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The Lottery Winner Paradox

When was the last time you bought a lottery ticket? If you are Canadian, you’ve probably seen that our lottery jackpot is an intriguing 50 million dollars. If you are US based, the PowerBall sits at a mind-boggling USD 1.2 Billion (that’s CAD $1.6 Billion or approx. 5 billion Timbits) That’s a lot of money!!

What would you do if you won the big prize? Quit your job? Buy a new car? Invest in hockey cards. With that kind of money, you could do it all. I suspect we all have spent time daydreaming about life without financial worries. We plan our luxury purchases and get excited about helping out others. We look at a lottery win as a complete problem solver. After all, there are very few problems that money can’t solve.

Or so we think.

Here is the interesting thing. Lottery winners are more likely to declare bankruptcy within three-to-five years than the average American. Some studies show that 70 percent of lottery winners end up bankrupt within five years after receiving a significant financial windfall.

And what about those ideas of eternal bliss and happiness after a lottery win? Two years after Andrew Whittaker won $114 Million in 2002, he was divorced, an alcoholic and stated, “I wish we had torn that ticket up.” Michael Carroll’s $15 million win lasted him eight years. After that, he was completely broke, divorced and ended up moving back into his tiny pre-fortune house and had to find a job. He eventually stated that he was “..glad it was over.”

Kentucky resident David Lee Edwards won $27 million and went on the mother of all spending sprees. He’d spent the whole amount in under five years on a vast mansion, a fleet of luxury cars and LearJet, not to mention copious amounts of narcotics. Ravaged by drugs and estranged from his wife, the ill-fated lottery winner died in 2013, aged 58, penniless and alone.

Why is it that the ONE THING we believe will solve our problems can have the opposite effect on the majority?

While some of the problems may be due to a lack of financial literacy (a skill that can be picked up from some library books), the more significant issue is the mindset around money that the winners have.

How you feel about money is a belief created through a series of events in your life. Perhaps you grew up poor and always dreamt of spending money with no concern. Maybe your parents constantly commented about how rich people are selfish jerks, and you now believe that having money means you are evil. You may even believe that rich people can’t be loved, so having money means you will always be alone.

Your thoughts about money developed when you were a child and are far more powerful than you believe. As a defenceless infant, you relied on your parents to keep you fed, clothed, and alive. In return for that, you put all your faith and trust in them. Now, that may have changed as you grew older, but when you were young, if your parents told you Santa only visited the good kids, you could take that to the bank (we now realize that with growing concerns over climate change, Santa can’t afford the bad PR from a lump of coal and marks all kids as “good enough”).

So, as an adult, you would instinctively say YES to a large sum of money. Yet, your old beliefs would kick in once it was safely in your pitifully low-interest savings account. If that meant getting rich was terrible, you would unconsciously work at getting rid of your money as quickly as possible.

So, why does this happen? According to Marie Montessori, the famous physician and childhood educator, during the first six years of our life, we have a mind like a sponge that sucks up every bit of information. It’s not judging whether it’s right or wrong, just that it’s new and in our environment. All this information is used to create our identity, which is the cornerstone of our existence. After age 6, we start developing more reasoning skills and can discern right and wrong.

As time passes, our minds start looking for evidence that our beliefs are true. The belief, regardless of its validity, gets stronger and stronger. In fact, our brains will skew reality to help reinforce our beliefs. Since our brains are primarily a safety mechanism to keep us alive, they can make us think and act in any way to keep us in line with our beliefs.

So, if you grew up with an unpredictable home life, you may believe you don’t belong.

If your childhood home had too many rules, you might grow up believing you are never good enough.

And (to emphasize how the brain can change reality), if you grew up with parents that thought a particular race of people was inferior, you may also feel that.

Those beliefs also affect every other aspect of your environment. They stop you from being an outstanding leader. They manifest as procrastination that keeps you from starting that business you’ve always wanted to create. They keep you in a low-paying, unfulfilling cubicle job because it’s safe. They can tear apart families and relationships with a mindset around the need to work excessively.

..and they can make new millionaires undertake a slew of actions and behaviours that force their lives back into the status quo because they don’t believe they can or should be rich.

If you aren’t achieving something you desire, it’s most likely a core belief blocking you from success. Now, you may (mistakenly) be blaming a situation or person for your lack of advancement. That is because our brain has deemed it safer to look elsewhere for the root issue than to try and change ourselves. Our brain also wants to convince you that change is futile.

Can we change our beliefs?

It’s simple to change any belief you have. The first step in doing that is to become fully aware of what your limiting belief is.

The problem is that we have held these views for so long that we often don’t know they are harmful. We can’t rely on ourselves to self-identify a problem and come up with a solution.

I said it was simple, but I never said it was easy.

A way to make this process fast and effective is to use a coach to lead you through a process to change a core belief.

That may sound like shameless self-promotion (full disclosure, I’m a certified coach). Still, I assure you that I have taken advantage of a coach for years, and it’s easily the best investment I have made.

A coach is going to see the bigger picture and isn’t saddled with the same set of beliefs that you have. They help you identify the goal you want to achieve and the reasons you aren’t accomplishing it. That often involves looking into the core values and mental programming keeping you on a proverbial hamster wheel. The next step after a newly founded shift in perspective is to cement that new thought pattern in your brain. To do that, you need to overwrite that lousy programming that has grown in your head for years or even decades. Write out your old beliefs and how they hold you back or harm you. Be honest with yourself with this assignment. When you are more open and authentic to the situation, you will build a stronger desire to change it. When you have done that, define a new, empowering core belief and then describe (in detail) the tremendous changes that will occur with this mindset.

Perhaps you are in a leadership role that isn’t working out as expected. You have a title, but your results don’t match, and your life is in turmoil as you struggle daily to meet your expectations for the position. Reflection on your beliefs, especially with the help of a coach, could show underlying Imposter Syndrome developed in your youth through parents who always made you feel like you could do better. With that revelation, you can now sketch a new picture of yourself as a confident and accomplished leader living a more Zen life. Merely becoming aware of mental philosophies that don’t serve you will allow you to see them when they pop up and allow you to switch over to a better, more positive mindset.

Having a belief, core value or mindset that negatively affects you can be frustrating. I have had clients express sorrow, anger and tears over their mental programming. Mostly in part to the idea that they alone must be responsible for it. The truth is that so much of it was taught to you when you were young and unable to filter out the parts that wouldn’t serve you.

But, you DO have complete control and accountability for recognizing and updating anything in your mind that doesn’t serve your higher self. So, if you happen to have a winning lottery ticket sitting on the counter before you claim your winnings, spend some time reflecting on your mindset around money and what set of beliefs would best create a compelling future.

…it’s probably NOT a soft-serve ice cream machine in your bathroom.

Interested in erasing old beliefs that aren't helping you succeed? Looking for a coach that can help you achieve outstanding results? Book a complimentary Discovery Call with Chris with this link -

Why should you work with Chris? Executive Coach designated and certified since 2019; Voted Top 20 Coaches in 2022 by Entrepreneurs Herald; CEO; Tech entrepreneur; Author; Executive Contributor for Brainz Magazine; Start-up founder, Board advisor; Futurpreneur mentor; Restorative Justice facilitator; Community builder; Law enforcement volunteer; Mental health advocate.

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