(Fear of Missing out TO Joy of Missing out)

Image courtesy, Image by adege from Pixabay

How can animal migration teach us the benefits of the J.O.M.O strategy?

Animal migrations are phenomenal. Be it the numbers, the precision of navigation, and the amount of energy required to engage in one. How do each of these species even manage to survive such long journeys?

It is because the purpose of the journey is deeply ingrained into their living cells, which could be – to find food and water in the next 10 days/2 weeks (whatever the critical number is); or it could be to mate (as only that area, habitat, location has the right conditions); or it could be to defend its young ones (a location that offers better food & safety); or it could be to escape a bad weather. When this is clear, the species undertake migrations of the kind that our human mind might find it difficult to even fathom.

Imagine…the journey some of these organisms make:
Arctic tern, 71000 kilometres (annual round trip)
Sooty Shearwater, 65000 kms
Humpback whales, 22000 kms
Dragon flies, 17000 kms
Monarch butterflies, 4800 kms

There are several strategies they adapt that is revealed by science – persistence, specific physiological adaptation, storing energy before the journey, and more. BUT, there is one strategy they apply, which is relevant to what I share in this post, and that is: UNDISTRACTABILITY.

The Arctic Terns reveal impressive attentiveness to the greater mission, that they are totally undistracted from any temptation deterring them.

For a bird that sees 2 summers per year and more daylight than any other creature, if in their migratory paths, any bird watcher boats tempt them with food, they fly on, resisting the distraction, driven by their instinctive moment to the larger purpose. They know that if they waste their time trying to satisfy themselves with the small bites that is highly unreliable, they could arrive late to their breeding ground, or for the food at the right time of the season in the right country. They would rather choose what is dependable, long term, time-tested and sustainable, rather than what is undependable, short term, and unsustainable (tourists/birders feeding so they can see or get pictures of the arctic terns). The J.O.M.O is a far more sustainable strategy individually and as a species for the Arctic Tern, than actions springing from F.O.M.O.

Migratory animals maintain this impressive focus through the entire journey, as over the years they have realized that a small distraction could cost them the purpose of the migration, and their survival.

In this lockdown phase, we can either act from F.O.M.O or choose J.O.M.O. Let us go a bit deeper using some of these examples that either I have been experiencing, or some of my loved ones are:

  1. Online offerings: The generosity of several organisations, professionals, artists, speakers and more, have given us access to so many beautiful courses, programs, podcasts, webinars and more at no-cost or very negligible amounts. For many of us who love to learn, this could feel like a candy store amidst all the chaos unfolding around us. Maybe good questions to ask are:
    • Realistically what is the time available to me?
    • What are the needs of my family and me right now?
    • Why do I wish to do this course?
    • What purpose will it serve?

    If I find wanting to do a course/program because my friend said she doing it; or because the person offering is a celebrity/expert, or because I feel that if I don’t do it now, I will never have access to their wisdom ever (which is not true), then they are the wrong reasons (FOMO). In that case, the J.O.M.O strategy might serve your purpose better when we are all struggling to juggle many things.

  2. WhatsApp groups sharing what they cooked/designed/did for the day: We are all part of some WhatsApp group, and there is no denying that the support that comes from some of them is much needed during these times. However, there might be certain people who are doing a fabulous job of cooking or sharing these amazing recipes he/she is discovering. There are others who might be putting up videos of how their children are following their instructions/schedule to the `T’, or someone who is beautifully working out to a Zumba routine. If as we are watching each one of them, we find anxiety building up in us, instead of joy, and we find ourselves wondering – what we should cook next, post next, or what we should make our children do right away and post a video of it, this is F.O.M.O. If we are unable to enjoy the posts of others without any anxiety or envy, then we might be better off stepping out of the groups, as the benefits of J.O.M.O might be more useful for us right now.
  3. Latest news updates of the virus and more: Being updated on what is unfolding locally and globally is essential right now, so you can prepare yourself for the right response. However, if we find ourselves obsessing over news, consuming it, comparing the data from different channels, analyzing different ways in which it can economically impact, building assumptions and theories, and then find that you are unable to attend to what is on hand, that you have lost touch with the people around you, that you are constantly hooked to the phone, computer or internet digging for more, then it surely is our FOMO operating. How can we move to J.O.M.O at this point, keeping to just a few minutes of update every day? If we are unable to do so, we can step out of news consumption completely and nominate a family member or dear friend who isn’t as obsessed right now, who is appearing more practical right now, and request him/her to check the news and give you a quick summary each evening. Does that work? Or any such option?

Every human and human body is different, every family is different, kids are different, needs of each family is different, economic situations are different, the time available to each of us is different, work pressures are different. We just cannot compare, not right now.

Instead to remember the Arctic Terns – focus on what is long term, what is sustainable, what is led by our purpose, what is led by our situation and needs, and attend to it.

So I invite each one of us, to check in with ourselves. Let us feel free to drop all that is stemming from F.O.M.O.  In such a scenario, let us embrace J.O.M.O, the strategy of Un-distractability.

I for one, am realigning to my purpose and letting go of the online courses /webinars that aren’t for me right now. They are beautiful, wonderful, but I am choosing what serves my larger good from all perspectives.

Maybe given the situation, what you might need is an expresso, and curling up on the sofa staring into blankness for half hour, before lunch madness begins. Maybe for your family, instead of a routine, some amount of madness serves the purpose. Maybe the gain in J.O.M.O strategy is far higher than F.O.M.O.

Would love to hear your thoughts and where you can see yourself borrowing from the Arctic Tern, during this phase of your life.


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