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Whether It’s Luck or Math, We Really Don’t Get That Much Chance to Win a Lottery

Whether It’s Luck or Math, We Really Don’t Get That Much Chance to Win a Lottery

Do you ever dream about what it might be like to suddenly have millions of dollars? Do you run out to the nearest gas station with your heart aflutter to purchase a ticket when the Powerball jackpot reaches a certain amount? If you are nodding your head in agreement, you are not alone. In 2014, the allure of striking it rich was strong enough to entice Americans to spend over $70 billion on lottery tickets.[1]

As fun as it can be to participate in these drawings, figures from the National Weather Service suggest that you are more than 20,000 times more likely to be struck by lightning than win the MegaMillions jackpot.[2]

Is winning a matter of luck or math?

Lotteries are games of chance. Your odds of winning are determined by a number of factors, including how many winning numbers or combinations you need to get and how many people are playing the game. The greater the number of ticket-holders, the less likely you are to walk away with a chunk of change.

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The odds of winning MegaMillions or Powerball, two of the most well known lotteries, are a dismal 175 million to one.[3] As you can see, winning is a matter of math and luck, and most of the math points toward a lack of luck.

Why do you need to know your chances of winning?

Many people invest in lottery tickets without understanding the odds. In fact, in low-income communities, buying a lottery ticket is often viewed as an investment, a form of entertainment, and a possible ticket out of challenging circumstances.[4] There is a complex set of socio-economic factors that contribute to this perception of lotteries as investments. If you are foregoing setting up a stable form of savings to play the lottery, your chances of coming up empty-handed are high.

How can you increase your chances of winning?

There are a few ways that you can increase your chances of winning should you choose to play. [5]

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  1. Play the right games. When we talk about national lotteries with massive jackpots, your chances of winning become minuscule. Playing a state competition or buying a chance in a smaller competition will increase your odds. Scratch-tickets for smaller games may have lower rewards, but they are also more likely to yield a win.
  2. Participate in second-chance games. Even if your numbers aren’t selected initially, they may come up in a second-chance drawing. To maximize your chances of winning, keep your ticket for the second chance round.
  3. Don’t change your numbers. Even though buying lottery tickets doesn’t require the same skills as sitting at a poker table in Las Vegas, there is definitely some strategy involved in choosing your numbers. Seven-time lottery-winner, expert in how to win the lottery, and author, Richard Lustig, recommends playing the same numbers over and over instead of switching them. He also recommends avoiding “quick picks” and using numbers besides birthdays and anniversaries, which limit the spread of numbers you can use.[6]
  4. You can’t win if you don’t play. Richard Lustig recommends keeping up with the game you are playing. Pay attention to drawings, and play consistently to increase your chances of winning. Every year there are winners who fail to come forward because they didn’t follow up to see if their numbers won.

But still, don’t fall into the gambling trap!

Just like other forms of gambling, the lottery can be addictive.[7] Participants may mistakenly think that because the lottery is sanctioned by the government, it is not as harmful as other forms of gambling. The same risks apply.

If you have a history of gambling addiction, playing the lottery could draw you into unhealthy behaviors. The hope of victory, occasional small wins, and the thought that your big win awaits around every corner drive the lottery.

The most important thing you need to know about playing the lottery is that you need to set a budget before you play and stick to it.[8] Playing the lottery can be fun and harmless, but if you start to use funds you would normally reserve for food or bills to buy more chances, then you’re in dangerous territory.[9]

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Even winning a lottery can’t bring you happiness.

The mathematics behind the lottery show that you are almost always guaranteed to lose. Assuming that you hit the jackpot, there is no guarantee that the windfall would make you a happier person. Numerous studies have shown that lottery winners do not fare well with their newfound wealth.

Even knowing how to win the lottery doesn’t prevent loss. You can use mathematical strategies, and you can follow the advice of successful players, and even this may not be enough. When you play, let it be for the fun of it. Purchase that ticket so that you can have that moment of fantasizing about buying your mother a house or traveling the world. There is always a chance that you could be one of the fortunate few, but even if you don’t have winning numbers, at least you’ll be entertained.

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Featured photo credit: Flaticon via flaticon.com

Reference

More by this author

Angelina Phebus

Writer, Yoga Instructor (RYT 200)

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Last Updated on April 23, 2019

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

What Is a Stretch Goal?

A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

1. Get Outside of Your Head

If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

I see this in so many areas of life:

When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

“Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

S.M.A.R.T.

is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

The Bottom Line

These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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