One of many moving stories of Hurricane Sandy involved a family in an affluent area of New York awakened by the rush of water into their home.
As the floodwaters rose, the father led his family up to their attic, whence they were rescued several hours later. A neighbor, who saw the father the next day carrying what few belongings he was able to salvage in a gym bag, asked him how he was doing. The fellow, who had just lost his house to Sandy, smiled and said “Thank God. Everything is great!” Seeing the neighbor’s jaw drop, he quickly added “I have my wife and kids. That’s all I need.”
Sandy destroyed this man’s home, his possessions and his net worth, but it could not defeat his spirit. Indeed, it brought out his greatness. Let’s face it—losses can be psychologically devastating. Behavioral finance research has shown that people experience the pain of loss with something like two and a half times the intensity of the joy of gain. Indeed, there are people who spend their lives wallowing in misery over some past loss—the deal that fell apart, the cushy gig that seemingly slipped away, the relationship that just didn’t work out.
And while many are stuck in the past, there are probably just as many who fantasize about a future that will likely never occur. If only I had this job, this relationship, or this whatever … I’d be happy.