The Lottery of Life: Pitfalls and Possibilities

“There are two tragedies in life: not getting what you want and getting what you want!”

Oscar Wilde

Last week a single lottery ticket sold in Illinois matched the numbers for a $1.337 billion Mega Millions prize. Illinois is among the states where winners of more than $250,000 can choose not to reveal their names.

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably created imaginary scenarios or situations in the future that would be loaded with a heavenly state of happiness if you had a lot of money.  That’s not unusual. Most of us can spend time predicting a bright financial future loaded with possibility and promise. That is if we were to win the lottery.

But that’s not necessarily what occurs when people suddenly get a significant influx of the energy of money. Let’s look at a picture of what can happen to them.

After winning the lottery, many winners have suffered personal setbacks and lawsuits or have become the victims of scams. One such winner was quoted saying he wished he’d torn up his ticket!  Go ahead and Google the lives of people who have had to suddenly deal with vast amounts of money, whether through gambling, lottery, or inheritance.  You’ll read how difficult it is to unexpectedly have to deal with this energy, even if you’ve spent countless hours dreaming about what you’d do with it if you got some!  

According to Anita Snow of the Associated Press, some have managed to live a normal, albeit much more financially conscious, life. For example, Dave and Erica Harrig stayed true to their values when they won a lottery jackpot of more than $61 million in 2013. After quitting their jobs, they bought a new home and went on ocean cruises. However, today they live pretty much as they always did, remaining in their community, keeping up with church, family, and friends, and teaching their children to work hard to make a living despite any financial windfall that might come their way.

Turning Pitfalls into Possibilities

What can we learn from all of the above? Think of it this way. Suppose you were a conscious conduit of energy. A conduit is a pipe or tube that takes energy from one place to another. In this case, you convey the energy of money to water the garden of your goals and dreams. You, the conduit, are used to handing a certain amount of money energy.  One day, a deluge of this money energy enters your pipe. More than you could ever imagine.  What happens? You guessed it: the conduit breaks, and this energy of money spreads everywhere without discrimination or discernment. That’s because you haven’t ever had to handle this much energy. You weren’t ready for it. Voila! A pitfall!

I know, I know! I’ve talked about the above situation with people, some of whom say something like: “Oh darn! Let me handle that amount of money. My case would be different!”  Would it?

We know, for a fact, that the introduction of a significant change of any kind is very stressful. See the  Holmes and Rahe Life Stress Scale. When you read this scale, you’ll discover that many positive events are stressful. This includes getting married, getting a raise, and buying a new home. So it’s clear that something is required to keep that conduit (you) together! What would save your money conduit from splitting apart after a deluge of money energy? 

That “something” is what we can tease out from the Harrigs above. First, it’s about sticking with what you value and staying realistic with what makes you happy. 

I had a client, we’ll call her Marlene for anonymity, who won $35 million in the lottery in California six years before seeing me as her coach.  She had a successful experience. This is what she said to me:

Marlene: It was a total shock to have that much money at my command suddenly. I quit my job and took four weeks to adjust to the situation. During that time, I didn’t touch it! Not one penny! I was too stressed and thought I’d do something silly. I allowed the lottery agency to share my name, which was a big mistake. I had people sending me letters about family members being ill and homes destroyed by fire.  In addition,  I’m eight years in recovery from alcoholism. I almost started drinking!  Luckily I could speak with my sponsor about it! And that helped. I finally did hire an attorney, a reputable financial investment corporation, and a personal assistant to help me with this huge change. Now I have a scholarship fund that supports foster youth who want to attend college. I’ve always wanted to do something like that!  And I discovered this: that scholarship fund is, beyond a doubt, the most important and meaningful thing for having lots of the energy of money!

So, what can you and I learn from seeing people win the lottery? There’s a field of psychology that studies happiness. They’ve come to some interesting conclusions about the role of happiness in our lives. I’d be happy to give you the actual research if you write to me. But, for this article, let me summarize what they’ve found.

  • Expecting to be happy in the future, like going on a luxurious vacation or buying an expensive car, is usually more exciting than the event itself! For example, you plan a ten-day trip to Hawaii. You’re looking forward to it and happy while thinking about it. But you arrive there. The hotel room doesn’t face the ocean, and you must hassle the front desk to get it.  It rains for 7 out of the ten days.
  • Your excitement of expecting to be happy is higher than your happiness while remembering the event.
  • People who have gained a promotion at work, expecting to be happier,  are generally no more satisfied than people who didn’t get a promotion.

You might expect that more money would make you happier. That may or may not be valid if we look at the lives of those who’ve won or inherited significant sums. As we have seen, having more money usually means becoming conscious about what you will do with it. This is difficult when we’re not prepared to handle that much energy.

The bottom line for us is:
Find what makes you happy now. Find what matters to you and what will bring you fulfillment now. Realize that our dreams about the future rarely correspond to what happens in the future.  

You can start your money happiness journey by asking yourself:

  • What’s most important to me right now about having money? 
  • What do I  think it will buy me that I don’t already have?
  • Do I have goals and dreams that I am willing to take action on now instead of waiting for someday in the future?

Remember the Oscar Wilde quote:

There are two tragedies in life, not getting what you want and getting what you want!

Wishing you all my best,