“Prosperity is a way of living and thinking, and not just money or things. Poverty is a way of living and thinking, and not just a lack of money or things.” – Eric Butterworth
I must confess, I have been known to buy the occasional lottery ticket. I’ve never won more than a couple dollars, but I find that just having one in my pocket inspires some good, clear thinking about my hopes and dreams. In fact, visualizing what I would do if I won just might be a better payoff than actually winning.
Does that sound a little bit crazy? I think we all need to sit down periodically and think through our definition of prosperity. Okay, here is your chance to do a little self-discovery in 5 easy steps. I did this myself, as part of my journaling practice this week. Try it, it’s fun!
Step 1: What would you do if you won the lottery?
Find a quiet place and a scrap of paper (or your gratitude journal.) Take some time to feel your way into this.
Imagine you won the lottery, for real. What would you do?
Start writing things down, being as specific as possible. You can skip the “jump up and down screaming” phase, but then it’s time to get serious.
For example, if you said, “buy a house in the Caribbean,” add in some details. Do you already know where you would buy this house, or would you need to do some exploration first? Have you already researched tax laws and immigration requirements? What are your plans for the hurricane season?
If you wrote, “quit my job,” I hear you. Still, after sleeping in for six months in a row, what would you do next? What would get you out of bed in the morning?
Ask someone who was recently laid off, whether a “life of leisure” is particularly satisfying. How (or where) would you find meaning in your life?
Step 2: What would make you truly happy, right now?
Forget the lottery for a while. What would make you truly happy right now? Go to a new page in your journal and start smiling. Really, just start smiling. Feel good.
What are you thinking about? Write down everything you can think of in your life that makes you smile. What makes you feel all squishy inside? What makes you laugh out loud?
Think of specific moments and experiences that stand out in your memory. Why were they so good? Was it the location, the activity, the company? All of the above?
Somewhere in the process of “growing up,” many of us lose the ability to make ourselves happy. After awhile, we may not even know what delights us. Maybe it’s because we were all taught to think of such activities as selfish, or childish.
Or maybe it’s because we were taught to believe that a big house, expensive car and perpetually growing bank balance equal happiness.
I invite you to sit with this list for awhile. Give yourself the opportunity to reconnect with that joyful spirit inside of you. Write down whatever you discover.
Step 3: Compare and Contrast
Okay, now put the two lists side by side. Is there a lot of overlap? Is there any overlap??
Revisit the feeling you got when you imagined winning the lottery. What was that – happiness, or safety? Did you get the same feeling when you made your second list?
The first three items on my “Won the Lottery” list were: 1) Hire an attorney; 2) Hire an accountant and 3) Hire a personal assistant. Anal retentive, much? Not surprisingly, none of these items were on my “Make Me Happy” list.
But all was not lost. The rest of my list included things like: 4) Find a warmer place to spend the winter; with six different areas listed that I want to explore. This coincided nicely with some things that “Make Me Happy”, such as white sand, turquoise water, snorkeling with my children and dolphins.
What I found, upon reflection, was that my “Won the Lottery” list included doing everything that I truly love to do, and hiring someone to do all the things I don’t love to do. Hmm.
I should also mention that there were some things on the “Makes Me Happy” list that I couldn’t figure out how to accomplish faster or more easily with money. (Surprise?) Such as, friendship, community and love.
What insights did you gain by comparing your lists?
Step 4: Make a New List
You know where this is going.
Many of us struggle through life with this belief that a huge influx of cash would make everything better. And yet, there are plenty of case studies where people who win a lottery end up in worse shape than where they started. I know, for you it would be different, right?
Knowing what makes you happy is a gift.
Take your two lists and make one new one. You can still call it “What I Would Do if I Won the Lottery,” or change it to “My Vision for a Happy Life,” if that feels right to you. Either way, make sure it is focused on the things that truly make you happy.
(I am going out on a limb here, and assuming your real goal in life is happiness. If you prefer piles of money, skip this step.)
Obviously, that doesn’t mean money can’t help deliver the things that make you happy. Test yourself. Would you really, really, really be happy if you had everything on your new list?
Do you need to add back that house in the Caribbean, or substitute a new friend for that new car?
Don’t forget the details. What specific steps would you take to pursue these dreams?
Step 5: Start Living Like You Just Won the Lottery.
Okay, here is the fun part. Woohoo.
Take a look at your new, detailed plan for happiness. (In case you didn’t notice, that’s what you just created. This whole exercise is designed to zero in on your personal definition of prosperity.)
Do you need a million dollars to take each step? Or, are most of the individual steps well within your current means? You don’t need to go into massive debt to make a new friend – or to do the research necessary to choose a location for your new home in the tropics.
Do you want to have the life of your dreams, or live the life of your dreams? Start taking the steps articulated on your list now, one at a time. It’s okay to do the smallest and easiest ones first. If you are not enjoying these steps, maybe you need to revisit your list.
Spend a little time during meditation each day to recapture that feeling of “having it all.” Visualize your happiness in detail. Make sure you are seeing and feeling the process of living your perfect life.
Remember, you are already a winner! As the Law of Attraction crowd will tell you, Live as if.
Where has your journey of self-discovery taken you today? What will you do differently in your life, starting now?
A gratitude journal is a great way to stay focused on what brings joy to your life. If you don’t have one already, pick one up and get started!
Would you like to lose yourself in a fictional account of someone who wins a lottery jackpot? Try Lottery by Patricia Wood. Our local library’s book club just discussed this novel and it got rave reviews. Part inspiration, part cautionary tale, it will make you rethink — again — your own definition of prosperity.