The Lottery Question
What would you do if money were no object? What would you do if you won the lottery and could do anything at all?
Maybe you say, "I'd buy a cottage on the beach," or "I'd travel around the world." And those are wonderful ideas. You could easily fill up your days relaxing by the ocean or exploring exotic locales. But what happens after you've done that for a while? When you're used to that and maybe a little bored with it? What would you want to do if money wasn't an issue?
Maybe it's more useful to ask who you would become if money were not a concern. What kind of life would you choose?
A few lucky people would answer, "I'd choose my current career and activities, but I'd still want to live in my cottage at the beach."
But this answer is rare. Most people don't seem to be in love with their careers, but they don't know what else they'd really love to pursue. They're desperately searching for their passions.
I've been a classical singer for more than 40 years. I've never made my living at it because I realized long ago that I didn't want to be a school choral director, and I never wanted to make the intense commitment that a full-time performing career would require. It's been a part-time gig along with raising and homeschooling my children and various other jobs along the way (bookkeeper and English tutor among them). But even a part-time singer has to vocalize every day, learn new music, go to auditions and rehearsals, own the right clothing, etc.
One day not long before Covid-19 entered our lives, when I just didn't feel motivated to practice or seek out another opportunity to perform, I went back to the basics. I dared to ask myself a very important question:
Do I even want to do this anymore?
It's a big question, especially when you're asking it about something that has been part of your identity for a long time. Maybe you're a nurse, a teacher, a lawyer, an accountant, a restaurant owner, or in construction, and you've been doing it for a while. You've got the training and the experience, and people know you because of your job – they associate you with it. But if you ask yourself this question, and answer honestly, the answer just might be
You show up, but your heart isn't in it. So who would you be, if you could be anything? What would capture your heart? It's a little scary to ask this question and to contemplate a change.
You may have to think about this for a day, a week, or even a few years. But when you come across something you think might be your thing, do it now. Start doing it in any capacity that you can.
I'm not saying you should quit your current job or dump all of your current hobbies. Fit it in. Make room for it. If it really engages you, you'll remove other things that are less important in order to create time for it. You'll find yourself looking forward to it and thinking about it even when you're busy with other tasks. By exploring this new interest, you'll learn more about yourself and find new and better ways to guide yourself toward fulfillment.
Some of the personas you try on are going to be short term – infatuations rather than true love. You'll dedicate some time to them every day for a month or a year and then get bored or decide you actually hate whatever it is. That's not a failure, it's a good thing. You've worked at something, made a commitment to it, and learned more about it and yourself.
Let's say you have a strong interest in diet and nutrition. You've read tons of books about the subject, and you've actually lost quite a bit of weight, kept it off, and improved your blood sugar and cholesterol numbers without drugs. Maybe you can connect with a couple of friends and volunteer to work with them for free. Invite them to bring in other friends or family members. Ask everyone to check with their personal doctor and have blood tests done, then create an accountability group (you might even charge a small membership fee).
Keep reading every book and article you can. Start a blog. Start writing a book, perhaps a memoir based on your own experiences. You might create a YouTube channel and make short videos with nutrition tips that you upload once a week, or create and sell an online course. Just get started doing something and do something every day related to your interest. Push through resistance and negative self-talk for at least a month or two.
If you decide to quit because it's not your passion after all, don't feel downhearted. You've probably learned some skills and met some great people. Move on.
You'll eventually find something that makes you feel energized and creative and excited, and you'll want to do it more and more. Even if you can't quit your regular job, this pursuit can still add satisfaction to your life every day.
You'll know you've found the right thing for you if you want to keep doing it whether or not you make money or gain recognition from it. But you never know where this new road may lead.
So what does the lottery-winning question look like for me? It's not grandiose. I spend time writing every day. My blog continues gaining new subscribers and is linked to by other bloggers, who sometimes ask me to write posts for them. I receive positive responses from some of my readers. My books sell – not in huge numbers, but regularly. My husband Jon still enjoys teaching 6th grade, at least for a few more years. Our kids and grandkids don't live too far away, and we have enough money and time to buy season tickets to the theater, go out for a nice dinner, occasionally see Jon's favorite NBA team play, or take a weekend trip to the coast.
You know what? I didn't need to win the lottery to make a life I enjoy, and you might not need to either.
Photo by Elise Bouvet on Unsplash