This article was originally published in the Progress Network.
Today, thanks to scientific discoveries and technological innovations, we live safer, longer, and more comfortable lives than at any time in human history. Nearly all of us would be unwilling to surrender these advancements for ourselves and our loved ones. Yet it is common for people to feel nostalgic for the past. At first glance, our sentimental longing for bygone days appears to be in conflict with our demand for progress. I even suspect most proponents of progress would intuitively assume that nostalgia undermines progress. How can people address the challenges of the present and build a better future if they are longing for the past?
These progress advocates, however, might be surprised to learn that nostalgia increases inspiration, optimism, creativity, self-confidence, and the motivation to pursue future-oriented goals. And they might not realize how much they themselves turn to nostalgia for inspiration; there is a fair amount of nostalgia within the progress movement for past eras characterized by rapid economic and technological development and a culture of optimism about the future.