The other day my husband was watching an episode of Dateline about lottery winners.
Each person had won a large sum of money and the show chronicled how they were spending it and dealing with their newfound wealth. They also had the opportunity to receive financial advice from Donald Trump.
It was interesting to see how each person was responding to the sudden infusion of money into their life.
One woman had already spent about half of the six million she won.
She’d purchased homes, cars, and boats. And, she was passionate about shoes and wanted to start a shoe business. She figured she’d be able to double her investment in the business. Trump advised against it, stating that it was far too competitive and she had no experience and would very likely fail. And, lose the remaining lottery winnings she had. Instead, he suggested she learn money management skills and study investing so she could protect her remaining winnings, and eventually build them back up again.
One couple was determined to give away a large portion of their winnings.
While Trump admired their intentions, he warned them against giving with their heart and not their head. Too many people who come into large sums of money, are too generous, giving so much away that they end up charity cases themselves. The couple was warned they would receive requests for money from all kinds of people, including some they’d never even met. The stories would be compelling. It would be hard to say no. They would need to be cautious if they want to be able to help others and protect their wealth.
Yet another couple was afraid to spend their money.
They shared that while they felt blessed to suddenly be financially free, the money brought with it worry and fear. They didn’t know what to do with all of it. It was sitting in a bank account earning negligible interest because they were afraid to spend or invest it. They also admitted life was simpler before they had all the money. Life also had a purpose and a routine about it—get up and go to work—that now seemed to be missing. They were getting lazy. They needed to find a new purpose. Something to focus on. To put their energy into.
I think most of us fantasize about what we’d do if we won the lottery.
Perhaps we’d buy a nicer home, a luxury car, travel the world, start a business, or donate to charity. We dream of all the things we could do and how our lives would change if we no longer had to worry about money.
But here’s the kicker—and this show made it abundantly clear…
Coming into a large sum of money does not remove the worry.
It only changes it. We have different concerns—for example, how do we help others but not get taken advantage of? We have different needs—for example, the need to learn how to manage and protect the money, instead of how to make it. Instead of spending our days working for a living, we may have the choice to spend them however we choose. But do we know what we’d do with all that free time? Or would we become lazy and purpose-less like the couple profiled on the show? After all, you can only sit around and do nothing for so long before you get bored.
Rather than dreaming about winning the lottery and all the ways our life would improve if we did, what if instead we thought about how we’d like to spend our days and what it would cost to finance that?
In his book, The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss recommends finding out what your dreams cost and then setting out to earn the money to finance them today. Instead of doing what most people do… wait for retirement to live the life they truly want. He argues that many of our dreams don’t cost nearly what we think they do, and that they are actually quite doable now, with a little planning, work, and saving.
When you focus on how you want your life to look vs. how much money you want to have, something interesting happens. You begin to get ideas and take action to create that life. Money, in most cases when we’re dreaming about it, is just a number. And numbers are cold and emotionless. Life on the other hand is alive and full of energy. And when we can connect to the energy of that which we desire, we have a much better chance of attracting it, than if we simply focus on a number.
I’ve experienced this change first-hand in my life over the past year.
Prior to that, and as I share in my book, Breaking the Spell, I was more focused on achieving success and financial rewards. And I discovered it was a constant pursuit. I never really got there.
For the past year, I have focused on creating the life I want to live.
Not on acquiring a certain amount of money or a desired level of success in my business. As a result, my life looks completely different than it did before. I enjoy each day more. I am more present, and much less focused on where I’m going. I enjoy the work I’m doing more. I have more down time and balance in my life. And interestingly, financially we are in about the same place. Yes, I’m earning less, but I am also spending a lot less because I am not trying to buy success.
Business ideas and opportunities that are in alignment with what I most enjoy doing are showing up on their own, without me having to chase them down. The activities I don’t really enjoy but was doing because I thought I needed to, to be successful, are falling away. And money keeps showing up, often from unexpected places.
I’m not saying it wouldn’t be awesome to win the lottery.
In fact, I recently invested a few hundred dollars in a raffle to win a luxury home or large sum of money. It was for a good cause, I felt inspired to enter, and I thought, hey, if I do win it would be very nice. But I’m not so attached to winning that I will be devastated if I don’t. I know that giving is always the first step in receiving (not that you give and expect to receive—it doesn’t work like that) and that your winnings often come from another, indirect place.
In fact, that’s already happened—three large sums of money just showed up in my life this week. They came from following inspiration, taking action, and doing the work that needed to be done. Yes, there was work involved. But it was not hard. It was just a matter of consistently taking the next logical or inspired step and being open to receiving.
Lastly, as I also shared in my book, the majority of lottery winners end up losing all of their winnings.
They end up back at the same wealth level they were at previously. This is due to something called a financial set-point. And unless you change yours, you will never attain the millions you’re dreaming of. Or, if you do, it won’t last.
All the more reason to stop being a money dreamer and believing all of your problems will magically be solved when you win the lottery. And to focus instead on making the most of each day and all you have right now. Because as I’ve shared in previous posts, life is a constant evolution. The gifts and problems you experience today are today’s gifts and problems. You may have new ones tomorrow, or next month, or next year. Learn to fully experience and deal with them the best you can in the moment, and if you do happen to win the lottery, you’ll be much better prepared to enjoy that gift and everything that comes with it.