To the three of you who won the lottery last night, congratulations! (If you happen to be a faithful reader of this blog, drop me a line. Maybe you can become a patron of the arts by a generous contribution.)

I’m being facetious, of course. For the rest of us, which is pretty much anybody reading this, you didn’t win the lottery. But it was exciting to dream for a little bit, wasn’t it? It’s fun to sit and think about what you’d do with $1.5 billion dollars.

My family had an interesting conversation about it, and I bet we weren’t the only ones. It seems that any talk of spending lottery winnings comes down to a few common themes:

  • Generosity – When most people talk about windfall income, the first thing they talk about is how to share it with others. They want to provide for family members. They want to support their favorite causes. And they want to take care of those who can’t take care of themselves. I think this shows that most people are generous at heart.
  • Adventure – We all want to live lives that are exceptional. And it seems that a cool billion will go a long way in that direction. Trips, vacation homes, and crazy experiences seem to be high on the list.
  • Luxury – We all want nice things. Fancy clothes, nice houses, exotic cars, maybe even a boat.
  • Relaxation – We want a break from the cares of the world. Let other people take care of the hard things so we can just chill by the pool.
  • Simplicity – We assume that life would be so much easier with a boatload of money. No more debt, no more bills to pay. Life sure would be simpler without the hassle of a job.

One of my all-time favorite movie scenes is in Office Space*, where the main characters discuss what they’d do if they won a million dollars. After some hilarious banter, they realize that what they’d do with a million dollars is an indicator of what you want to do with your life. If you remove money from the equation, your true desires are likely to come to the surface.

By thinking about your imaginary lottery winnings, perhaps you could figure out ways to incorporate those themes above into your life. If you’re creative about it, you could make it happen with little or no income.

  • You could be more generous. You may not have a lot of money, but you could donate your time or your talents. Help your friends and family in other ways. Volunteer. Teach others some of the skills you have.
  • You could be more adventurous. You may not be able to go to some faraway island, but you could go to the beach. Or a museum. Or try a restaurant in another part of town.
  • Yes, you really could be more luxurious. And yes, this can be done without any money. Julia Cameron has talked about how eating raspberries feels like a luxury.
  • Be more relaxed. It’s more of an attitude than anything else. Don’t let the little things drag you down. Take a few deep breaths. Make walking a part of your daily routine.
  • Finally, to quote Thoreau, you can simplify, simplify, simplify your life. This is an area that you can easily do without any lottery winnings. And besides, I’m pretty sure $1.5 billion would have complicated things more than we’d all care to admit.
  • Bottom line: spend a little time pondering on why you were fascinated by a big lottery jackpot, and I bet you can come up with some ways to live an extraordinary life without it.

*While it’s truly funny, this movie is rated ‘R’. Consider yourself warned 🙂