In our previous column, we talked about FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and the harm it does to relationships, especially among young adults who can so easily be diverted from pursuing enduring values and life ambitions by the fear that their peers are having more momentary fun than they are. Of course, it’s not just the young who are at risk, but also spouses and parents and retirees. But how does one resist the seductive power of FOMO?
Get some Identity Capital
Psychologist and author of ‘The Defining Decade’, Dr Meg Jay who has worked extensively with people in their twenties advises her clients to get some ‘identity capital’. By this she means investing in the things that connect us to our deepest values and core identity. It applies to career choices as well as relationships.
For example, she cites one client who had ambitions to work in the art world but had just spent the last three to four years waiting on tables while she worked out what to do. Often, young people resist getting serious about a career because they don’t want to get locked in. But here’s the thing; having a steady income that takes the anxiety out of being able to pay the bills frees one up to focus on other things like planning the next stage in the career, getting married or starting a family.
Relationships need Identity Capital too
Identity Capital is even more important in our relationships. Many of Jay’s clients are in casual or semi-permanent relationships. Often they acknowledge that their partners are not the sort of person they would marry or form a family with, but many twenty-somethings see no urgency to get serious about their relationships. At the other end of the spectrum, she often has divorcing newlywed clients who bemoan that they spent more time preparing for a wedding than they spent married.
Her advice is that the best time to work on a marriage is before the relationship even begins. And we couldn’t agree more. We’ve had many conversations with twenty-somethings who plan to marry around age thirty but see no rush to get serious about their relationships. They assume that once they are ready to ‘settle down’, that it will be a simple matter to clean up their lifestyle and find the ‘right’ person. They see a serious relationship in their twenties as a liability – a restraint on their freedom to pursue their interests.
Equally, we know many twenty-somethings who are serious about their romantic futures but are frustrated by the dating scene that promotes casual relationships over committed ones. They search in vain for someone who shares their values but the pickings are slim and the dating scene does little to help these men and women find each other.
The Power of Weak Links
One of the things that Jay promotes in her writings is the power of ‘weak links’. Weak links are distant acquaintances and friends of friends. They are people we’ve met once or only know about through a mutual acquaintance. Increasingly, these ‘weak links’ are becoming important in creating career opportunities. How many of us have given a young person some work experience or a trial as a favour to a friend or colleague? Often, they turn out well for both of us – we discover a really great new employee and they get a running start on a job.
These ‘weak links’ can also be invaluable in the dating game. The friendships you’ve had for years are unlikely to develop into romances, but the chances are that one of those friends has a cousin or new roommate who just might be an excellent match. When we enquire of participants at our seminars and courses, we are constantly surprised by how many couples met through the introduction of mutual friends or family.
Love Overcomes Fear
There’s no guarantee of romantic or career success in life, but one thing that is indispensable in that quest is love. Initially, it is ‘love for ourselves’ that emboldens us to take the risks to build ‘identity capital’ through our career choices and our relationships, to overcome the fear of failure, rejection or ‘missing out’ on the fun our peers seem to be having. Those choices connect us with the best part of ourselves and craft us into people of virtue and honour – the kinds of people who make great employees and wonderful partners and parents.
And should we be fortunate enough to have the romance of our desires, it is ‘love for the other’ that will continue that process of honing and refining, making us ever more people of love rather than people of fear.