Who hasn't dreamed of winning the lottery? Sure, we've all heard the statistics - the odds of winning are less than the odds of meeting your high school sweetheart while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro at precisely 2:32 p.m. on September 26. You are more likely to be struck by lightening on separate occasions, be crushed by a meteorite or even become an astronaut than you are to win the jackpot.
And the stories of all of the people who either lose their entire winnings or who are ruined by the experience are not very encouraging, either. But still, there is something enticing about the dream of choosing the winning numbers. How different and exciting your life would be... how you'd have entirely new freedom, happiness - and probably a better car - than you do now.
With one of the big jackpots creeping up towards $400 million again, it got me thinking about a conversation I had with a former neighbor of mine. We were living out in Los Angeles at the time and my friend Beth lived across the street with her husband and young son.
One day she announced that they had decided to move to Santa Cruz, on California's Central Coast. I was surprised by this revelation, as they both had good jobs and were well established in LA, but Beth's logic went something like this:
"If we ever actually won the lottery we'd move to Santa Cruz. The lottery thing may never happen, but we can control where we live. Even if we have to go to a smaller house and cut corners for a couple of years we'll still feel like winners."
Many years after this conversation happened it still sticks with me very poignantly. Some people might call what they did foolish or risky, but I think it's just the opposite. What are the implications of not taking control of your happiness? How many people do you know who feel trapped in jobs or situations they don't like, and who stay because they feel they "should"?
Have you ever heard someone say something along the lines of:
"I'll be happy as soon as I get that promotion?"
"When our sales reach "X" dollars, then I'll be happy?"
"When I meet Mr. - or Ms. - Right, that's when everything will be good."
Are you starting to see what is wrong with this picture? With a limited number of days, hours, and minutes to walk this earth, isn't it time to make a positive change in your life, starting today?
I ask you, don't we all have a responsibility to live like lottery winners, even if it's just in some small way? If you won the lottery what would you want? Is it more time with your family? Would you become a philanthropist? Spend time at the beach? Go fishing?
Sure, some of these things would be easier or could be done on a different scale with millions in your pockets, but life is short and if there are things you have thought about doing it's time to start figuring out how to turn those ideas into reality.
It's easy to make excuses but you're surely doing yourself a huge disservice if you don't start taking little steps towards your big goals. Here is a guide to get you started:
1. Visualize - close your eyes and imagine that you suddenly have endless wealth. What are the top five things you'd like to do?
2. Now look at each of those things and consider, what is the core reason you would enjoy each one? For example, you may envision yourself living in a luxurious mansion, but if you dig a little deeper you may discover that the core enjoyment is, perhaps, being surrounded by beautiful things.
3. Once you understand where your core pleasure is rooted, take out a piece of paper and brainstorm ways that you might start achieving some of those feelings of joy right now, before you win the lottery. For example, if you're craving being surrounded by beautiful things could you take one room in your house, or one corner of a room and start a conscientious transformation of the space?
Continue taking small steps towards all five of your top lottery winner goals and you will gradually begin to see real transformation in your life, whether or not your numbers are ever drawn. For isn't it true that we all owe it to ourselves to live our best lives, without waiting for some external event to make everything change?
My husband and I always said we'd become patrons of the arts when our big money ship came in. Well, we're still waiting for our millions, but we're not waiting to live out our dream. I have joined a committee on our local arts council and now support multiple artists by donating my time and what we can financially to this organization.
And what about my friend in Santa Cruz? She still hasn't won the actual lottery yet, but she is living in a lovely little house in a very beautiful part of the country. By living bravely and by making conscientious choices she isn't waiting to live the life of her dreams, and neither should you.
This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.