Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Jeff Goins of Goins Writer.
“We waste so many days waiting for the weekend. So many nights wanting morning. Our lust for future comfort is the biggest thief of life.” —Joshua Glenn Clark
There is this popular idea in our world today that the best thing to happen to you would be to win the lottery. Then, you could spend the remainder of your days on a beach somewhere, sipping cocktails and living the “good life.” But nothing could be further from the truth.
According to most studies, when you win the lottery, you are actually more prone to bankruptcy. One report said that 70% of lottery winners actually end up going broke in the first seven years. In fact, it seems the more money you win, the more likely you are to lose it all. So from a financial standpoint, winning the lottery just might be the worst thing to happen to you. But let’s not stop there.
We’ve all read the statistics about how getting rich doesn’t make you happy, but for some reason we need to find out for ourselves. Maybe winning the lottery for you, though, doesn’t look like buying a Powerball ticket. Maybe it means earning “passive income” or finding your dream job. At times we are all tempted to seek an escape.
When we envision the life we want, many of us treat work as the enemy, as an obligation to endure instead an adventure to embrace.
But what if the life you wanted was actually right in front of you?
After quitting my job and making the transition to become a full-time writer, I thought I had it made. Finally escaping the monotony of a day job, I could relax and enjoy life. But what I discovered was now that I didn’t have any reason to work, my sense of purpose disappeared. I became more confused than ever.
Around that time, I talked to my friend Stu who told me how he was able to find meaning in his work even while punching a clock for a paycheck. He told me about a trip he took to Africa where he saw how education could make a difference in the lives of people who weren’t born with the same opportunities he had. With his wife, Stu started a nonprofit to help build schools in rural Kenya. And when he returned from his trip, he went back to work with a renewed sense of purpose.
On a fundamental level, we all want to feel like what we do is a part of something bigger than us. And the truth is that can happen in any context, if you have the right mindset. What brought me out of my funk was not more leisure, but the realization that I needed to work. We all do. But it’s not just the work that fulfills us. It’s the way we work.
Acclaimed psychologist Viktor Frankl addresses this in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning. At a time when much of psychology said human motivation was about seeking pleasure, Frankl argued that what we really want is meaning. And the way we find it is not by numbing ourselves with substances or stuff but by doing something that matters.
For Frankl, this belief in the importance of meaning held tremendous personal significance. It is what had kept him alive while imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps during WWII. It was the book he was writing and the hope of seeing his wife that allowed him to endure.
When I quit my day job to chase my dream, I realized my life was not just about me. It couldn’t be. And if I went to work only for myself or in hopes of one day retiring so I could live the good life, then the work I did today would have no purpose. And honestly, I tried that. It didn’t work.
To paraphrase Frankl, we don’t want to be just happy. We want a reason to be happy.
The worst thing you could do with your life is waste it, believing the only reason you exist is to seek pleasure. (tweet that)
We all have a purpose, a task for which we were designed, and the goal of your life is to find it—not somewhere out there, but hidden in the life you’re already living.
And if you can embrace that truth, you’ve already won the lottery.