As you may have heard, there is a huge Powerball lottery drawing (over a billion dollars) pending for Wednesday night. (For fun I just bought two tickets, one for myself and one to put in a friend's birthday card). There has been so much discussion about what people would do with that much money if they won. Answers ranged from cursing out their boss and quitting their job to traveling the world (hopefully their boss wasn’t watching the interview). The sad reality is that most lottery winners journeys don’t end that well.
I saw a TV special one-time about lottery winners and how their lives were changed. Very few were positive. Most had very sad stories of a life out of control, drug abuse, family estrangement and even suicide. I have a theory about this. Most of us at one time or another have thought “If only ____, then I’d be happy”. I know I’ve fell into that trap. Usually whatever obstacle the blank represents (paying off debt, getting a house, owning a car, not having to go to a job we don’t like, etc.) can be fixed with a huge sum of money. Once that blank is removed, we should be happy. What happens when we’re not?
I think that’s the dilemma of a lottery winner. What do we do when we banked on this one thing making us happy and it doesn’t? (Or worse, we buy into the idea this is the only thing that will make us happy, and it doesn’t happen). I think we all need to remind ourselves that happiness can’t come from outside ourselves. I know it sounds cliché to say “money doesn’t buy happiness” but the lottery is a great example of why this is true. Mike Rowe (from the TV show Dirty Jobs) does a great Ted talk about how he discovered some of the happiest people he met were ones doing horrible jobs (we’re talking septic workers and jobs most of us would avoid). He discovered it was the person’s attitude and outlook that made them content. Their ability to find joy and meaning (even in dire circumstances) was a better indicator of happiness than their income or job status.
So, if I win Wednesday I’ll have a great time spending it – probably lots of travel and birdwatching. AustinPetsAlive – where my pups came from - would receive a big bonus. But if I lose, that’s OK too – because I understand my happiness is not dependent on some outside circumstance I can’t control. Odds of winning are one in 280 million- not odds I want to bet my happiness on! Good luck to all you lottery players but remember, your happiness is not dependent on the little colorful balls falling into place Wednesday night.