Surprise! You Didn’t Win the $645 Million Mega Millions Jackpot And Why That’s A Good Thing

Two lucky winners, one from California and one from Georgia, will end up splitting last night’s estimated $645 million jackpot.

And neither one of them is you.

As hard as that is to believe, it’s actually a good thing that you didn’t win. It turns out that being lucky is bad luck.

The internet is full of stories about jackpot winners who’ve gone on to squander their fortune on hookers, drugs and gambling addictions. Lottery winners have been murdered and committed suicide. They end up on welfare, bankrupt and begging for their old garbage collectors job,

But not you, you say. Those are just stories. The exception to the rule. You can handle it and when you win the lottery it will all work out and you’ll finally be happy.

But you won’t.

Daniel Gilbert, Harvard Professor of Psychology and author of the best seller Stumbing on Happiness, has done exhaustive research on lottery winners and finds that dramatic, life changing events, like winning the lottery have little to no effect on our happiness within 3 months after the fact.

It’s not just that big good news events don’t make us happier. Big bad news events like being in an accident and becoming a parapagic don’t make us any less happy either.

According to research presented in the TED video below, one year after their trauma. paraplegics are equally as happy as people who won the lottery a year earlier.

I’ve never known anyone who’s won $645 million, but I do know someone who who lost the use of his legs.

My father.

6 months ago, my dad was using a chainsaw to trim tree branches around a deer hunting stand 14 feet above the forest floor. The ladder he was standing on shifted unexpectedly and he fell to ground, crushing his 7th thoracic vertebra and paralyzing him from the mid back down. He’s never expected to walk again.

There are a million other ways that fall to Earth could have ended and most of them involve my father bleeding to death in the woods. But he’s alive and I have complete confidence that he is going to go on to live a healthy, productive, and, yes, happy life.

Daddy has told me that his situation isn’t what he would have chosen for himself but all he can do is make the best of it and live the life he has as it is now. And that’s exactly what he’s doing.

No one can speak for another man’s happiness, but as far as I can tell, my father has adjusted, accepted the way things are and is just as happy as he was 7 months ago.

My father is a strong, strong man, but he’s not an anomalie. He’s the norm.

Abraham Lincoln was right. “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

Most of us us are waiting for our real lives to start. Hinging our hopes for happiness on some future something. Everything will be OK if I can just (meet someone, lose weight, get a raise/promotion). Or even worse we delay happiness because of fear or worry about what might happen if we (lose our job, have an accident, get sick).

When the truth is, scientists and philosophers have shown over and over again that happiness is not dependent upon, correlated with or caused by external factors like winning the lottery or getting stuck in a wheelchair for the rest of our lives.

Happiness is an internal function and we manufacture it in our heads.

Your brain can be a happiness factory or a misery factory and which one it becomes is entirely and completely up to you.

The mind is its own place and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.” – John Milton

Our brain lies to us and tells us all the things that we think will make us happy so we chase happiness around the world fighting wars, leaving spouses, buying more stuff, quitting good jobs. And happiness remains ever just outside our reach.

When the happiness we seek is within us all along if we’d just quit looking so damn hard.

Terry LancasterTerry Lancaster is the VP of Making S#!% Happen at Instant Events Automotive Advertising, father of 3 teenage daughters and a Beer League Hockey All Star, as if there could ever be such a thing. You can connect with Terry on FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+.