Driving into the Andes 

How often have you heard the phrase, “when I win the lottery” ?

Not so often I would bet, because the usual phrase that we hear day in and day out from unhappy people who want to change their lives is actually: “if I win the lottery”

The two statements are poles apart. The first is actually quite positive, implying as it does a positive goal to win the lottery. I can imagine such a person buying books about lottery systems, creating spreadsheets to calculate odds, searching through lottery history to see which numbers come up most, wondering if the double digit balls are heavier than the single digits due to the extra paint!

All madness of course  but a life spent purposefully researching and dreaming about lottery success. If this person hits the jackpot they will probably be disappointed that their quest is over, give all the money away to charity and start their next crazy project!

The second is almost a plea for help; a beaten acceptance that good things will never happen to that person. The implication is that a large sum of money can somehow change you into the person you always wanted to be.

But what is really stopping us from doing that anyway?

This statement can, I think be considered an allegory for a life spent “off purpose”.

If someone could just come along and make all the bad stuff go away; the tedious day to day drudge that we’ve ended up in, the debt, the unhealthy lifestyle and the lethargy brought on by that lifestyle it would give us a clean sheet from which to make a new start before its too late. We could be thinner, sexier, have whiter teeth, a bigger car, exotic holidays and of course we would be annoyingly happy!! Yipee! This is the same thinking that says its better to put off implementing new ideas until January 1st. In fact its just another form of procrastination or resistance.

Its easy to see how we get to this point; we end up in the wrong jobs, the wrong neighbourhood or building, the wrong relationships, the wrong town, the wrong body and yes sometimes even the entirely wrong life for the person that lies within us.

In this respect (cheap and cheesy simile alert) life is like the lottery; and its easy to pick the wrong numbers and get caught up in all the wrong situations. But the answer is never going to come from with-out, its never going to come from someone else. This applies whether we are waiting for the Camelot man or for our fairy god mother to appear.

We need to think back to times when things did work out our way; and in every case we will see that it was a result of our own positive actions.

Every minute spent being someone else, living someone else’s idea of what your life should be, conforming to a partner’s view of you, or bending to the pressure from a shitty boss we run the risk of losing a little bit of what makes us who we are.

The fact is that we don’t need to make any changes to ourselves to start living a happy life; we are already all we need to be. Whether we are snowed under in debt, chronically ill, homeless, jobless, “trapped” in an unhappy relationship, drowning in self loathing due to previous actions we regret or through addiction to a substance, over-weight, under-weight, disabled, lonely, alone, surrounded by the wrong people or even suicidal; we are already all we need to be to be happy.

The answer lies within, I just need to spend some time contemplating who the real me is and as soon as I get a glimpse of even a small part of that person, a miniscule lightbulb or inner glow, I need to take immediate action on that thought; or at least write it down so that it doesn’t slip away.

For example, I’ve always wanted to live in the country, to have a small farm and to live a life devoid of routine and what I consider the day to day drudgery of a career in the traditional sense. I’ve always wanted to write, play music, to paint, to create things. I’ve always wanted to be in a tight family relationship with kids running around free, without needing to conform to too many rules (within reason).

I thought I was working towards this dream by first getting  a good steady job, then by starting a high flying business and making lots of money. But what happened instead, was I had the business and it took up all of my time and energy. I was spending my every waking hour with people I didn’t want to be with, doing things I didn’t want to do, eating fast food on the move, drinking too much alcohol when I got home late, never seeing my kids awake except at weekends.

I poured every ounce of energy and every penny of my money into the business, got into huge personal debt, got fat and un-fit and eventually had gone so far down a blind alley that I had no choice but to declare myself personally bankrupt. Everyone in the business kept their jobs (except me) and the business survived. I meantime had absolutely zero to show for 8 years of hard, relentlessly, unhealthy work. Here’s the science bit:

The day this came to a climax was the best day of my life so far.

The next morning I woke up penniless, jobless, tired, tearful, fearful and confused.

It was a beautiful, clear, crisp February morning; I woke early, went downstairs, brought the wood burning stove back to life with a few sticks and logs, made myself tea.

Then I went outside in the breathtaking cold and opened the hen house door to let the hens out, fed them and collected the eggs. I wandered down to our little paddock to give my donkeys some hay; I broke the ice on their water trough. Steam started to rise off the fields as the eastern sky seemed to catch fire with the blindingly bright winter sun rising over the horizon.

Too high above me to hear, their presence only betrayed by their contrails, trans-atlantic jets, either early bird flights heading off to North America or the red eyes, coming the opposite way, slowly and purposefully descending for the first landing slots of the new day at Glasgow or Edinburgh. The only sound was of donkeys munching hay and birds tweeting; perhaps a distant tractor.

I walked back to our rented 200 year old farmhouse that the bankruptcy couldn’t touch, in the awe inspiring, beautiful hills of upper Perthshire to be greeted half way up the track by my 9 year old daughter and our dog, before heading back to the house for breakfast of fresh eggs with my wife and 3 girls.

After dropping the kids at their little country school in the 13 year old jeep that I bought for £400 in my wife’s name (so the bankruptcy couldn’t touch it), I returned home, had another cup of tea and sat down to write for 3 hours.

My bank balance was zero, my debt was also zero (due to pressing the re-set button). If I’d had a spare pound, there is absolutely no way I would have used it to buy a lottery ticket.

No amount of money could buy what I’d already decided my life would be.

Being where you want to be and with who you want to be with.

Doing what you want to do in the way that you want to do it.

Being the authentic version of yourself, the real you.

That is a life spent on purpose with authenticity and joy and its way too important to delay getting started. Another day or even another year won’t make it happen.

You already have everything you need to be happy; you just need to start living on purpose.

By the way here are my old lottery numbers if you believe in serendipity and want to give it one more go:

2  (my birthday)
6  (dog’s birthday)
8  (middle daughter’s birthday)
12 (wife’s birthday)
19 (oldest daughters birthday)
24 (youngest daughter’s birthday)

Good luck and be happy!

Photo thanks to Trey Ratcliff via Compfight

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