Our generation has the most choices available to them in all sections of life. Whether it be what dress to wear, which car to drive, what we should have for lunch, or where our career should go we have choices. We have ample choices in both our personal and professional lives, much more than our parents or grandparents ever had. This is what has led to a new problem and that is the anxiety of opportunity cost.
What is Anxiety?
First of all, let us clarify what anxiety means here. Anxiety is a kind of natural response that your body provides when stuck in stressful situations. It’s a feeling of nervousness, restlessness, and sometimes also fear. Although anxiety is a natural response, sometimes this response is beyond our control and that is when it starts to cause a problem. Out of various things that lead to anxiety issues, overthinking is the biggest.
Anxiety can be identified with both physiological and emotional symptoms like shivering, sweating, freezing, rise in pulse, fatigue, irritability, insomnia, and many more.
What is Opportunity Cost?
Opportunity cost is what you sacrifice when you make a choice from the given options. For example, if you had 3 hours and a choice to either watch a movie or organize your home, whichever option you choose the rejected one becomes the opportunity cost. If you choose to organize your home you did it at a cost of 3 hours of entertainment.
It is the forgone benefit that could have been derived from the option that you did not choose.
What is Anxiety of Opportunity Cost/ Fear Of Better Options?
Our whole life we try to make the best possible decisions for a better future. What decision of today will impact my future how is absolutely unknown. Hence, very responsibly and carefully we choose the option that we think is best for our future. But now, we have so many choices. What if the choice we made is not perfect for us?
A client of mine had several options to choose from when she graduated from school. She had taken journalism as her career. She joined a fashion magazine and started working with many high-profile people immediately. She interviewed many renowned personalities. Things were looking up for a couple of years till she realized that she should have joined the local newspaper. She thought she could have grown more in that. I asked her why she had this sudden realization. She said too that- “I and my friend both had that opportunity and I chose to get into fashion leaving behind the local newspaper offer. Today she heads her team and I am almost at the same place where I started from. If I would have chosen that I would probably be in her place.”
As a response to this, I asked her if she wanted to be in her friend’s place, to which she said she was not sure.
This client of mine was excellent at what she does and sooner or later it was sure she will get much more than she got right now. She loved the glamour and the attention that came with it. She loved meeting these people and loved the world she was working in. But still, she was anxious, she was stressed, she was worried if she had made the right choice.
This is the anxiety of opportunity cost. They worry is that if I chose one option I have to leave behind the other and what if that other option is a better choice?
You can also refer to the anxiety of opportunity cost as FOBO or fear of a better option.
Do You Have FOBO?
Here are a few signs that will help you know if you have Fear of Better Options:
- You spend hours in making simple decisions (even what to eat and which show to watch)
- You are passionate but have a fear that your passion will not take you far.
- You stay in a toxic relationship but refuse to be single.
- You have a fear of being out-competed
- You hold unrealistic standards and high expectations.
- You constantly compare your life to others
- You look back on options that you have rejected before.
How to deal with Anxiety Of Opportunity Cost/ FOBO?
- Make your decisions process oriented. To satisfy your mind make sure that you convince it logically about why you are making a certain decision. This will help you stay focused and reason with yourself whenever you face FOBO.
- Don’t focus on ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’. What is good for them may not be good for you. Every person has their own life trajectory and trust me you don’t want to take someone else’s life.
- Make sure whatever goals you set in your life , resonates with your values and life purpose. [ See the HEART model for Goal Setting]
- Define what matter to you and not what others say is important. once you know what matters to you , you can weigh your options accordingly to pick the best choice for yourself.
- Focus on the long-term results and not short-term gains. Visualize its effect after say 3 years or 5 years.
- Avoid decision fatigue. Yes , decision fatigue is real. After you make a lot of decisions , your mind loses the capacity to make any more, making you indecisive . Every mind has its own capacity and when you will be tired is not something I can tell you. My suggestion is to automate the processes of your daily life. Avoid making small decisions that would not really matter. Like what you are wearing and what you are going to eat. Keep your mind open for questions that matter to you the most. Minimalism helped me do this . It may help you too .
- Learn to trust yourself. You know yourself the most and you are the one who can take the best decisions for your own life.
- Walk before you run. Don’t jump in just now , weigh the pros and con’s and start walking on the path you choose.
- Whenever you feel the anxiety of opportunity cost , take a pen and paper to list down all the reasons you chose what you did.