Tips For Overcoming Milestone FOMO

Milestone, or "milia passuum" in Latin, originally means a thousand paces. To notify the passerby of the distance between where they were and their destinations, the Romans constructed stone markers on the routes, per The Lower Merion Historical Society. These markers were otherwise known as milestones. Depending on the context, milestones might also carry a negative connotation. It's not too much to say that the bulk of our lives revolve around hitting milestones. Most people use milestones as the barometer of our success in various aspects of life, be it education, career, or marriage. For example, many people are expected to marry and have children by the age of 30, buy a house by the age of 40, and have enough money to retire in the following few decades.

Per Dr. Anisha Patel-Dunn (via The Zoe Report), we as a society associate life milestones with "success" and are under the pressure of achieving them. When we believe we have failed to meet these expectations, we grow restless and wonder if we are missing out on life. However, no one's life can be as neat and linear as a timeline, and no one can complete all of the milestones marked on it at the predicted time. If you're struggling with thoughts of not accomplishing enough, or if you've stepped into a new age where you're required to reach another milestone, here's how to overcome milestone FOMO and live life as you see fit.

Focus on the bright side of life

Being optimistic under gloomy circumstances isn't easy, but it's a must-have if you want to overcome any type of fear in life. If it's any comfort though, Dr. Kaitlin Hagan (via Harvard Health Publishing) notes that there are techniques that help instill optimism and allow you to view the world through rose-tinted glasses. It can be as simple as keeping a journal where you underline the positive things that happened, nip negative thoughts in their buds, effect positive changes in other people's lives where possible, practice self-compassion, and engage in mindfulness.

You can also learn to see the silver lining in every bad thing that happens to you. For instance, if you don't get a job you want, bear in mind that when one door closes another opens. If you're the only one in your group of friends who's not married yet, keep in mind that wine tastes better with age, and being single longer means you have more time for self-discovery. Keeping your focus on the positive aspects of life not only aids your mental health but also your physical well-being, per Avera. A longer lifespan, less stress, and more personal achievement can all be long-term effects of being more optimistic.

Work towards your milestones at your own pace

Everyone has different priorities, which is why it makes no sense to make everyone arrive at the same milestones by the same deadline. Just look at Colonel Sanders. The founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) started the business at age 40 and began franchising it at age 65. None of history's most accomplished individuals would be where they are now if they had become demotivated because they had not achieved certain milestones by certain ages.

To reach your milestones, you need to know what your goals and priorities are and work at them at your own pace. To effectively sort out your priorities, ask yourself the "why" behind everything you do, life coach Sharon Stokes tells Bustle. For instance, if your priority is to backpack around 195 countries before turning 30, then a lavish wedding before entering the 30s club isn't for you. Remind yourself that everyone has different goals and milestones to achieve, so don't let anyone disrupt your pace. Realization of your life goals doesn't always come early, so patiently try out several methods of finding and living in accordance with your priorities. You can test-drive your passion by trying out an activity for 30 to 90 days, such as reading a novel or learning a new language, advises therapist Melody Wilding (via PsychCentral).

Stop comparing yourself with other people

The root of our perpetual sense of inadequacy lies in the comparison trap. When we're constantly looking around us, we tend to measure ourselves against others and believe the grass is greener on the other side. If we let ourselves become fixated on how other people are wealthier, skinnier, and more attractive than us, we'll always be caught in a negative loop of envy, anxiety, criticism, and loneliness, says Mike Robbins. When we think we're less, we try to become more by spending money on what we don't need to impress the people who don't care. The comparison trap is a vicious cycle where you never win.

If your inclination to compare yourself with others is getting you demotivated, disconnect from the online world or avoid scrolling through social media as much as possible and focus on cultivating your real life. "Social media definitely exacerbates this sense of not living up to our expectations," says Sophia Goh, a principal counselor at Sofia Wellness Clinic (via Channel News Asia). Social media primes people for jealousy and unrealistic expectations, being bombarded with news of other people's milestones. The thing is that social media is a filtered space where most people put their best foot forward and is hardly a level playing ground in the first place. For instance, most people have no problem showing off their stunning houses to the world but will never flaunt their mortgage statements because real-life struggles are not social media materials. 

Surround yourselves with supportive people

If you want to live a life of positivity, you need to choose friends wisely. You can't change the people around you, but you can choose to surround yourself with people who share your ambitions, speak encouraging words, and motivate you to chase your dreams. Like negative energy, positive energy is contagious. By the same token that being around cheerful people makes you feel better, spending time with negative or closed-minded people in your professional or social circles saps your mental energy and makes you doubt yourself, per the Mayo Clinic.

To get a better idea of which relationships to keep and which to let go, think about how you feel after spending time with these people, says life coach Tony Robbins. Do they make you feel upbeat and keen to take on new challenges? Or do they always shoot down your ideas and make you feel inadequate? If you always end up feeling demotivated after spending time with someone, stop hanging out with them. But to attract positive energy, you should raise your standards and become a more positive person yourself. One way to find new, active friends is to join a sports club or a professional circle and seek out people who can embrace your individuality and encourage your growth.  

Practice gratitude and live in the moment

One surefire way to help you overcome milestone FOMO is to practice gratitude. Having a sense of gratitude for little things in life allows you to be content with where you are in life and keeps you in a continual state of joy, Ramsey Solutions points out. Instead of basing all your contentment on what you hope to achieve tomorrow, focus on being in the now and appreciating what you already have: your health, a roof over your head, a job that puts food on the table, and a happy family. There are many people out there with lots of money and accolades to their name who don't have a big, happy family or good health like you do. Your next promotion or a new car will come one day, so why waste time pining after them and missing out on the joy at hand?

If you commit yourself to be deeply grateful for what's good in your life and remind yourself of it daily, you'll be far less vulnerable to comparison and envy, advises physician Susan Biali Haas on Psychology Today. Instead of allowing spikes of jealousy and inferiority to consume you, channel your energy into activities that give you joy or boost your self-esteem, like playing sports, joining a cooking club, or doing charity. Before going to sleep every day, take time to reflect upon and jot down the things that you're thankful for and hang on to that sense of bliss.