I would posit that most of us have dreamed about winning the lottery.
We settle on a satisfying sum in our mind, then we mentally spend it. Maybe you start with a house by the beach in Sydney. But then you add one in London, for when you travel to Europe. And then one in New York, you know, for stopovers. Then you snap up a Tesla or two, some fancy shoes, or a trip to Mars. Then suddenly you find yourself veering into (more) absurd spending with a $1.38 million gold toilet roll or a gigayacht.
And suddenly you’re back to reality, chuckling at what will probably never be.
Given the likelihood of winning the lottery is so ridiculously small, I would highly recommend you avoid dreaming about all the obscure ways you could splash your cash.
But I do recommend you ask yourself what you’d really do with the money. Because it’s a great way to weed out your purpose and what you value — and I think that information is incredibly important whenever you’re setting financial goals for yourself.
It gives you a true north you can turn to whenever you feel a little lost.
And sometimes the results are surprising.
The first time I tried this exercise was a few years back. I had just returned to Australia after living overseas for several years. I thought I had a pretty good understanding of what I wanted in life (and what I didn’t want). So, when asked what I would do if I really won the lottery, I felt confident $50 million wouldn’t change any of my goals.
All it would do is accelerate the speed at which I reached my goals, right?
Not so much.
For example, at the time, I had just sold a business and my goal was to start a new one. I was excited. But as I thought about what $50 million would or could get me — a fancy office for my business, actual staff, working capital — that didn’t feel compelling to me at all.
Instead, all I could think about was taking a break to travel.
It helped me realise I had burnt out a little.
I wasn’t preparing to start a new business because I had a great idea. I was doing it because I’d been doing it for four years, so what else would I do?
As I continued to poke around and ask myself questions, I realised that I didn’t want a fancy office or to run a multi-person company at all — not even if I had the money to take a long break first. I didn’t want those things ever, not even with $50 million.
I did realise I’d want to keep working. Just not by running a company. It was clear to me I wanted to find a more balanced way to enjoy work and life.
Since then, I’ve suggested other people try this exercise. I’ve seen people realise they would do less travel than expected, while others have realised they don’t actually enjoy city life and would love to move to a quiet beach town. And they’ve been as surprised as I was.
Asking yourself this question — what would I do if I won a barmy amount of money? — will only get you one thing: answers. (Sorry!) From there, it’s up to you to figure out how to turn those answers into a life filled with purpose and meaning.
Next time you’re setting goals for yourself — financial or otherwise — I suggest you take a chance, run through this exercise, and see what you dig up as a north star.