The $1.6 Billion Question

[Originally published on Facebook, Oct. 25th 2018]

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve likely heard about the Mega-Millions lottery now up to $1.6 billion. I’ll bet you’re even guilty of buying a ticket. (No judgement here, I bought a ticket too.)

The question is, why would anyone choose to spend money on a ticket when it was all but certain you wouldn’t win? In fact, experts liken buying a lottery ticket to setting the money you spend on fire–a complete waste. The chances are somewhere in the ballpark of 1 in 300,000,000.

Well, here’s one reason: I bought a ticket because even 1 in 300 million is infinitely greater than the 0% chance I’d have if I didn’t buy a ticket. (Hey, you never know…)

Interestingly, after buying my lotto ticket I noticed a couple of other events occur.

First, almost immediately after buying the ticket, I felt a rush of anticipation. Was I excited about the drawing? Not really. Again, I wasn’t naive to think I actually stood a chance of winning. However, purchasing the ticket, and thus having even the slimmest of chances, gave me license to start thinking about how I would spend the money. That daydreaming really got me excited.

This is what psychologists call “anticipatory excitement,” or the positive feelings we experience leading up to a big event. This is also in part why experiences–not material goods–bring us the most happiness. Events like concerts, vacations, and other social events allow us to feel happiness leading up to the event (anticipation), happiness during the event (fun), and happiness when we reflect on the event at a later date (nostalgia). Overall, these experiences give us a larger boost in happiness than any material object ever could.

Sure, I could imagine spending that kind of money at any point in time. Yet, something about even the slimmest chance of it becoming reality made it more exciting to think about. So even though I didn’t win, simply participating gave me a boost in positive emotions. Buying that ticket was my entrance fee to daydream about my Richie Rich fantasies.

Something else interesting happened too as I began to envision my new life. It caused me to reflect on my life as it is now, and what I’d do differently if I had endless financial security. As I imagined spending $1.6 billion I realized that, aside from some flashy travel, I really wouldn’t change a whole lot about my life. Would I quit my job or do something different? Absolutely not. In fact, winning would have opened up the opportunity for me to do what I do on an even larger scale.

Would I splurge on a beach house or nice cars? Eh, maybe. Truthfully, I’ve been fortunate enough to know that none of that stuff has a significant impact on my happiness. I’m fortunate to make enough money with what I do to live a comfortable life. I know this isn’t true for some, which is why I feel so fortunate.

And I became interested to see what others thought. I began to ask people in my life, “What would you do if you won?”

The most popular answer by far was to, quit my job.

This saddened me a bit. If your first response to winning the lottery is to quit your job, then I think something about your life needs to change.

I understand that people stay in jobs for all sorts of reasons: financial issues, the benefits package, supporting a family or digging themselves out of debt. I’m not oblivious, I get it. I’m also not suggesting finding a line of work you are passionate about, excited for even, isn’t going to be some of the hardest work you’ll ever endure. What I am saying is that it’s possible.

And occasionally, doing something your passionate about may not require changing your career path at all. According to author Seth Godin in Linchpin, passion can be developed by bringing your best self to work every day; by turning your work, whether painting a mural or cleaning a hospital room, into a work of art.

And while I know many might roll their eyes while reading this, I believe with every fiber in my being that this is a possible course of action for someone who is willing to take that risk on themselves or is willing to bring their best self to work every day.

This is the ultimate mission of my coaching, after all. It’s not merely to help my clients with their fitness goals, but also to use fitness as a platform to help them develop an undeniable belief in themselves.

To help you recognize that you can have full control over your health AND your life.

So, dear reader, if you had $1.6 billion dollars what would you change about your life? And how can you begin making that change tomorrow?

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