4 Ways to Deal with FOBO (Fear of a Better Option)

The fear of a better option (FOBO) can paralyze decision-making. It is also the enemy of innovation.  In this episode, I share 4 ways to deal with FOBO.

4 ways to deal with FOBO

FOBO versus FOMO

What is it that causes that hesitation at decision time? Patrick McGinnis calls it FOBO: the Fear of a Better Option. Patrick describes it as being “paralyzed at the prospect of actually committing to something, out of fear that we might choose something that was not the absolute perfect option.” The result is that you get stuck in analysis paralysis and never decide. The sister term to FOBO is FOMO, the Fear of Missing Out. If you miss out, you will not have that one magic piece of data that will give you perfect information. So, our fear of missing out feeds our fear of a better option. The result is saying “yes” to everything. I used to say “yes” to every request to speak or teach, no matter the impact on myself or my family. When you combine FOBO with FOMO, you can find yourself afraid of doing anything. That is FODA, the paralysis that turns into a fear of doing anything. What I had to learn was to say “no.” Breakthrough came when a newspaper article was written about me, which forced me to go public with a secret that fed my imposter syndrome.  

How I deal with FOMO is I create criteria for myself that help me prioritize the requests for my time and attention.  

FOBO in Innovation

For innovation, deciding to move forward on an idea, to commit to resources such as people and money, is ripe for FOBO. I have seen a leader hesitate to give a team the green light on a project because they are not yet convinced that it is the best/perfect idea.  No idea is a perfect idea. FOBO could mask a more general fear of failure. But not deciding means zero chance of an innovative idea. The primary objective is to innovate and to do that, you need to try your ideas. Come to terms with the fact that most of your ideas are going to fail.  FOBO, the fear of a better option, is the enemy of innovation. It is the tool antibodies will use to brush off your ideas.  

FODA (the Fear of Doing Anything)

When you combine FOBO and FOMO you can find yourself in a paralyzed position not wanting to commit to anything. This is FODA, the Fear of Doing Anything. You need to learn to be decisive. Here are 4 ways to deal with FOBO and not get caught in the trap of FODA:

  • The Ask and Watch method. Patrick McGinnis says to whittle your decision to two options. Assign each item to either the left or right side of your watch. Look down and see where the second hand is at the moment. Taking the final decision when you have two good options out of your control releases you from doubt.
  • Criteria method. Create a clear criterion that works for you. Mine are the Five F’s: Faith, Family, Friends, Fitness, and Finances. Score requests on your time against your list of criteria.
  • The Innovation = Ranking method. With innovation, use your funnel and ranking process to create a list of “next best ideas.” These are the ideas based on their ranking score from the FIRE framework. With the ranked lists of your ideas, force a decision that says something like each quarter we will fund the idea with the highest score.  
  • The Trust but Verify method. Apply the old Ronald Reagan maxim “Trust your decision but verify.” If the decision is not delivering the result you expected, then adjust.  

These 4 ways to deal with FOBO will help you be aware of your own FODA and change.  We will never have perfect information and, therefore, will never make the perfect decision.  So, make your decision and move on. For questions or comments, send me an email.

To hear about how the fear of a better option (FOBO) can paralyze decision-making, listen to this week's show: 4 Ways to Deal with FOBO (Fear of a Better Option).

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