I am a high-stress kind of guy. I’m very detail oriented. I’m unforgiving of anything less than perfection on my part or anyone else’s. This helps me to get things done right. This also helps me (and my wife) to be miserable.

I’ve spent a lot of time frustrated about my inability to let go of things. My wife has probably spent even more time than I have doing the same. This selection from Seth Godin’s “Linchpin” really put into words something that I’ve never been able to wrap my head around.

The section that leads into this selection talks about the idea of “future nostalgia”. Oftentimes we become nostalgic for a future that we desire (eg – you work hard to get the right job so you can buy the right house in the right neighborhood). When things don’t go according to your plan, it can be very disconcerting. Then Godin says:

The Stressful Part is Hoping (From “Linchpin” by Seth Godin. Pages 204-205)

Patients who were given colostomies (an operation in which large portion of the colon is removes) were measured on their long-term happiness. The patients who were told that the situation was permanent, that they would have to live with a bag their entire lives, ended up being happier than those who were told that there was a chance they’d recover use of their colon.

The stressful part is hoping. Hoping against hope that your plane will arrive, that you won’t miss it, that your seat won’t be given away, that you won’t crash, that you’ll land close to on time. Hoping that the surgery will turn out okay. Hoping that your boss won’t yell at you. All of this is nerve-racking for many people.

And the reason is your nostalgia for the future. You’ve fallen in love with a described outcome, and at every stage along the way, it appears that hope and will and effort on your part might be able to maintain the future quo.

 I’ve spent so much time hoping that I will get enough money to move my family out of Florida, hoping that my band would get successful, or hoping that I wouldn’t be made to do something extra at work. I’ve spent so much time worrying that I am unable to function. I do everything in my power to force things to happen. This attitude is NEVER rewarding.

When you worry about the future that you desire, you don’t allow an even better reality to happen.