Do you find yourself occasionally spending hours contemplating even the smallest decisions, and later experiencing a lingering doubt that you might have chosen incorrectly? If so, there’s a strong likelihood that you are dealing with FOBO – the Fear of Better Options.
While there are numerous fears out there, from fearing cavities to trypophobia, there’s another fear on the block that you might not be as familiar with. Most people are acquainted with FOMO, which stands for Fear of Missing Out, or the anxiety about potentially missing out on enjoyable experiences.
This sensation has been around for quite some time, but it has been significantly exacerbated by the rise of social media. Suddenly, it can appear as though everyone is attending glamorous parties, embarking on exotic journeys, or dining at fancy restaurants every night.
So, what exactly is FOBO?
Now, what is FOBO? This particular fear isn’t as widely recognized, but there are numerous individuals who genuinely grapple with it.
FOBO stands for ‘Fear of Better Options’. This abbreviation was introduced by the American writer and economist Patrick McGinnis, who also gave us the term FOMO. McGinnis elucidates FOBO by pointing to our contemporary consumer-oriented society, where virtually anything is accessible and the possibilities seem boundless.
Need a pair of sneakers? You could easily invest an entire afternoon in the quest for the perfect pair. This is what he terms the ‘paradox of choice’. The sheer volume of options can leave us feeling paralyzed.
Too many choices…
An abundance of choices can lead to stress since we strive to select the optimal option to avoid post-decision regret. However, in today’s world, the sheer number of choices is overwhelming, making it impossible to thoroughly research every alternative before deciding. This situation can be particularly challenging for those who tend to doubt their choices.
The struggle often begins in the morning when you’re confronted with an array of coffee options: black, with milk, soy milk, almond milk, oat milk, sugar, cane sugar, stevia, large, medium, small, cappuccino, latte macchiato, espresso, and so on. The sheer array of choices can make you realize that you may be grappling with FOBO…
01. Dining at a restaurant becomes a lengthy ordeal
An extensive menu can be quite overwhelming for those who perpetually grapple with indecision. The need to meticulously assess all those options, and you haven’t even glanced at the recommendations yet!
Is it a protracted process for you to make even the simplest dinner choice? And do you occasionally experience a sense of making the wrong decision when you see what your friend ordered? There’s a single term for this: FOBO!
02. Netflix? Hold on, I need a couple of hours
Watching a movie on Netflix necessitates significant preparation. You must thoroughly examine all available options, watch trailers, and so forth. This can, in fact, detract from the enjoyment of the experience.
You end up spending nearly as much time searching for a movie as you do actually watching it. This is because you want to avoid investing two hours in something that might ultimately prove to be unsatisfying.
03. You’re swiping but never making a connection
Tinder also inundates us with numerous options. It’s almost as though you can select a potential partner from a menu.
Consequently, you might find yourself plagued by doubts: should you agree to this match? Should you arrange another meeting or give someone else a chance? Or perhaps you end up not meeting anyone because the abundance of choices creates a sense of indecision.
04. The perennial wardrobe dilemma
The ongoing uncertainty of choosing your daily attire can be a surprisingly time-consuming task. While selecting what to wear every day may seem like a quick decision, many individuals find themselves dedicating substantial time to this seemingly simple choice.
If you happen to be one of those individuals, you might be grappling with FOBO.
05. The grocery store becomes an ordeal
A trip to the supermarket in today’s world involves making a series of choices. Even for a basic item like flour, you’re suddenly faced with a multitude of options: all-purpose flour, self-rising flour, whole wheat flour, patent flour, and so forth.
In this scenario, do you:
A) Take a leap and make a spontaneous choice (opting for what you think is best), or
B) Stand before the shelves for an extended period, wavering, scrutinizing the various options, and possibly even resorting to a quick Google search?
If you tend to do the latter, you may indeed be grappling with FOBO.
06. Delaying confirmation of plans.
Picture this: You have Friday evening plans for a casual drink with your colleagues, but then out of the blue, you receive an invitation to a party. Now, you’re faced with a dilemma because you aim to make the most enjoyable and optimal choice.
A characteristic trait of someone afflicted by FOBO is the hesitation to immediately confirm commitments. This hesitation leaves room to back out if a more appealing opportunity arises.
07 Most importantly: the aftermath of regret
The common theme in all the mentioned situations is that, after making a choice, there often lingers a persistent sense of doubt. Did you choose the best option? Do you wish you could change it? Well, regret can be a burdensome emotion.
Experiencing FOBO? Here’s how to address it:
If you find yourself identifying with most of the scenarios described above, you are a classic example of someone dealing with FOBO. Rest assured, you are not alone; many people grapple with this issue. But let’s be honest, this perpetual worrying isn’t doing anyone any favors.
Embrace being a ‘satisficer’!
Psychologists categorize decision-makers into two groups: maximizers and satisficers.
Maximizers are individuals who constantly seek the maximum benefit from their choices. Consequently, they are more prone to experiencing disappointment when they perceive their choice as ‘wrong’. This often leads them to self-imposed unhappiness.
On the other hand, satisficers make decisions more spontaneously and tend to think less about long-term consequences. It’s probably not surprising that those grappling with FOBO tend to be maximizers.
The solution: embrace a more satisficer mindset. Make decisions on the spot, without excessive contemplation and advanced research. You may not always arrive at the ‘best’ choice, but at least you won’t squander hours and lose sleep over it!