Tuesday, January 05, 2010
How NOT Winning the Lottery Helps You Get What You Want
One of my family's Christmas traditions is that everyone receives a lottery ticket in their Christmas stocking. When I was little it was fun: you'd play the game, scratch off the ticket, and maybe win two dollars to blow on candy. But as I got older, I realized that there was a much more subtle present there: the permission to dream about what I really want.
When we dream, we tend to dream small. We limit ourselves to what we think is realistic and achievable.
Must of us don't acknowledge the full scope of our hopes & dreams at all.
And when we do, we immediately dismiss them as impossible. And set our sights lower.
So Why Do We Do That?
I think it's a matter of fear. Fear of success is a cliche, but I think there's some truth to it. If we set our expectations low, we think we'll be less likely to disappoint ourselves.
But that hobbles us.
So How Do You Break Out Of That Pattern?
Give yourself permission to dream big. You don't have to buy a lottery ticket, but it doesn't hurt.
But just imagine that you won the lottery. Imagine that you had all the money you could want, and 24 hours of free time per day.
And ask yourself:
- how would you spend your time?
- if you didn't have to earn a living, what would you make your life's work?
Now, most people say that they would quit their job, buy a nice house, and a fancy car. And go ahead and indulge those fantasies.
But as you keep imagining, you'll find that your lottery fantasies change. They get more detailed, and more personal. These are the ones that matter.
But What Good Are a Bunch of Daydreams?
Your lottery fantasies may be over the top, but if you look to their roots, they'll reveal what's really important to you.
Not what you think you SHOULD do like get a good job, settle down, etc. They'll tell you what you really value.
And once you know that, you can start acting on them now, with whatever time and means you have today.
My Own Lottery Fantasies
In my lottery fantasy, I would:
- Support my mom, who's disabled
- Found a scholarship at my high school
- Travel, especially to countries whose languages I've studied
- Dance full-time
Once I realized what values underlie those fantasies, I started working towards them in small ways:
- I send my mom a grocery card every month
- I give to my school's scholarship fund
- I joined a language conversation exchange
- I got serious about making dance a business
Tiny Steps Add Up
I haven't made the sweeping changes I would if I actually won the lottery, but these tiny steps are adding up, especially in my dance career.
For a long time, I assumed that you just can't make a good living as a dancer, that the best I could aspire to was be a professional-level hobbyist with a day job.
And while that was my assumption, that was my reality.
But since I got serious about my business, and started treating it like a job, the changes in the way I treat it have made a big difference. I get more successful every year.
I haven't quit my day job, but I'll be in a position to go to part time in the next year or two.
We tend to limit our dreams to what we think is possible, but when we do that, we limit what we can achieve.
Give yourself permission to dream big. Think about what you'd do if you won the lottery.
Look closely at your answers, and see what values and goals lie at the heart of your lottery fantasies.
Then find some small steps that you can take today to move them forward.
Take one of those steps today. Do the same thing tomorrow. Over time, you'll be amazed at what you can achieve.
When I was a little girl, the New York State Lottery motto was "All you need is a dollar and a dream."
But really, all you need is the dream.