You’ve Won the Lottery

Because my book group was reading Half the Sky, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, I drove up to Santa Fe to hear Kristof speak. A cheerful, unassuming, and incredibly committed man, the first thing he said as he looked out over the audience was “We’ve already won the lottery. If you are sitting here, you have already won the lottery.” I couldn’t get that thought out of my mind.

 What would it mean for you to win the lottery?

 For those of us listening to Nicholas Kristof, we had the freedom to buy a ticket, to leave our homes and go out in the evening, to have dinner in a restaurant before the talk, to congregate with others of like mind, to buy a book if we wanted to, to be safe, to have electricity to light the theater, to have fresh water to drink from water fountains. In short, an evening that many people in the world could never hope for. An evening of luxury people living one hundred years ago could never imagine.  

 For most people, the fantasy of winning the lottery includes the idea of freedom. Never having to work again. Having what you want. Paying off all your bills. Ideas that have to do with money. But I think the real idea of freedom is not simply having what you want, but being who you want to be. And feeling like you’ve always wanted to feel. What would it feel like to have anything you wanted? To be who you secretly know you could be? What if you could have those feelings now?

 This is about happiness. What does happiness mean to you?  We assume we’d be happier if we won the lottery. But we don’t need to wait for such an unlikely phenomenon. Happiness usually results from living according to our values or attaining a goal of our own choosing. Happiness has to do with feelings of worthiness and belonging, with feeling accepted for being oneself, with feelings of well-being. It’s much more than having money.

 Pretend you just won the lottery. What would your life be like if you were free to choose the life you wanted? (And, for the most part, you are.) Get into the feeling of what it would be like. Carefree? Relaxed? Open to possibilities? Taken care of? Lucky?  (Surely lucky!) Take a deep breath and feel those good feelings. Then, from that place, make a schedule of your perfect day. Here’s an example of a relaxed and worry-free day.

  7:00 – 8:30    Arise, make coffee, read, journal, meditate

  8:30 – 9:30    Eat breakfast, shower, dress

  9:30 – 12:00  Work/create/volunteer

12:00 – 1:30    Exercise

 1:30 – 2:30     Lunch and rest

 2:30 – 4:30     Write poetry, play music, be with friends, take care of living issues                     

4:30 – 6:30      Fix and eat dinner

7:30  –             Visit with friends, read, watch tv and movies, take classes

 Another example of a perfect day comes from my brother John. John is 16 years younger than I am, the baby of the family, and has a more relaxed view of life than I do. When I visited John and Nancy at their home in China, this was how we spent our day and how John likes to spend his day wherever he is: eat a little, work a little, shop a little, rest a little. That’s not a bad schedule, especially when resting includes anything else you like to do.

What would your perfect day look like? Write it down.

Once you have written out your perfect day, take one of the items in your list and add some detail. For example, you could expand “exercise” into “join a hiking group, walk three times a week, train for a triathlon.” The possibilities are limitless.

 Begin to have it, do it, be it, now. Choose one change you want to make and commit to it.  Then set a time to go back to your list on a regular basis to see if you are having, doing, being what you want. Remember, you’ve already won lottery!

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2 Responses to You’ve Won the Lottery

  1. Libby Keating says:

    Yes,Mare, we Americans(particularly with educations) are blessed. We have, for the most part, already won the lottery.According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we’ve hit the jackpot! When I reflect on having won the lottery (because I’m already priveleged to do what I want to do when I want to do it with as much freedom as I choose ) I realize that for me (and more and more of my confidants) it’s the freedom from worries and inhibitions, from guilts and doubts and anxieties that would constitute winning the lottery BIG TIME. Toward imagining how to achieve that end I’ve made a list to integrate into my schedule and to combine with your( and your brother’s) schedule that hopefully will accomplish overcoming the barriers toward becoming lottery winners “squared”: (the mental health lottery)

    -use inclusive language and behavior
    -compliment, praise and reassure others
    -use humor when interacting with others,laughing and having FUN
    -work at cooperative, rather than competitive interactions
    -smile and hug often (also doing both with yourself in the mirror)
    -include your animal as much as possible in interactions to demonstrate unconditional love publicly
    -be a kind and loving person

  2. Laura says:

    No matter the vicissitudes of life at any given time–it is absolutely, unassailably true that we have already won the universe’s lottery.

    Marilyn, here is a concept whose time has come–the contra-lottery. Instead of parking the $2 a week in the lottery fund which directs our energy to the wrong place–craving wealth and the material things of life–we should buy tickets for the contra-lottery. The contra-lottery uses your $2 to fund an hour in pursuit of simple pleasures RIGHT NOW. Sitting in a chair looking out the window thinking the “big” thoughts is free, sex is free (unless you’re naughty), and, even at Flying Star, it really only takes $2 to buy a cup of coffee and loaf around for an hour reading their magazines, or to drive to a trailhead, etc. The real cost is NOT doing those things.

    But in a serious vein, there is one flaw in above thinking. For me right now winning the lottery would mean the security that I could provide health care for the people I love. It is within our government’s power to give that winning lottery ticket to all of us. If we can provide for our own health and those we love–for me that would be the ultimate lottery score.

    It IS a lot to ask for, but so many places around the world make health security a priority for the general welfare of their people.

    I figured out some time ago, the simple life is the most satisfying–and it is within reach of almost all of us. But maybe New Mexico could start another lottery contest and fund universal health care as well as education.

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