About a month ago, I took a vacation.
It was sorely needed: I had just published my first book, which was completely exhausting. All that writing, rewriting, marketing, building excitement…I was ready to crash.
But I couldn’t shake the idea that I still needed to work–and stay constantly connected. What if my publishing company emailed me with a huge problem? What if Michael Strahan called? (We had recently met and he agreed to review a personal copy.) What if…you know, what if?
I reached a turning point early on in the vacation. I felt I needed to catch up on a few things, so I asked my wife if she’d be okay with me leaving her and the kids on the beach while I head to Starbucks for a few hours to catch up on emails. She agreed.
So, I walked my family onto the beach, helped them get set up, and then started to walk away.
My little girl stopped me dead in my tracks.
“Where are you going, daddy? Aren’t you going to play with me?”
“Um…I’m sorry honey. Daddy has to go get some things done.”
“No, Daddy. Stay here. I want to play with you. Please!”
I stood there, frozen. What am I doing? I thought to myself. Did I really want to go to Starbucks to sit in front of my computer, responding to emails from people I barely know, when instead I could be spending time with my family on a beautiful beach?
So, I set down my things. I made a sandcastle with my daughter. Then, I conquered some major waves with my little boy. I proceeded to enjoy one of the best days I had experienced in a very long time.
Over the next couple of weeks, I completely changed my plan–I canceled my scheduled work days, focused on my family, and enjoyed my vacation. We went to the beach, again and again. We took the kids to the park, the pool, and the movies. I went on a date with my wife, while my parents watched the kids.
And somewhere along the way, my FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out, transformed into something much more blissful: JOMO, or Joy Of Missing Out.
It seems like I’m not the only who could benefit from a change from FOMO to JOMO.
According to a recent survey on LinkedIn, 70% of employees admit that when they take a vacation, they stay don’t disconnect from work. Businesses spend millions to bombard you daily with clever language and beautiful images, all designed to reach you on an emotional level, to stimulate a craving for the latest and greatest, to make you feel that you must have a product right this second.
Additionally, our digital habits–which include constantly checking messages and social media timelines–have become so entrenched, it’s impossible to simply enjoy the moment, along with the people with whom we’re sharing those moments.
That’s why it’s so vital to recognize JOMO as the emotionally intelligent antidote to FOMO.
It’s undeniable that the tech industry has contributed heavily to the rise of fear of missing out, but at least now some companies are acknowledging the need for change.
For example, when Google CEO Sundar Pichai took the stage at his company’s recent developer conference, he did so with the words “Joy of Missing Out” projected behind him. Pichai then announced a “digital wellbeing” initiative that introduced several tools to support more mindful habits–such as a dashboard that tracks how much time you spend on various apps, recommended breaks from digital binges, and even batches notifications–to discourage the Pavlovian response to every. single. message. (Apple soon followed suit with its own attempts to promote a more healthy digital diet.)
These are great ideas. But of course, in the end it’s up to you to make a change–if you want to achieve the balance, peace of mind, and the joy that results.
I leave you with a wonderfully written ode to JOMO by Australian cartoonist Michael Leunig. Bookmark it, tag it, share it…and most of all, print it and put it up somewhere to serve as a constant reminder of the need to unplug, to be present, and yes, to simply miss out on the things that don’t matter…
To make time for the things that do.
–By Michael Leunig
Oh the joy of missing out.
When the world begins to shout
And rush towards that shining thing;
The latest bit of mental bling–
Trying to have it, see it, do it,
You simply know you won’t go through it;
The anxious clamouring and need
This restless hungry thing to feed.
Instead, you feel the loveliness;
The pleasure of your emptiness.
You spurn the treasure on the shelf
In favour of your peaceful self;
Without regret, without a doubt.