I’m sure that you have all heard of Fomo, or the ‘fear of missing out’, but have you heard about the ‘fear of better options’ (Fobo)? Fobo is consuming many of our thought patterns and affecting our behavior for the worst. The more anxious sister of Fomo, Fobo is attributed as the reason why some of us struggle to make even the simplest of decisions.

In this post, we take a closer look at the reasons behind Fobo. We will also give you some helpful steps to overcome the difficulties you may be having with making decisions.

What Is Fobo?

The freedom of choice we have access to in the modern world is indeed a privilege. However, with so many things to choose from, it can lead us to make no decisions at all. This is what the fear of better options relates to. In other words, when we are faced with a multitude of options, the fear of missing out on the best one leads us to a state of indecision.

The term Fobo was coined by the US venture capitalist Patrick McGinnis, who also came up with the term Fomo. According to McGinnis, Fobo is the “coping mechanism” we use to deal with the fear of making the wrong decision in case if “something better comes along”. However, the persistence of Fobo in our lives can lead to not only a general dissatisfaction in our own life but also cause our friends, family, and colleagues to despair with us as well.

McGinnis defines Fobo as being an “affliction of affluence” and is, therefore, restricted to the privileged who have the benefit of power and money to give them so many options. This is an affliction, therefore, that can also be used by large corporations, as well as individuals, as a justification for “not doing something”.

Discussion around the demotivating power of choice is not entirely new. Iyengar and Lepper’s study in 2000 concluded that individuals who had fewer options derived greater satisfaction from the decisions they made.

The concept of ‘maximizers’ and ‘satisficers’ has also been a popular phenomenon in psychology when discussing individuals’ approaches to decision making. ‘Maximizers’ are those that base their decisions on the maximum benefit later on. Whereas ‘satisficers’ settle for a decision based on more modest criteria (and less research).

The lack of commitment that maximizers show to their decisions, according to Joyce Erlinger from Florida State University, makes them less satisfied with their choices in the long term.

How to Overcome Fobo?

If the concept of Fobo is ringing true for you, then fear not. There are some steps you can take to improve your decision-making power and overcome the constant fear of what better options are waiting for you around the corner. Here are some tips to set you in the right direction:

1. Recognize that you can never be aware of all your options

While it is normal to want to select the best option in all areas of your life, it is helpful to recognize that it’s impossible to examine all the potential options available. Acknowledging this fact is a key part of beginning your journey to be released from the restraint of Fobo. It can also be beneficial to acknowledge that there may be multiple ‘best’ options. So, in making a decision, you’re one step closer to getting one of those.

2. Be clear about what it is you want

Fobo can lead to hours of research and deliberation. This results in a spiral of indecision, confusion and, ultimately, frustration. To overcome this, try making a set of clear criteria for what you want to get out of your decision. Make sure you restrict yourself to 3 or 4 criteria. Once you have found those criteria in an option, go for it.

3. Be honest with yourself

McGinnis states that an element of Fobo can derive from resistance to, or fear of, saying no to something. We may delay our decision by giving a tentative ‘maybe’ to an option which, when you’re honest with yourself, you know is not right for you. To prevent delaying the negative, saying no immediately can prevent the escalation of Fobo.

4. Set yourself a time limit

Your indecisiveness does not only affect your own experiences, but it can also influence those around you. Waiting for a decision can be a stressful time for others. Not to mention putting you in the bad books with those closest to you. Setting yourself a time limit to make a decision can be an effective way to improve your decision-making ability, and lead to greater satisfaction with your choices.

For instance, you’ve been given a few options for a Friday night but are worried about choosing the best option. In this instance, giving yourself a time limit of Wednesday to decide ensures that you can enjoy your weekend and prevent annoying your friends.

Final Thoughts

Having a fear of better options (Fobo) can have serious effects on your ability to enjoy your life. Never making a decision may result in you missing out on fun opportunities or important life chances. Fortunately, it is possible to tackle this obsession with finding perfection by following our simple steps.

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