The Fear of Better Options and how to overcome it.

First came the Fear Of Missing Out, but now psychologists and sociologists, as reported in the New York Times, have noticed that instead of trying to combat FOMO by attempting to do everything, people can’t decide what to do at all due to the Fear Of Better Options, FOBO.

The FOBO phenomenon, also known among scientists as ‘maximisation’, is where the amount of choice offered becomes overwhelming, and we spend time researching every choice just in case there’s a better one. While FOBO-ers seem to make better decisions, research shows that they are less satisfied with these decisions than those who make poorer but quicker decisions, leading to reduced wellbeing. Have you ever found yourself scrolling though menus of restaurant after restaurant for twenty minutes just in case there’s a better one out there? Or do you ever struggle to pick a new show to watch in case you’re missing out on a better one, to the point that you don’t end up watching anything at all? While these decisions are fairly trivial, the same can be applied to the search for a job.

Say you see a job advert that you think sounds really interesting; you have the relevant skills, the location is fine and you like the company. In theory, nothing should be holding you back from applying for this job, and yet you still don’t. If you apply for and get this role, you might be missing out on something better, you think to yourself. Even if you do apply and get the job, you might still worry that you missed out on something better. While being aware of the FOBO spiral is great, how do you get yourself out of it?

Enter the Mostly Fine Decision. If you think to yourself, what are the minimum requirements I have for a job? A liveable salary? A role I’m interested in and with a company I’m interested in? One with normal working hours and late working required on occasion? This gives you a threshold you need to meet and once you see a role which hits this minimum, go for it. Jobs almost always give you skills and valuable experiences you wouldn’t have even thought about before you entered the role, so while on paper it meets the minimum it is unlikely this minimum is all you will gain.

It’s also worth remembering that very little in this world is irreversible. If you enter a role and find you hate it you haven’t wasted your time, you’ve learned what you do and don’t desire from a job or career, and that in itself is valuable. You can always leave your current role and seek another, and you can use your knowledge from your previous role and what you enjoyed to narrow your search, meaning the options aren’t so overwhelming and you have overcome FOBO!


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