People everywhere play the lottery because they think that winning millions of dollars (pounds, euros, or any other currency) will make a big difference to their lives.
Sure, having a big heap of money will change your life. No longer do you need to worry about that next credit card statement, your rent or mortgage, or getting food on the table.
I understand that and from time to time, I also get a ticket. That said, I don't join the mad rush that accompanies the significant surge in sales of lottery tickets when the jackpot is massive. Why not? Well, because the odds of winning are the same and even if that jackpot is huge, the prize you might win could be significantly lower than it would be normally when shared between a higher number of people.
Regardless, people everywhere watch the grand draw and wait for the dream to become a reality. If it's for the occasional bit of fun and it doesn't cause (further) financial hardship, then there's probably no harm in it. On the upside, many lotteries also give money to charities and that can benefit society, too.
But what about the personal downsides? Honestly, the downsides here are numerous. Let's start with the obvious; your chances of winning are very slim. In a typical 6 ball, 49 number game, the odds of winning the jackpot are 1 in 13,983,816 (some lotteries offer odds at 1 in 292.2 million!). People have a better chance of winning an Oscar (1 in 11,500 chance) or getting hit by a part of a falling airplane (1 in 10 million). There are many more examples across all sides of the desirability spectrum and you can read more about these in this article from the Independent Newspaper (externally hosted). So, before we move on, let's take away from this that your chances of winning are pretty slim and so every ticket you buy is likely to be wasted money; each pound, dollar or euro could be invested in something that provides a much better return.
Moving on, let's say that you do win. Having a life-changing amount of money will give you financial security and induce a euphoric state. However, when that state has faded or when the money has run out (because there have been many stories of lottery winners who waste their winnings and end up in a worse position than they were before, both financially and in terms of losing their freedom in a privacy and legal sense of the term) then you're still no further forward than you are now. Of course, you'll say you wouldn't do that - you won't waste the opportunity - but that's what everyone else said, too.
And, if you beat all of the odds and win the jackpot and keep the euphoric feeling and manage your finances wisely, then that still won't change your thinking and you'll still be you with the same thoughts as you were before, perhaps just in a nicer car, a bigger house and more expensive ideas. Inside, though, your core being is the same and we know from many examples in life that money alone may bring satisfaction but not necessarily happiness.
People often seek external validation from others and people also seek happiness from external events. Many people eat because it makes them happy. People buy the latest gadgets because it makes them happy. And people drink alcohol because it makes them relaxed and happy, but look where that ends up! The challenge is that these states are both transitory and can be created by the individual in question without needing to eat, drink, buy things or win the lottery. We are all in charge of our emotional state (when we know how to be) and therefore we don't need these external events or drivers to make us happy, relaxed, or otherwise.
Furthermore, every week you head out to get a lottery ticket, it's likely that you are postponing other actions that will get you closer to your goals, whatever they might be. Perhaps you're looking for financial freedom, a new car, a house or a trip around the world. Maybe you'd like to change career and get your dream job, or start your dream company. You may be really interested in a new sport or hobby, or you might just need some space and time to be alone with your thoughts. Whatever is right for you is perfect and the next time you think about heading to the local shop to buy a lottery ticket, perhaps think about the time and money you're investing in something that is likely to give you no return whatsoever and, even if it does, is likely to only give you a short term burst of relief. Then, instead, plan what you'll do with that dollar, pound or euro and think about how much you've already invested (wasted?) in the lottery to date and how far that would have taken you in achieving your goals had you invested that same time and money more wisely.
Whether you are rich, poor or somewhere between, the best thing to do is to focus inwards and learn about yourself so that you can be happy without the big car, house or gadget. By spending time understanding what motivates you and creating an environment where you do the things you love, you'll feel like you've won the lottery every day. And that feeling won't fade. Sure, the lottery could be one way to satisfy one part of your life - if you're very, very lucky - but taking control, making a plan, and taking action is a far better way to make your life amazing.
Rob Whitfield is the CEO and Founder of One Brit, No Bull, a coaching and corporate training company based in Los Angeles and operating worldwide. Rob can be contacted here or on (+1) 518 9NO BULL.
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As well as being an experienced management consultant and energetic public speaker, Rob Whitfield is a certified Trainer of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, a certified Master Coach and a certified Master Practitioner of Hypnotherapy and Time Line Therapy. No Bull.