45 & Thrive: FOMO to JOJI — Turning a fear of missing out into a joy of joining in

Physical health and wellness can allow those aged 45+ the freedom to accept invitations and enjoy adventure, such as travelling, without the fear of health concerns or injury. Photo by Alessia Cocconi.

For some time now, the acronym FOMO, shorthand for ‘Fear Of Missing Out,’ has been popular description for those of us who say ‘Yes!’ very quickly to invitations and opportunities, perhaps without thinking things through. This label is often applied where one joins activities without full consideration as to the consequences, repercussions, advisability, or even the costs of jumping in. Having a fear of missing out suggests that the prime motivation is, well, fear:

‘What will people think of me if I don’t go…?’
‘What special part of this event might I miss if I don’t go this time?’
‘What if I say ‘no’ now, and I don’t get asked to join in next time…?

 Scary stuff! Maybe…

A few weeks ago, on the eve of my oldest son’s wedding, I struggled to write a ‘Father of the Groom’ speech with the right words to capture the essence of my son’s character. I kept hovering over the idea of FOMO.  Anyone who knows my son Connor knows that he is a very enthusiastic and social person. He lights up a room when he enters, makes an effort to meet and engage with everyone, and seeks to leave a positive impression. Further, he is very quick to both accept an invitation, and lead an outing.  But as I reflected upon this, I thought ‘Is Connor really acting out FOMO when he shows such enthusiasm? Is my son’s motivation really out of fear?’

I let the idea swirl around my head for a bit. I reflected upon my experiences watching him engage with individuals and groups rather spontaneously. Then it dawned on me:  No, Connor’s enthusiasm is not based upon ‘fear avoidance,’ but rather it is fuelled by ‘joy seeking.’ He doesn’t go ‘all-in’ when friends and family invite him, or ask him to tag along to an event, out of fear.  He is ‘all-in’ because that event or invitation may very well lead to connecting with a new person, learning something new, or having a great new experience. In short, he is seeking positive, enriching, happy experiences – Or, put another way, ‘Joy’! So, Connor isn’t motivated by a Fear Of Missing Out, FOMO, but rather by the ‘Joy Of Joining In,’ JOJI!

A couple dances under the in the evening. Photo by Maksym Kaharlytskyi

It really was revelatory to me (But, for the record, it wasn’t the first time I’ve been humbled by the lessons taught to me by my children). I recognized that there are people around me whose default motivation for social interaction and adventure was not founded upon fear and FOMO, but rather by the Joy of meeting new people, gaining insights into what makes them tick, and participating in wonderful new experiences; what a delight!

Joy of Joining In may, however, be easier said than done. For some, just changing around the terms in an acronym might not be enough. Changing attitudes, perspectives and motivations takes mindful practice and perhaps a network of friends who share your intentions. For those of us past middle age, JOJI may present more challenges, especially as we get a little older and our social group tends to shrink. My son in his 20s does not have the same responsibilities, concerns, and life experiences as those of us focused on maximizing life after 45.

So, what can we do about it? How can we be ready to join in and experience joy when opportunities arise?  Well, for one, we can maintain wellness habits which help optimize our physical health so that we don’t have the excuse or encumbrance of illness or injury when opportunities and invitations do present themselves. Physical well-being supports our capacity to say ‘Hell, Yeah!’ and allow us to join in to activities without concern for any health challenge which might get in the way or slow us down.

A couple kisses in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. Photo by Juliana Malta.

Maintaining habits through healthy eating and meaningful, functional physical exercise can’t help but lay the foundation for robust longevity and more JOJI. Being and feeling robust makes it much easier to join in, accept both invitations and challenges, and get the most out of our second 45 years. When we maintain our physical health, we not only see and feel the results, we also have the time and inclination to join in to those experiences most likely to bring joy, happiness, and positive new experiences.

Some may see the difference between FOMO and JOJI as simple semantics. But our attitudes and orientations to ideas fuel our behaviours and therefore our experiences. Our intentions have both meaning and consequence in support of our best lives. If we accept that it is enriching and noble to attempt to live positively and with meaning, then consider doing so from a perspective of joy seeking rather than fear avoidance. Mindful reflection combined with physical well-being positions us to be able to practice the Joy of Joining In, to see the glass as half-full rather than half-empty, and to seek experiences which enrich our lives, and the lives of those around us. #JOJI

Until next time…

Michael Patterson, M.Ed.
Lift long and Prosper

Michael Patterson M.Ed, has spent 30+ years as a fitness and health professional. He holds degrees in Physical and Health Education, Psychology, and Education. Find out more about Michael and follow him on his website at www.45andthrive.com, and on Instagram @45andthrive. Questions and comments can be sent to [email protected].

*Disclaimer: The information provided and discussed in this column is based on my personal experience, studies of physical and health education and my expertise as a lifelong fitness and health professional.  Any recommendations made about fitness, training, nutrition, supplements or lifestyle, or information provided through this column, should be discussed with your physician or other health-care professional.

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