You didn’t win the Powerball either huh? Sorry about that.

I spent ten bucks on five tickets, just because. I guess I’m one of those people who subscribe to the ‘entertainment value’ theory, you know, being a part of something BIG, part of a national dialogue. If anything, a two dollar ticket holds FOMO –fear of missing out- at bay, buying us the right to chew the fat around the social water cooler, purporting our intentions of what we’d buy, where we’d go, and who we’d tell to go where if we won an unprecedented 1.5 billion dollars, give or take a few mill after taxes.

Think about what all that money could buy. Is the real quest possessions or something more? The Powerball frenzy is undoubtedly fueled by dreams of financial freedom, which we just assume will lead to what we’re really after: happiness.

Yet that assumption is as much a misnomer as beating odds of a 292.2 million to one.

Years ago, during my television news career, I covered a story about three Florida shipyard workers who split a winning lottery ticket, each taking home 3 million dollars. One of the winning trio fell off the face of the earth. Quit his job, pulled his kids out of school, disconnected his phone, sold his house and vanished. Smart. He’s probably on a beach or golf course somewhere enjoying his winnings in blissful anonymity.

Of the other two winners, one kept his shipyard job and threw a party for scores of his friends and relatives, giving them each an envelope with a brand new 100-dollar bill inside. The other winner bought a Lamborghini for himself and a five-bedroom house for his girlfriend. But in the months that followed their lottery windfall, both winners lost their friends and purpose.

They became lonely and isolated after the people in their lives got upset because they wouldn’t give away any more money. They were plagued with boredom. Their instant wealth no longer required them to work long hard hours at the shipyard doing the only thing they ever known to do. In a follow up interview, I found one of the winners locked away in his attic, amid empty scotch bottles, counting stacks and stacks of hundreds of lottery tickets. His only aim had become to win the lottery…again.

It seems implausible that instant wealth could lead to misery but I witnessed with my own eyes this truism; money does not buy happiness. It may make life easier, but it sometime creates more problems than it solves.

Recently while being interviewed about my book Pockets of Joy: Deciding to Be Happy, Choosing to Be Free, the interviewer asked me how I defined joy. While we may each answer that question differently, after years of personal introspection, my answer came easily: to me true happiness is liking yourself. Warts and all. It’s being content with who you are from the inside out. And yes it takes work to get there. I’m not necessarily talking about the kind of work that involves a surgeon’s scalpel or something that rhymes with “hippo”. I’m talking about the kind of work that produces a quiet peace and contentment that emanates from the inside out. A confidence and stability. Unwavering character and integrity, that allows us to hold our head up high, whether we’re carrying a designer bag or not. Happiness is deeper than cold hard cash. Whether your have a hundred bucks or a hundred million, no matter how much you love money, you have to love yourself first. Being true to yourself, practicing gratitude and serving others are all ways to bring happiness into our lives. Here are three more simple tips to also help you get there.

  1. Accept and learn to love your imperfections: Pick up a magazine, turn on the TV, check your Facebook page or Twitter feed and there they are; a daily deluge of air brushed images of perfection. Our first thought is that we don’t measure up. Well guess what? We don’t have to. As long as you lead a healthy lifestyle, you’re okay just the way you are. So, next time you’re having a bad hair day, remember that even the most glamorous Hollywood starlet has bad hair days too. Just be glad the paparazzi aren’t crouched in the bushes outside your doorstep waiting to capture and post yours.
  1. Let it go: Okay so you goofed. We all do. Make amends and move on. It’s that whole perfection thing dogging our tracks again. Being human means making mistakes. It happens. Stop replaying your foul ups over and over in your head. Odds are we’ve all forgotten about it, and now you can too.
  1. Keep playing it forward: We’ve all heard the story about how Thomas Edison finally succeeded at inventing the light bulb on the 100th And then there’s the rest of us. We know how much effort it takes to train for and complete a marathon. Or research and write a dissertation, or master grandma’s apple crisp recipe, complete a crocheted sweater or finally finish that scrapbook of family photos. The point is, success brings happiness, but success is only won through hard, sustained effort. So keep going, even though you’d rather stay under the covers instead of hitting the treadmill at 5:00 am. Just imagine how good it’s going to feel crossing that finish line. Pure joy, right? Bingo!

{Image credit: Picjumbo}

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