JOMO: How to grow the most important skill of 2020

Social media has programmed you to fear missing out. You see the highly curated life of others and compare your self-perceived inferior life to theirs. Out of this idea, FOMO, or fear of missing out, was popularized.

Never have we had to stay distant like now, but FOMO still exists. Plan an extravagant road trip. Pick up a new skill. Find a new hobby. Learn a language. You’ve likely seen all of these suggested in the last few months. There’s still a social media race for who can live the best life at home and socially distanced despite the immense amount of stress and uncertainty we have.

Even though the advent of social media accelerated the idea of FOMO, it isn’t necessarily new. A 1909 Bell telephone ad played into this fear we have of missing out, saying a phone would help you never experience missing out:

“Every little while some friend or neighbor has a Bell Telephone put in. If you have one, every new subscriber enlarges the scope of your personal contact. If you have not, every new telephone makes you the more isolated — cut off from the activities about you — ‘out of things.’”

This fear is embedded deep within us and our social hierarchy.

Why JOMO is so important

2020 has tested us in countless ways, including the growing mental health and wellbeing impacts.

With the rise of FOMO came a community that leaned into the opposite. Enter: JOMO or the joy of missing out.

You had a past life of commutes, busy work schedules, social events, weekend trips, little sleep, and a constant feeling of being overextended. It was a trade-off many of you were willing to make to not experience FOMO (or for the super vain, to create FOMO through Instagram).

Now, we have a pandemic forcing you to slow down and health officials pleading with people to stay away from one another.

Where FOMO encourages you to live life to its full extent, JOMO suggests you turn the nozzle way down on commitments and to stop comparing yourself to people on social media.

The implicit challenge: Can you build the two most important JOMO skills — finding joy in the ordinary and spending time alone? Is it possible to rebrand boredom from something that must be avoided to something we need and enjoy?

Finding joy in the ordinary and with time alone

I realize the “live life to the fullest” camp of people likely rejects the concept of finding joy in missing out and alone time. The idea behind JOMO isn’t to become a hermit in your home but to have greater ownership in how you spend your time, get comfortable with some solitude, and find joy in the simple rather than the extravagant.

I had a personal reckoning several summers ago. My wife and I were spending weekends away, long evenings, hosting people at our house, and attending events. By August that summer, I was exhausted. I longed for a weekend to actually stay home and spend time restfully sitting outside reading, thinking, drinking great beers, and doing some projects. I just wanted to stay home and miss out. I was longing for JOMO.

Not only that, but during this time, I was struggling to find fulfillment in my full-time job, I wasn’t consistently writing about this passion area, and didn’t have time for any of the simple things that brought me joy. I was moving way too fast and was way overextended.

It’s still important to connect with people. Still find time to get away and take time off in a safe and responsible way. Get active within your community and groups of people that may need your support. But also take time to miss out. Your body, your mental health, your quality of thought, and your day-to-day fulfillment will reward you.

Here are a few JOMO thought starters to find happiness in the ordinary and with time alone. Try them (or ones of your own creation) at your own pace and amount of time.

· Joy of slowing down when you arrive at your destination to put you face covering on

· Joy of walking or biking to town to get your essential items

· Joy of learning to sit with yourself and your thoughts, warts and all

· Joy of logging off social media and experiencing what’s around you

· Joy of cooking something from scratch

· Joy of stretching for 20 minutes in the morning and/or at night

· Joy of putting your phone away all evening

· Joy of using a pen and paper to think through a tough challenge

· Joy of not being the first to know about something by turning off push notifications

· Joy of being without phone connection or turning airplane mode on

· Joy of being on, in, or near water

· Joy of starting something and chipping away at it over time

Getting comfortable with JOMO’s two core skills — finding happiness with time alone and in the ordinary — may be the most important area you can grow in this year to care for your community (and the world) and save your personal mental wellbeing.

Hi, I’m Grant. I write the weekly Sustain newsletter about how to prevent burnout from work based on research and my own experience. It’s a fresh approach called Holistic Burnout Prevention which treats the causes, not the symptoms of burnout. Join me and let’s create a world without burnout. Subscribe >



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