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Mind

Do you have FOBO? Why the fear of better options could be fuel for anxiety

With so many choices when it comes to shopping, socialising and even dating, it's no wonder we always think that something better is out there.

By Monique McKenzie
We all know about FOMO (fear of missing out), but now we have to grapple with FOBO (fear of better options) – the latest term to be coined that may explain our inability to make even the simplest of decisions due to choice overload, which in turn could be fuelling our anxiety.
We've all been there when ordering at a restaurant; deciding on a dish can be difficult enough and there's always the chance that someone else's meal will come out looking better.
Now New York-based author Patrick McGinnis, who's behind the concept of FOMO, is claiming that FOBO syndrome is making us all indecisive and unreliable, and therefore, miserable.
It doesn't help that we have thousands of options at our fingertips.
With so many choices when it comes to shopping, socialising and even dating, it's no wonder we always think that something better is out there.
"FOBO keeps you from committing to any choice in case another, more optimal opportunity comes along," explains Patrick.
Today's generation could be suffering from FOBO as we have so little time and want to make sure we're making the best decisions with that time.
The eternal search for the perfect possible outcome only leads to stress and regret.
Patrick says this isn't a new behaviour, but reflective of our biology of wanting the best.
"Our ancestors a million years ago were programmed to wait for the best because it meant they were more likely to succeed."
However, our ability to compare options and ourselves via social media has accelerated this tendency.
What's more, filtering out all of these options is proven to be mentally draining, which can lead to poor decision-making or decision fatigue.
In one study, customers were offered samples of either six or 24 different jams on alternate days.
Researchers found 30 per cent of people in the first group purchased at least one of the six jams they tried, while only three per cent of the other group made a purchase.
The study concluded that when we're overwhelmed with choice, we're less likely to make a decision at all.
So how can we combat FOBO?
Patrick has one helpful strategy. "For everyday things, I do what I call 'ask the watch'.
I whittle something down to two options and then assign each item to a side of my watch. Then I look down and see where the second hand is at that moment. Decision made. It sounds silly, but if you try it, you'll thank me."

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