Hitting the jackpot doesn't mean instantly becoming happy.
I think most of us have imagined a scenario where we didn’t have to work for money for a long period of time. “Yay!” you think. “Long vacation!” You may imagine drinking fruity concoctions on a beach — that’s what I imagined. Mmm, paradise.
Since I sold Simpli in September, I haven’t had to work for income…nor will I have to work for income for a minimum of 5 more years (if I spend aggressively and buy a house with mostly cash) or 8-10 more years if I am more conservative. That’s right…I do nothing, or whatever I want, and I get a check in the mail every month. Wow, sounds like the height of pure awesomeness, right?
It’s funny that life gives you as many challenges as you can handle. There’s just no “easy” life out there. We were put here, I believe, to learn and grow, and for my part, if I don’t feel like I’m learning and/or growing, I am not a happy person. Most of my learning and growing came from work-related activities over the past 6 years. Now it has to come from somewhere else. It has to come from ME. I have to be motivated to learn and grow and decide what that means for me. My future is wide open, and if I’m not strong, I could easily succumb to lack of motivation and become an addict.
I can see easily why most people who win the lottery can’t make it work and end up broke. It has something to do with this fantasy that you’ll never have to work again — that suddenly life will be perfect, if only… [insert change you want here.] Of course, if that change does happen, you find out that that’s not the case at all.
When you sell your business, win the lottery, or make a drastic “good” change in your life, you’re suddenly confronted with an onslaught of you. I can’t stress this enough. I saw it recently on an Oprah program where she talked with women who had gone through gastric bypass surgery. All of these women, including Carnie Wilson of Wilson Phillips (the girl rock band from the 80’s), had addictive personalities that triggered their eating disorders. And all of them, when they got the “miracle” cure, quickly became addicted to something else — in most of their cases, alcohol. That’s because the “miracle cure” didn’t address their underlying issues.
My situation is similar. Just as they were left with extra time from not eating, I’m left with a gigantic amount of time (8-10 hours a day, or more) in which I must confront myself, deal with my shortcomings, inadequacies, and ingrained belief systems, and work to make myself a better person. I must deal with the outside world with strength and courage and confront the daily reality of who I am — the good and the bad, the mistakes and the happy memories. Since I was a workaholic (I’ll own that one — I have an addictive personality and I was addicted to work and sugar), I also had to deal with a whole raft of “not good enough” and “not working enough” feelings.
It’s clear to me that this is what people don’t talk about when really good things happen to them. I want to start that conversation because I’m well aware of what I could have been. It took me about three weeks to come out of the funk after I sold my business. I went through every stage of grief. I went from screaming rage to utter despair. I made it worse by assuming I “should” be happy. There’s no “should” here, folks. There’s no one who goes through exactly what you go through, and those who look perfect on the outside are on the inside struggling with just as many problems as you are. Even people you think have it better off than you do — they don’t. They have different issues and different goals, and they have those days where they don’t want to get out of bed either. I assure you of that.
The first thing I had to do, then, was stop comparing. I realized it simply wasn’t worth my time. There were people who would sell their businesses for more. There were people who would be more successful. The only question I had to ask was, “Am I happy with who I am?” And as long as that answer was yes, I was fine. Over that three weeks, I grew into my new skin.
I currently meditate on a regular basis. The second thing I worked hard on was shedding feelings of guilt. Frankly, guilt is perhaps one of the most worthless emotions out there. If you feel bad about something you’ve done, you have to forgive yourself, and if it involves someone else, apologize. Then, after you’ve forgiven yourself and made amends, you must release the guilt. Otherwise it’s just a crippling emotion that does no good. I’ve taken to actively meditating on past events that bring up feelings of guilt, and releasing that guilt and forgiving myself. A lot of it was silly crap, too! Stuff that happened 20 years ago…not worth holding on to.
You are the one who attaches specific emotional significance to events in your past. I went through meditations every day for weeks, healing episodes of guilt and shame big and small in my past. I didn’t stop until for several days in a row I couldn’t find any episodes of guilt in my history. And let me tell you, if you think losing weight will make you feel better, try losing some emotional weight. That pile of guilt weighs more than any physical weight.
Here’s how I got rid of the guilt:
- I sat in a quiet place for a few minutes and took several deep breaths. I got my emotions and feelings to come to a slow halt. I relaxed.
- I asked for a specific and clear instance of feeling guilty that I’d had at some point in my past. (This also works for shame, embarrassment, etc.)
- Once I had it, I replayed it in my mind and made the memory as crystal clear as I could. I added names, faces, and places. I thought about who was involved and why I/we were doing this. This replaying is the most painful part — but it’s also necessary to get rid of the bad lingering emotions. Just think…this is the last time you’ll ever have to deal with this particular pain. It can’t creep up at night when you’re trying to go to bed and bang you over the head. That alone makes it worth it.
- Once I had the memory very clear in my head and couldn’t think of any more details, I went through a series of three simple questions:
- Do I need to apologize to this person? The answer should be clear. If you feel guilty for not apologizing, the answer is YES. If it just involved you, or it was insignificant to the other person, you probably don’t need to apologize.
- Am I making excuses for my behavior? You need to own the action. Get really clear right now that what you did was your choice. Even if you acted based on someone else’s bad recommendation, it was still you who decided to take that action.
- What lesson did I learn from this? There’s always a lesson, and it’s not “Don’t drive down XYZ Street at night, because I ran into another car there.” It’s probably more something like “Don’t drive when I haven’t eaten in 12 hours and am an emotional mess, because that makes me more likely to get into a car accident. And listen to my intuition telling me when I should and shouldn’t drive!” Dig deep and find the real lesson. Once you have the lesson, you won’t need the guilt any more.
- If I need to apologize, I make a note to call the person and do it. You have to follow through with that, no matter how scary it may seem. You need to do it within 24 hours of the exercise. If the person is not available or has passed on, write a letter to them. It is absolutely cathartic.
- While still in the calm meditative state, I say to myself “I take ownership and responsibility for my actions. I hereby release all guilt associated with this incident. I have learned my lesson…” (and SAY THE LESSON OUT LOUD…) If the lesson doesn’t feel quite right to you, ask the memory what other lessons are involved. Make a commitment to call the other person if needed: “I will call XYZ within 24 hours and apologize.”
- Once you’ve released the guilt — and this is an important step, so don’t skip it — you need to fill that hole with something else. I recommend love. Try this: “I ask God [or whatever your preferred name is for a higher power, or even someone else who was involved with the incident!] to help me release any remaining guilt. I request that the guilt be replaced with love and that my heart be filled with love.” I also like a meditation where I say “My heart can only create love”, and that can tie in here too.
- You should feel an immediate sense of huge relief. In the future, if any more guilt comes up regarding that situation, tell it to go away…you’ve replaced it with love, remember? It should go away fairly easily at that point.
- Repeat for every piece of guilt you feel — yes, even little ones. It doesn’t take that long and you can just do a couple a day. When you no longer have any guilt, you will feel so much better about yourself. Give it a shot!
Through these sorts of meditations, I’ve removed many of the limiting feelings and beliefs I had. I’m also currently making my way through Jane Roberts’ series of Seth books — if you haven’t read at least one, I’d recommend them. Just remember… you create this life and everything in it. I created wealth for a reason — so I could free myself to do meaningful work without having to worry about a paycheck. But money doesn’t equate to instant happiness. Only by becoming strong, open, and most of all, owning that you are who you are will you become truly wealthy.