I recently wrote about FOFO (Fear of Finding Out) and mentioned that it’s one of two top things I hear about from VAs.
The other is a combo platter of FOBO + FODA: Fear of Better Options combined with Fear of Doing Anything.
FOBO is where a person becomes overwhelmed with the sheer number of options available and fears that she will make the wrong choice.
It’s often paired with FODA, which makes a person so afraid of making a mistake or failing that, as a result, she just does nothing at all.
FOBO can lead to a feeling of dissatisfaction with the choice that is decided on. FODA can lead to stagnation and keep a person from doing her best work and reaching her fullest potential.
Chances are, at some point in your life/work, you’ve run headlong into one, the other, or both.
I have three stories for you:
When I was in college, I was the evening Expeditor (a sort of junior assistant manager) in the china, crystal, and silverware department at Bamberger’s. In our department, we had a bridal registry, and a staff bridal consultant to work with couples on what they wanted to register for.
When she wasn’t there, it fell to the rest of us to work with the couples, so Bamberger’s gave us a crash course in being a bridal consultant. Of all the things I learned then, the only one I remember is this:
Never let a bride put more than three patterns on the table at one time.
The reason? The department itself was visually overwhelming with all the patterns of china, crystal, and silver. But when a bride would take a bunch of them off the shelves and lay them on the table we had in the department so that she could try to imagine them in her own home, too many options absolutely led to FOBO + FODA. I saw it happen on repeat, which is how I came to know how true the limit of three was.
With a max of three, I saw brides far more easily make choices, and choices they were happy with. They often weren’t happy with me when I would cut them off at three, but it helped them decide without the overwhelm (and we did let brides swap out patterns…we just never let them have more than three on the table at one time).
Limit your choices to have an easier time making a decision. And don’t worry what else might be out there. Go with what’s in front of you; it’s in front of you for a reason.
Stay on 15
Like what I remember from that period in my life at Bamberger’s, I also remember only one tip I learned from a Blackjack dealer in Vegas when I was first old enough to play cards. He told me, “Stay or hit on 15…but do it the same way every time.”
I’m still not sure I understand why doing it the same way every time is important, but then, I never became a card shark. If I’m guessing, it’s to keep a player from holding up the game trying to make that choice when presented by it.
What I suggest to clients about FOBO + FODA is to limit the choices in front of you (as I already mentioned), and, whenever possible, systematize things for yourself so you don’t have to make a new choice when you find yourself in a similar situation again.
This one came from the wise-and-wonderful Cheryl Richardson and has helped me make seemingly impossible decisions more often than I care to count.
You see, I am, by nature, a FODA person. FOBO doesn’t get me much, but FODA? Man. If I can’t see a clear RIGHT choice, I simply make none. I’m like a mule who sits down and literally can’t even be dragged forward.
And Cheryl taught me that when I have narrowed things down to a couple of options, what I can try is an exercise where I imagine that I’m walking down a path, and up ahead I can see a fork in the path where I’ll have to choose to go left or right.
As I imagine waking toward the fork, I can see signposts appear…one pointing left and one pointing right. When I’m close enough, I can read the signs.
What Cheryl suggested was that I intuitively assign one of my choices to the left sign, read it, and immediately go in that direction without second guessing it.
It doesn’t work super-well for me with mammoth decisions (like choosing a new city to move to), but with just about everything else, and because I trust my intuition, it’s been a game changer.
One more thought
Just know that very few choices in life will lock you into something you can’t get out of. So, if you choose something and find out there was a better thing, you can move to the better thing. It may not be especially easy or without cost, but you can do it.
So, make choices. The more you make, the easier making good ones becomes!