“Remember this; that very little is needed to make a happy life.”
At one time or another, most of us have stood in the shower and imagined what our lives would be like if we suddenly won the lottery. We choose a number (mine is 96 million), take out the taxes, then begin dividing it up—passing out houses, cars, and checks like candy. And not just to our family and friends, but to almost anyone who’s ever been kind to us.
Personally, I always give something to my fourth grade teacher, as well as to my mailman, and even the tow truck driver who once changed my tire for free. And, I don’t know about you, but it feels good when I pass out my monopoly money to those who need it. I mean, we’re happy to help, right? It makes us feel admired, and loved. At least for that one shower. I know I’m not alone, either. It’s a common dream that many of us share. The idea of instant happiness. The idea that somehow our life will take on a magical quality, if only we had the means to realize our dreams. We believe that if we could just get “there” we’d finally be happy.
And, of course, there in lies the problem with the lottery.
It’s not that we shouldn’t dream big or imagine possibilities. The problem comes when we buy into the illusion that everything we want is “out there,” instead of “right here” within us. The problem arises when we put off living in the meantime.It’s called “lottery thinking”—also known as always waiting for our ship to arrive. “If only I had this, then I would have that.” It’s waiting for all the stars to align just perfectly, so that we can begin living the life we think we deserve.
Unfortunately, when we live from this lie, we unwittingly buy-in to the idea that our life is somehow lacking in the meantime, like we’re forced to settle for some “less than acceptable” means of existence. Well, I don’t know about you, but I think it’s time to shatter this myth of what constitutes a happy life.
I’ll go so far as to say that we’ve already won the lottery. All we need to do is realize it.
If you think I’m about to peddle some half-full glass of optimism, you’re right— I am. In fact, the quality of our thoughts are exactly what will determine the quality of our lives, or as Abraham Lincoln said, “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” In other words, we don’t need to wait another second to feel as if we’ve won it all. We just need to change our perspective.
Here are four tips to get you started.
“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”
The next time you’re in the shower, just enjoy the hot water. Stop thinking about what went wrong yesterday, or how tomorrow will be better. Just as it is impossible to be in two places at one time, the only thing it accomplishes is to zap us of today’s energy, while also robbing us of its joy.
As mystics and saints have been telling us since the dawn of time, it’s not Disneyland, but the NOW which is the happiest place on earth. It’s the only place where we can truly be present with our kids, enjoy nature, appreciate beauty, find solitude, discover love and be ourselves. It is also the home to peace, harmony and all the secrets of the universe.
How’s that for a Magic Kingdom?
So, just how do we live in the Now? Again, ignore the past and forget the future.
Yes, we can learn from yesterday and plan for tomorrow, but then we must let it all go and live in the moment. This takes vigilance, which begins by mastering where we put our attention, a commitment to focusing on one thing at a time. That means appreciating who we’re with and what we’re doing. It means watching, listening, breathing, smiling, and accepting.
Living in the now is an art that ask us to slow down, go within, and find the stillness in our hearts. It is an art that asks us to treat every moment as sacred.
Cultivate this art and we’ll slowly begin to see that all the riches of the world are bundled up into the one single moment we’re living in.
“Your purpose in life is to find your purpose and give your whole heart and soul to it.”
I know we’d all like to think if we struck it rich, we’d tell our boss to shove it and then go retire to our own private island in the Pacific Ocean. At the very least, there’d be no more rat race, working for the man, alarm clocks and time cards. We’d put up the “gone fishing” sign and start living the good life. Five star hotels. Private jets. Fine dining. Someone to iron our underwear.
While all that sounds wonderful, most of us know deep down in our hearts that there are just as many miserable rich people as there are miserable poor or middle-class people. And, I know we’d like to believe that being miserable wouldn’t be so bad if we were living in a seaside mansion, but the inescapable truth is this: money can’t buy happiness. Sorry, but the cliché is true, but, that’s okay, because real take-it-to-your-grave happiness comes at no cost and is accessible to anyone who is willing to take one simple, but challenging leap: to live the life you were meant to live.
This is our call to do what excites us, moves us, and drives us to jump out of bed with purpose each morning. To live our purpose is to do what we would do if no one was watching. It’s to do what we were meant to do. It’s the reason we were born, and it should scare the hell out of us at the same time as it excites us.
Of course, we don’t always know what our purpose is. Sometimes we have to search for it. But, it’s out there. And it’s waiting. All we need to do is follow our intuition, pursue our passions, and chase our joys. Do that and eventually we will collide right into it. The most wonderful thing is that once we find our purpose, we’ll discover our talents, which, when shared with others, is how we will each make our difference in the world. That’s a jackpot we can all share.
“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.”
If you want to help another human being you don’t need to wait until you win 92 million dollars to start—you can do it right now. You don’t have to buy your mailman a car; buy him lunch or a cup of coffee. You want to thank an old teacher? Write a heartfelt letter. You want to help out your family and friends? Show them how much you care, and be there for them when they need it. It’s not about money, it’s about generosity of spirit.
Sure, a big fat check with lots of zeros is nice and all, but what people really want is someone to listen to them, and to acknowledge their feelings. They want what you are, not what you have. The best part is, the more we give away our love, the more we bring it back into our own lives, making us even richer. Yes, Sir Paul McCartney was right. “The love we take is equal to the love we make.”
“Sometimes, the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”
Winnie the Pooh
Okay, you really want to win the lotto? Keep the buck in your pocket and add more joy into your life. And while you’re at it, make the seeking of joy an adventure that will take you into as many different worlds as possible.
In other words, try everything. The mandolin, the banjo and the Cha-Cha. Also, barefoot running, rollerblading to work, gardening, miming, yoga, spin class, and a pickup basketball game with strangers. Don’t just explore the ballet, either; stop for break dancers in the subway, and seven year-olds holding magic shows. If you can’t backpack across Europe, pitch a tent in the backyard. If you won’t bungee jump off a bridge, at least write poetry to your spouse. What matters is that we jump in somewhere, anywhere, bravely, boldly and with no apologies. What matters is that we speak up and join in. That we are the first to say hello, extend the hand, offer the hug, take the chance, make the move. It doesn’t matter if we’re working for world peace or planning a surprise party for our kids. What matters is that we choose to participate in as much of life as we can.
This is where true joy and happiness lives.
This is the true lottery jackpot.
And, whatever you do, don’t let the guy in the Learjet talk you into believing anything less—not even if he offers you Cristal champagne in a golden flute.
The real lottery is all there for your taking. All you need to do is step up and claim it.
Congratulations, you’re rich!
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