By Leo Babauta
I have a friend who is working on a meaningful project that he wants to focus on â€¦ and so he said no to some exciting opportunities.
These were projects where people he highly respects want him to work with them. How can you say no to that?!
Understandably, he felt difficulty after saying no to these amazing opportunities â€” the pain and fear of missing out. I think a lot of us can relate to that.
The fear and pain of missing out (actually, any fear or pain) can be an amazing opportunity to practice, to open our hearts, to deal with our deep feelings of inadequacy.
Itâ€™s a transformative practice.
Saying No is Saying Yes to Focus & Space
Letâ€™s say youâ€™re missing out on important opportunities by saying no. You donâ€™t normally say no â€” you say yes to too much, and are constantly overloaded. You are constantly too busy, stressed about getting everything done, overworked and prone to burnout, missing deadlines and not doing as well as you could on projects because youâ€™ve got too much going on.
So saying no to these opportunities is a big shift. It means:
- You are going to give priority to whatâ€™s on your plate. Finally!
- You are going to create space for sanity, for self-care, for not burning out.
- You are going to give full focus to the work thatâ€™s most meaningful to you, that you are most committed to doing.
These are amazing things. These are loving actions to yourself and the people you care about.
And yet, the fear and pain of missing incredible opportunities arises.
Practicing with the Fear & Pain
So you notice yourself struggling with this fear and pain. Itâ€™s an incredible doorway to practice and transformation.
Hereâ€™s how you might practice:
- Stop and notice that you are feeling either fear or pain (or both) of missing something important. Pain of not being able to do what youâ€™d like to do. Fear of missing what you should be doing.
- Pause and let yourself feel the pain and fear. We donâ€™t let ourselves feel it, and run from it, avoid it, fear feeling. But we have the capacity to feel more than we let ourselves fear. We have the courage. Pause and actually feel it â€” not the thoughts about what youâ€™re missing, but the physical feeling of fear and pain.
- Ask yourself if there is anything on your plate right now that is less important than what youâ€™ve said no to. Is there anything on your plate youâ€™d remove to make room for this opportunity? If not, you are clear on your priorities (even if thereâ€™s never going to be any real certainty that itâ€™s the right choice).
- Remind yourself that youâ€™ve said yes to your priorities and to having focus and space. That this fear and pain come with this amazingly loving act of saying yes to focus, space and priorities. Itâ€™s a part of the experience, and you will feel it many more times. And thatâ€™s OK!
- Remind yourself that you would have felt even greater pain if you had said yes. The pain of being overloaded, too busy, overcommitted, never having time. The pain of burnout, of missing deadlines, of doing worse than you can on each project. The pain youâ€™re feeling now isnâ€™t as bad.
- Feel the love in saying yes to your biggest priorities. Feel the love in saying yes to focus and space. Appreciate how amazing that is.
- Fearing missing out is also a kind of â€œgreedâ€ (in a nonjudgmental sense) â€” we always want more, and want to pile our plates high with everything. Instead, can we be grateful for what weâ€™ve put on our plates? Can we see how amazing the things weâ€™ve chosen are? Can we see that they are enough, and we donâ€™t need more?
- At the heart of the fear of missing out is our deep feeling of inadequacy. We fear that if we miss out on something important, somehow we wonâ€™t be OK. Let yourself face the pain of your feelings of inadequacy, and make friends with this. Can you be friendly and kind to these feelings of inadequacy?
- Feel the goodness in yourself for the acts youâ€™ve taken. You are a beautiful, courageous person with a good heart. You can handle things if they donâ€™t turn out as well as you like. You have made it through much worse.
Learn to trust yourself by seeing the goodness in yourself. Learn to validate yourself. Learn to make friends with yourself. Learn to have the courage to feel everything, and be OK with what you feel.
In the end, you will always miss out on something important. Itâ€™s unavoidable. But what you are gaining is worth being grateful for.