This week I read about a new term… well it’s new to me, I think it’s been around for a few years now. The term is FOBO and it’s the lesser known sibling of the well recognised FOMO.
Unlike FOMO where you don’t want to miss out on anything. FOBO is Fear of Better Options and it’s the fear that stops you committing to a choice in case you make the wrong decision.
A classic case of FOBO will find you searching your streaming options only to find half an hour has past and you’ve chosen nothing… or is it just me who suffers from this?
FOBO is also closely related to the paralysis you may experience as a result of the paradox of choice, a term coined by American psychologist Barry Schwartz whose research found having too many options doesn’t make things easier, but leaves you feeling exhausted instead.
Of course, FOBO is one of the primary reasons many of us stay in unfulfilling career situations.
Making difficult decisions, in particular not making the “wrong” decision, is a common concern for those changing or upgrading their career. This is understandable. When you’re making a BIG decision, one that’s going to impact your status quo, you want to be assured it’s the “right” one.
Is your FOBO getting in the way of making an important career decision?
Don’t get me wrong, if you’re making a big decision (like changing your career), you should take time to think through your options and make intentional choices. I never recommend making this type of decision completely on a hunch or a whim.
But, if you’re feeling fed up and frustrated in your working life and you’re spending an inordinate amount of time wishing you could just work out the answer but it’s not happening, it’s possible you’ve succumbed to FOBO.
If you’re stuck due to FOBO, it’s likely you’re…
- Overanalysing everything! You’re spending hours, days or weeks of your time researching every possible option, often on repeat, in search of the perfect outcome.
- Spiralling in self-doubt. Even with all the research and comparing of ideas, every option seems to have a problem that leaves you thinking it’ll be the wrong decision.
- Fixated on the negatives. Focussing only on avoiding everything that might possibly go wrong, rather than the potential benefits, skews your perception and leaves you feeling negative about the whole process.
So what can you do to simplify your decision making, feel more able to make a choice and be content with the option you choose?
5 simple ways to overcome FOBO and get your career back on track
1. BE GUIDED BY YOUR VALUES
Your values inform and guide your life. When things don’t feel great at work (or in life) it’s often because you’re not satisfying something that’s really important for you. We all value many different things. But the important differentiator here is recognising what it is you value most. Reminding yourself of your most important values establishes an important framework within which to make intentional decisions.
2. DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Do some practical research. Speak to others about whether or not the options you’re thinking about really are better than where you are now. Ask people to tell you in their own words about the pros and cons of making a change. This moves the analysis out of your head and into reality. Many people I speak with always want to skip straight past this step. But it’s worth finding out as much as you can about what’s involved in achieving the options on your list. Before you jump in, know what you’re heading into.
3. EMBRACE IMPERFECT ACTION
A concept that’s probably difficult to grasp when you’re trapped in FOBO is… perfection doesn’t exist. In everything you do there will always be some unanswered questions, options for other possibilities and things that don’t go according to plan. That’s life. Try to stop stressing about taking into account every possibility or ensuring the decision you make is perfect. Choose progress over perfection even if the steps you take are small and a little wobbly.
4. MAKE A RATIONAL ASSESSMENT OF THE “SO WHAT”
With FOBO, you’re likely to feel very concerned about making the wrong choice, rather than making the right choice. A really worthwhile exercise is to assess the “so what” of making the wrong decision. What is really likely to happen if you choose the wrong option? In the career context, ask yourself, if you made the wrong choice, how bad would that really be? Whilst potentially a bit frustrating, it’s unlikely to be bad as you’re imagining. Imagine it, create your contingency and move on.
5. COMMITMENT IS THE KEY
Sometimes there is no one right decision. Say what?? When you’re making a choice between two future career paths (or any two life options), each in their own way might be a “good” option. There’s no objective algorithm that can be applied to a choice between two good or reasonable options. It comes down to how willing you are to commit yourself to the decision you make. Find the positive in your choice, place a pause on your options analysis and take ownership of your decision.
Changing how you think and feel about your choices will be the single best thing you can do to cure your FOBO and move forward with confidence. Not sure where to get started fixing or changing your career? Take this short quiz to find the right next step for you.