I have a friend who is working on a meaningful project that he wants to focus on 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?
The fear and pain of missing out (actually, any fear or pain) can be an amazing chance to open our hearts and deal with our deep feelings of inadequacy.
It’s a transformative practice.
Saying No Is Saying Yes to Focus and Space
Let’s say you’re missing out on important opportunities by saying ‘no.’ You don’t normally say ‘no’—you say ‘yes’ to too much, and are constantly overloaded. You are busy, stressed, overworked and prone to burnout, missing deadlines and underperforming on projects because you’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 what’s on your plate. Finally.
- You are going to create space for sanity, self-care, and not burning out.
- You are going to focus on the work that’s most meaningful to you.
These are amazing things. These are loving actions to yourself and the people you care about.
And yet, the fear and pain of missing opportunities remain.
Practicing With the Fear and Pain
If you are struggling with this fear and pain, take it as a doorway towards practice and transformation.
Here’s how you might practice:
- Stop and notice that you are feeling either fear or pain of missing something important, of not being able to do what you should be doing.
- Pause and let yourself feel the pain and fear. Don’t run from it or avoid it. Pause and actually feel it—not the thoughts about what you’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 you’ve said ‘no’ to. If not, you are clear on your priorities, even if there’s never a certainty that it’s the right choice.
- Remind yourself that you’ve said ‘yes’ to your priorities. This fear and pain come with this amazingly loving act of saying ‘yes’ to focus, space, and priorities. It’s a part of the experience, and you will feel it many more times, and that’s OK.
- Remind yourself that you would have felt even greater pain if you had said ‘yes.’ The pain of being overloaded and overcommitted. The pain of burnout, missed deadlines, and underdelivering. The pain you’re feeling now isn’t as bad.
- Feel the love in saying ‘yes’ to your biggest priorities, and to focus and space. Appreciate how amazing that is.
- Fearing missing out is also a kind of “greed” (in a nonjudgmental sense). We always want to pile our plates with everything. Instead, can we be grateful for what we’ve put on our plates? Can we see how amazing the things we’ve chosen are? Can we see that they are enough, and we don’t need more?
- At the heart of the fear of missing out is likely a feeling of inadequacy. We fear that if we miss out on something important, somehow we won’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 you’ve taken. You are a beautiful, courageous person with a good heart. You can handle things if they don’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 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. It’s unavoidable. But what you are gaining is worth being grateful for.
Leo Babauta is the author of six books, the writer of “Zen Habits,” a blog with over 2 million subscribers, and the creator of several online programs to help you master your habits. Visit ZenHabits.net