This morning on the radio I heard an ad saying something like “everyone wants to win the jackpot”, and it got me thinking. Do they? Do they really? What would change if I suddenly had a million or more dollars tossed in my lap?
Would I retire?
Would I buy stuff until it poured out my ears?
Could I change the world with that sort of money?
Would it change me?
They are probably the kind of questions that you can’t answer for sure, unless it actually happens to you (raise your hand if you’d like to be part of a statistically relevant sample). The temptation that goes with large amounts of money must surely have impacts that are hard to foresee.
But the idea does make me wonder what my ideal life looks like. I was very lucky when my second child was born. I was able to take four years or so off work, look after my kids, and explore different career options through volunteer work, among other things. We managed to avoid financial pressures, which meant that, when I finally worked out what I wanted to do, I was able to take a giant leap of faith – despite the huge drop in salary when compared with my previous job.
In those four years it became very clear to me that I need to work, and, moreover, I need a workplace. Working from home left me too isolated, too much at the mercy of my own hyperactive brain, which tends to create mountains out of every possible (and many an impossible) molehill without the constant presence of friends willing to wield the frying pan of enlightenment. (“Wham! Stop it, you big doofus! Wham!”)
I also need the opportunity to do the things I am good at, the things that make me feel as though I have really achieved something. Teaching is one of those things. So if I never had to work again, would I stop teaching?
No, I can’t see it happening.
Beguiling though the idea is of having nothing to do other than lounge in a hammock drinking cocktails all day every day, I don’t think many people would be truly happy without a sense of purpose. Of achievement. There is a fundamental need, deep in the human psyche, to feel needed. To feel purposeful. And at least in my psyche, there is a strong need for people. Holidays make me happy, but the first thing I want to do when confronted with a gorgeous view is to share it.
So what difference would a sudden windfall make? I could inject some luxury into my life, but the overall shape of it wouldn’t change. Stuff doesn’t make me happy. People do. I am happiest when I’m surrounded by people I love and respect, and kicking goals at work – money can’t buy me that feeling.
I have awesome friends, and wonderful colleagues. Money can’t get me more of those. I’d buy a healthier body if I could, but technology isn’t there (yet?). Overall the things I want and need are not for sale. Once you’ve met your basic needs, what else can money do for you?
So this is my question for you: What would you change in your life if you had a million dollars? And what’s stopping you from doing it now?