As I write this, in a room somewhere in Paris seven numbers will be drawn at random and someone from the UK or Europe will win the lottery and a cool £80,000,000. For tonight there is a EuroMillions lottery mega-draw with a guaranteed jackpot of €100million (Euros), the equivalent of about $129million (U.S. dollars). And in the minute that it takes to generate those winning numbers, somebody’s life will change for ever and for them, as the advertising says, it will be ‘an amazing Friday’. Would you like it to be you?
As you read this are you thinking ‘Wow, that really would be totally amazing – to win all that money’? Maybe you’ve started to mentally spend it, thinking of the things you would buy and the experiences you would have. Maybe you’re thinking who else would benefit from your fortune, your family and friends perhaps.
Even as you imagine the fabulous things you can do and those in your life you can help, is there perhaps just a small part of you that starts to think about what people might think of you?
Do you find yourself beginning to wonder about how the expectations your family and friends have of you might change? Might they be jealous or resentful of your sudden wealth? With such a huge difference in the money you have compared to them, who should pay for what when you’re out together? Will they feel you no longer have things in common to talk about? And that’s before you even get to the discussion with your partner about how much money to give to each side of the family, and whether it should be based on need (and who determines that) or a straight split!
You get the picture. And if you think it is far fetched – we know two couples whose discussions on a fair allocation of potential lottery winnings to their perspective families, led to heated debate verging on argument, (in the end both agreed independently to split any surplus in half and each do what they thought fit with their half).
Another friend of ours said that she wouldn’t tell anyone if she won the lottery but would buy the house and car she wants, and carry on working so no-one would know she had lots of money. When asked about this, she replied that she didn’t want her friends to treat her any differently.
As you reflect on these things do you start to think that £80million really is too much money for one person and might it not be better if it was split into 80 prizes of £1million or 40 prizes of £2million? Would it make more sense to spread the money further given it would still be enough to make a difference to people’s lives? Besides which nobody needs £80million – even though many more people buy a lottery ticket when it’s a big jackpot.
What does this mean?
Well we’re not writing this to comment on anyone’s views on the lottery or wealth, but rather to use it as an example of the impact that underlying beliefs and values can have on our lives, often without us really noticing them.
So if any of these examples or comments resonated with you, it might be worth thinking about what your reactions might be telling you about the values and beliefs you have in relation to money and wealth.
Do you see money as a commodity, a meaningless, intrinsically valueless form of energy to be collected or gained and passed on in return for a service, experience, product or item?
Or maybe you attach values to it such as security or freedom, or judgements as to whether it is deserved or not.
And underlying it all will be beliefs. Possibly a belief that it’s greedy to want a lot of money, or that rich people are basically selfish, or gain their wealth at the expense of others, or use their money to buy friendship, loyalty or influence.
Have you ever used the expression ‘obscenely rich’ – if so what does that say about your view of money? After all without knowing an individual it is impossible to say whether someone is selfish, it doesn’t logically follow that they must be selfish or greedy just because they have a lot of money. Indeed they may use their wealth for the public good!
Why does any of this matter?
The beliefs we carry about all aspects of our lives are the result of our upbringing and experience. It is not a matter of whether they are true or not, correct or incorrect, right or wrong, because we can always search out evidence to continually back them up. What might matter though is if they get in the way of us achieving what we want in life. It may therefore be preferable to think of beliefs in terms of being helpful or unhelpful.
So if you have a financial goal in mind, maybe to reach a certain level of income or net worth, and yet at the same time hold beliefs (however well hidden) that there is something unsavoury either about wanting this level of wealth or about the people who have it, then it will be an unhelpful belief. It will be out of line with your values and will hinder and limit your ability to achieve the goal.
So what to do?
- Identify your underlying beliefs
- Recognise whether they are helpful or unhelpful to you
- And if they are unhelpful – then either change your goal or the belief!
But more on this another time.
That’s it for today as we’re off to the shops now to buy a lottery ticket!