top of page
MM Logo Update Outline.png


drawing of choice paralysis

❝We can't do a think about it. Too many choices.❞ -Dave Matthews Band, "Typical Situation"

Have you found yourself wanting to do things that you normally wouldn't do? Ever scrolled through your social media feeds only to discover others are having more and better experiences than you? That feeling seems to be a force that pulls you. It can make you want to do things you can't afford, or that you don't even like doing.

This idea has a name: FOMO. FOMO stands for Fear Of Missing Out, and is behind many people's desires. It's inevitable in a world where we are constantly comparing ourselves to others. Yet, I am making the claim that FOMO doesn't make sense, and is a distraction to meaningful living.


Bronnie Ware used to work as a nurse who worked with people who were living their last weeks of life. She noticed that most people tended to regret some aspect of their lives. After having more and more conversations, she discovered that all those regrets people have fall into five groups. She used this knowledge to write a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

In case you are wondering, the most common regrets people experience on their deathbeds are:

  1. I wasn't authentic

  2. I worked too much

  3. I didn't express myself

  4. I lost touch with my friends

  5. I didn't allow myself to be happier

drawing of Bronnie Ware's top five regrets of the dying

Her point in writing the book and calling attention to these regrets is to inform the rest of us - those of us who are not on our deathbeds. If we can learn not only that most people get to the end of their one life with regret but also what those regrets tend to be, then we can use that knowledge to plan the rest of our lives in a way that will give us a lesser chance of experiencing those regrets.

It gives us a choice. It allows us to continue doing what we're doing, going down a path that leads to regret, or we can change course and live a meaningful life.

drawing of meaning vs regret

By understanding the idea that we get to choose the life we want to live (of course, understanding that much of what happens is out of our control), we get to learn our sources of meaning and personal values to build a life around what's important to us.

drawing of meaningful living

It's just that...well...we get distracted.

drawing of distractions to meaningful living


The internet has done so much to give us access to information. I'm old enough to remember the world before the internet, and if you had told me back then that I'd have a supercomputer that I carried around in my pocket with answers to any question I could think of, I would have thought you were describing an episode of The Jetsons!

It's crazy what we can do with the connectivity we have. It's easy to think that having all this (cheap) access to information would make our lives easier. Without a doubt, our lives should be easier.

drawing of access to information

And that would be the case if we only did the things we were doing before the internet. Easy access to information indeed made the tasks and our lives in general better.

But there was a dark side. It also highlighted all the other things we could be doing. It shined a light on what other people are doing. This is the internet paradox.

drawing of the internet paradox

The Meaning in Life Questionnaire assesses two dimensions of meaning in life, the presence of and search for meaning. Presence measures how full you feel your life is of meaning. Search measures how engaged and motivated you are in efforts to find meaning in your life.


Even without the internet paradox, there are always things to do. For some of us, we have to get through our to-do list before we start working on our more meaningful projects. And if we let our to-do list get in the way of our meaningful activities, we might find that we'll never get around to doing what's most important to us. We might end up experiencing regrets one (not living true to ourselves), two (working too much), or five (putting off our happiness).

drawing of to do list

And that's before being influenced by FOMO. We've already got more to do than we can possibly achieve in our lifetimes, but once we fall victim to wanting to do everything, or thinking that we need to do everything, then we'll find that our to-do list keeps growing.

drawing of long to do list

And ultimately, we find that there will always be things to do - things that need to be done, things we want to get done, things that would energize us, things that drain us, and so on. There are always things to do. We simply can't clear the decks before enjoying our lives. We'll never get there.

And letting FOMO get in the way doesn't help.

drawing of really long to do list


Now we get to the punchline: FOMO doesn't make any sense.

Trying to do everything is literally impossible. You already have too much to do, and trying to do more will keep you from living a meaningful life.

drawing of trying to do everything

This isn't meant to induce shame if you find that FOMO has its grip on you. It's only meant to show you there's a different path. There's a path that is built out of your personal values and sources of meaning.

FOMO is a distraction.

drawing of fomo distraction from meaning living

It's tempting to think that we're missing out when we notice other people experiencing more than we are, or seemingly happier than we are. However, we never know the whole story. It's possible, likely even, that they are suffering from FOMO too, and doing things they THINK will make them happy at the expense of what will ACTUALLY make them happy.

You get one life; live intentionally.


If you know someone else who would benefit from reading this, please share it with them. Spread the word, if you think there's a word to spread.

To share via text, social media, or email, simply copy and paste the following link:


Subscribe to Meaningful Money

Thanks for reading. If you found value in this article, consider subscribing. Each week I send out a new post with personal stories and simple drawings. It's free, and there's no spam.




About the Author

Derek Hagen, CFA, CFP, FBS, CFT-I, CIPM is a speaker, writer, and coach specializing in financial psychology, meaning and valued living, resilience, and mindfulness.


Join over 1,900 other subscribers.

No Spam - Just new articles sent to you every Thursday.

Popular Articles

bottom of page