Why Your Fear Of Missing Out Means We’re All Missing Out

Machu Picchu
image: Jacson Querubin

If you’re in the depths of a Peruvian rainforest on an expedition to climb Machu Picchu, then you’re missing out on watching a sunrise with your partner over Sydney Harbour.

Plus there’s no way you can also attend that artistic retreat you read about with great longing in the Greek Islands.

Or the prolonged stay at an ashram in Indian for an immersion in the practices of yoga and meditation.

You can’t be in four places at once, however much you might want to be.

If you went on any one of these adventures, and all you thought about was the others you were missing out on, then you wouldn’t be present, you wouldn’t give yourself a chance to fully engage, and to enjoy an incredible experience.

Your focus, your mind, and your heart, would be scattered all over the world, instead of softly aligned in a single place, in a single moment.

Let’s make these adventures a little less grand for a moment.

If you’re meeting a friend for lunch in your favourite cafe, to share delicious food and drink in a stimulating, yet relaxing setting, and then you spend half the time on your phone, again, you’re not going to fully engage in and enjoy the experience. Plus it’s somewhat disrespectful to your companion.

Whether you’re at a local coffee house or the other side of the world, much of the time when this kind of unwillingness to be fully in one place and time occurs, it’s down to one simple underlying fear.

The fear of missing out.

We become so concerned with all the goings on in the world that we might be missing out on by not being there, that we forget to be present right here where we are.

In fact we forget how to be present right here where we are.

We become fractured in a dozen parts, trying to simultaneously force our minds and our attention to be in multiple places at once. You know, just so we don’t miss out.

But the problem – and the irony – is, that by trying to make sure we don’t miss out on anything, that’s exactly what does happen. We miss out on everything.

So how is this relevant when it comes to your creativity?

Well, when you show up to create, if your mind and attention is scattered and in half a dozen places, there’s no way you can create to your fullest potential. Not even close.

And if you’re not going to even give yourself a chance to create your best, deepest, most meaningful, and most enjoyable work, is it worth even showing up?

It’s bad enough that you miss out on the pleasure of creating, and getting completely lost and immersed in your creative process.

You know, those occasions when the boundaries of time and space seems to collapse and you look up at the clock to see two hours have vanished in what seemed like a few minutes and you’ve forgotten even where you are.

Remember them?

So not only do you miss out on the joy of creating in the moment, you also don’t ever grow as an artist, because you never give yourself a chance to.

Worse still, you don’t produce your best artwork – artwork that others could potentially see and hear and enjoy, work that others could potentially be inspired by to new levels of creating in their lives.

All of this you miss out on, because of the fear that you’re, um, missing out on something else.

By trying to be involved in too many things, you end up being involved in nothing.

You’re skimming the surface of a dozen of different ponds, rather than diving deeply into one ocean at a time.

You can’t be a deep sea diver if you don’t ever stay in the water long enough, if you don’t ever dip your head more than a couple of inches under the surface.

You can’t be the wonderful, inventive, inspiring artist you have the potential to be, if you never show up for long enough, or fully enough.

So what’s the answer? How can you let go of the fear of missing out when there’s so much that others seem to be doing, so much you could be doing, that you don’t want to pass by?

There is only one way forward, and, like all the best solutions, it’s a simple one.

You can stop yourself from “missing out” right now.

Set time aside each day to create, undisturbed, without interruption.

Switch off and remove yourself from all potential distractions (you know what your own weaknesses in this are) and just get down to creating.

If you’re in Peru, be in Peru, and immerse yourself entirely in the sights and sounds around you.

If you’re at your page/ canvas/ lens/ stage or wherever else it is you show up to create, be there. Fully.

Absorb and record every detail of the experience with every sense. Forget everything else, because for this little period of your life, there is nothing else.

(If you think that seems selfish, read this.)

Stop missing out on being the amazing artist you can be. Stop us, your audience, missing out on having the chance to enjoy all that inspiring and stimulating artwork that’s in you waiting to be brought to life.

Give up the fear, get focused, and give us us all the opportunity not to miss out.


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5 thoughts on “Why Your Fear Of Missing Out Means We’re All Missing Out”

  1. Hi Dan, Thanks for this post. I like how you put it, that distraction keeps us from our best creative work–to value being creative, we have to put aside time for it and focus on it.

    I often find that being creative makes me feel MORE in the moment–when I’m able to keep out those distractions. I write fiction, so I have to leave the real world, mentally, and get into my fictional setting, but that makes me feel very in tune with that moment and the world, rather than distracted.

    And, I gotta say, I love the feeling AFTER I’ve written. Somehow, knowing that I’ve done a creative act, I feel more plugged in and alive in the present moment, like a creative version of a runner’s high!


    1. Yes, and then it becomes addictive and we want to create more, and automatically the act of creating gets bumped up our To Do Lists a few (dozen) notches.

      What you say reminds me of something I was reading about meditation and yoga recently. The point is not just to become fully present when we’re engage in those disciplines, but so it permeates the rest of our lives to. The more we practice being in the moment as fully as possible through specific practices – creating, yoga, meditation, walking or anything else – the more we enjoy and engage in everything else we do in our lives too.

      Thanks for your thoughts Baker.


  2. (Again, an amazing lead-off photograph!)

    Similar to being in one place while the mind is in several different places is the problem of not doing ANY of all the worthwhile things out of worry that it might not be the very best among all the appealing choices.
    I have found that if it is that hard to figure out which path is best, it likely means they are pretty much equally good and that it is time to just pick one and run with it. By making the commitment to a path rather than mulling over for weeks which path to take, one very well may end up having time for both in sequence.


    1. (Thanks re the photo(s) – I try to use images that I find very beautiful and inspiring myself, and that I feel enhance the posts and the blog’s design and ambience overall. Plus of course it’s a way of promoting and sharing the work of photographers I admire.)

      That is an excellent point about having a few choices that seem equally good, and I agree that picking one and giving it our full attention is the best we can do. I had’t thought about how the time saved from unnecessary debating of the options actually means we get the chance to develop more than one project anyway. Brilliant addition, thanks Fritzie.

      What we might, and often do, also find, is that by the time we’ve developed the first one we chose, we’re in a different place anyway, and those other paths we didn’t choose will now be either more or less relevant and appealing, and a decision on whether (and which) to pursue becomes more informed and easier anyway.

      We’re never in exactly the same place twice, as we’re constantly evolving, as artists, and as people.


  3. So true! Especially the phones!

    Sometimes, when I find myself reverting back to the “oh no, I’m missing out on things” stance I’ll turn it around and think: “ha! but they, are missing out on being here!” that helps 🙂


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