have a choice between 20,661. Grand, isn’t it?
It turns out having as many choices in as many areas of our lives as we do keeps us from making any choices at all. Instead of taking actions, we stand still. To quote the article once more,
“The way I think about it metaphorically is choosing one door to walk through means all the other doors close, and there’s no ability to return back to that path. And so rather than actually go through any doorway, it’s better to stand in the atrium and gaze.”
I see it happen all the time; I’ve even experienced it myself. As someone quoted in the article posits, “Am I setting up my adult life to be the way that it could optimally be?” We’re so stressed about living the best life, having the best ‘stuff,’ picking the right person, job, apartment, etc., we can’t decide on anything, and even more, once we do decide, we are constantly questioning if we picked the right thing or if there’s something else better out there. I start to feel anxious just typing that out — wuts ^ with THAT? I’ve watched as friends have passed up great jobs, even great guys, because what if there’s something better?
Sure, there might be…or you may have already passed up the best thing out of fear of potentially better options. It seems starting at all is becoming our most difficult task because starting requires commitment and commitment means closing other doors, other options. I think that’s often why we leave great relationships, quit great jobs, because we do live in a world of options and it’s common to think, “well, if this doesn’t work out, that’s fine, because I have a plethora of options out there.” It’s really kind of sad, actually. Nobody really has to conquer anything anymore, overcome issues, deal with their flaws because there’s no need to. Back in the day, when you found a special someone or landed a really amazing job, you stuck it out and you fought like hell for it because instead of having this F.O.B.O, you had a fear of losing something really special. We could learn from our predecessors, folks.
One of my favorite movies ever is The Five Year Engagement. In one scene, Emily Blunt’s “Violet” is speaking to her sister about a guy she dated once, Jason Segal’s “Tom,” and where their relationship, or lack thereof, is going. Her sister says, “It’s been five years, you either love him or you don’t.” Violet replies that of course she loves him but she just isn’t sure if he’s the right one or what she really wants because it’s complicated. To paraphrase Violet’s sister, “You just pick a one and take a bite!”
For a lighter example, this happens to me every single time I go shopping. I’ll find, let’s say, a dress at the first store I go to that I just fall in love with, but I always figure I might find something better at the next store, so on to the next store I go and the cycle continues. By the end of it, I’m thinking about the first dress and all the time I just wasted convincing myself I could find something better, i.e. F.O.B.O, when in actuality, I leave discontented and frustrated that I couldn’t find anything at all when really, I should’ve just bought the first one. Suddenly the saying, “you don’t realize what you have until it’s gone,” comes to mind. The first dress was one that I was instinctually drawn to but I was afraid there was something better so I went on and then at the end of it all, I regretted, not only not picking the original one, but also all the time I wasted, all the energy I put into worrying.
As I’ve said many, many times in this blog, I’m no psychologist or life coach and I don’t claim to be some great advice giver (although, I was a peer-mediator in elementary school B-) ), however, I do think this is a pretty big problem in our generation. We’re way too anxiety-ridden about making the right choices when most of the time, the right choice is right in front of us. In my opinion, most of the time we already know what’s right because we feel in our gut, it’s intuition, but then we start thinking too much and make the whole thing way more complicated than it needs to be. The happiest people in this world aren’t the people with all the best things, they’re the people who make the best out of their situation and what they have.
So, instead of feeling this pressure to be the best, have the best, and the fear of better options, just trust yourself and trust your heart. It knows the way. We’re a generation obsessed with competition, being better than our peers, living better lives, but too many times, this obsession leads to more unhappiness than satisfaction. You don’t have to be a millionaire, go on fabulous vacations, eat at expensive restaurants, go Ivy League, marry rich. You really don’t, what you do have to be is happy, what you do have to do is what makes you happy. You’re an amazing person as you are, trust that. No amount of money or friends or anything else will change that.
It’s scary to take the leap, to risk making a mistake by making a choice, but you can’t just live your life full of anxiety, paralyzed by decision-making. TRUST yourself, TRUST your heart, your gut.
To quote one of my favorite Westlife songs “World of Our Own,”…
“And all of the things I’ve been looking for
Have always been here outside of my door
And all of the time I’m looking for something new”