When should we begin planning how to spend our gift of life?

I won the Lottery!

Imagine winning $7 million in a lottery. Wouldn’t that be exciting? The likelihood of winning Ontario Canada’s 6/49 lottery is about 1 in 14 million, and if you live in another country that sponsors a lottery, the chances of you winning are probably equally slim. So, if you were to win under such insurmountable odds, you certainly would have cause for celebration.

Here’s my question to you, assuming you won, what will you do with your incredible gift?

I’m going to let you in on a secret. I won the lottery! And I have reason to rejoice. After all, the odds of winning were just 1 out of 200 ~ 500 million! But I won! I won the greatest gift of all, not a huge stack of paper (money), but the gift of life. You see, when I was conceived, there were between 200 and 500 million sperm competing to fertilize my mother’s egg. Each sperm and egg combination would result in a different person. So, even if my mother’s egg were to be fertilized, the chances of me, Chuck Gallozzi, being created were astronomically small. Can you see why I’m so happy about my unbelievable luck?

Come to think about it, you also won the same lottery! That being so, let me ask you the question I asked earlier, what will you do with your incredible gift?

Often, when people are asked this question they don’t know how to respond. Some may say, “I don’t know.” Yet, if it were money they won, wouldn’t they feverishly work on plans on how to spend or invest it? Since life is a far greater gift, doesn’t it make sense to carefully plan how we will spend it? We wouldn’t want to waste millions of dollars that we have won, so why are we so comfortable with wasting millions of seconds or minutes that we have won?

When should we begin planning how to spend our gift of life? I think you’ll agree that we shouldn’t wait until we’re approaching the end of it. I say that because of what Will Mosier wrote in the January 1, 2002 issue of Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association:

“Nadine Stair, a 92-years-young woman from Louisville, Kentucky, is credited for the following thoughts that, over the years, have been an inspiration to me. (She shared these thoughts with a newspaper reporter at age 85.) Perhaps her words will have some meaning for you, as well. This is what I remember of what she

‘If I had my life to live over again, I would dare to make more mistakes. I would permit myself to be sillier. I would take life less seriously and I would take more chances. I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers. I would eat more ice cream and less bran. I might, perhaps, have more actual problems but I would probably have fewer imaginary ones.

‘I’m one of those people who live sensibly hour by hour, day after day. That has been my problem. Oh, I’ve had my moments; but if I had it to do all over again, I’d have more of them – moments, that is. In fact, I’d try to have nothing else – just moments – one after another. I would live my life for the moment. I would savor each precious moment, instead of spending my time living so many years ahead of each day.

‘I’ve been one of those people who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat and a parachute, If I could live my life all over again, I would travel much lighter. If I had my life to live over, I would start going barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would laugh more. I would sing more. I would do more dancing. I would take walks in the rain and not step over the puddles. I would smell more roses and pick more daisies.'”

The purpose of the above story is to remind us to start planning our life now. We have to decide whether we wish to be a spectator or participant in the greatest game of all, life. Remember, not deciding is really a decision to continue on our present path, which is fine if it is the best we can do. But doing anything less than that is devaluing the gift of life.

So, the question is, do we intend to live with a purpose or just drift aimlessly? Don’t settle for a less than satisfying life because of inaction or because of taking the wrong action. Plan your life so you can experience the exhilaration of being in control. If you would like some guidance on living a purposeful life, I recommend this book, “WITH PURPOSE: Going from Success to Significance in Work and Life,” by Ken Dychtwald, William Morrow; 2009.

What else can we do with our life? One of the most exciting things is to discover what we really are. I deliberately choose to say “what we are” rather than “who we are” because “who” will make you think of your name, job, roles you have in life, and other minor considerations. But “what you are” points to your unlimited potential and hints at the magnificent being you are.

How can you achieve great things if you are unaware of your own greatness? Be sure you realize the treasure you have within. If you need some help, check out this book, “UNDERSTAND THE TRUE SELF: The Treasure Within” by Floyd Jerred, Trafford Publishing, 2006.

The fastest way to discover your own power and splendor is by taking action. Good actions will be rewarded by good consequences; great actions will be followed by great results, and breathtaking action will lead to breathtaking outcomes. So, all you have to do to achieve the life of your dreams is to take the steps that will lead you to your goals. Every day you are taking steps. All you have to do is stop taking the wrong ones and start taking the right ones.

But you may have ingrained bad habits, stinking (negative) thinking, self-doubt, fear, and other obstacles holding you back. Since you weren’t taught in school how to handle these problems, you may need a little help. For a useful toolbox of self-help techniques, I suggest this book, “The Feeling Good Handbook, by David Burns, Plume, 1999.

Imagine being in an art museum and enjoying the creations of the world’s finest artists. Do you have the power to improve their work? You may find the idea ridiculous. Yet, you have the power to improve the grandest creation of all, MANKIND. You see, as glorious as MANKIND is, occasionally you may not like what you see, and by using your power you can improve it! Isn’t this a great way to use your gift of life?

Here is an example of what I mean. If someone insults you, instead of focusing on your pain and becoming angry, you could focus on the insecurity of the perpetrator that led him or her to insult you and feel compassion for that individual. In other words, you can transform anger to compassion (love), thereby improving life.

Other examples include the following. Whenever you run into a problem, you can choose to be a victor instead of a victim, for a victor will inspire others while a victim will drain the energy of others. In your relationships you can look for what you can praise instead of condemn. You can strive to uplift instead of tear down. You can listen and learn instead of dominating the conversation and silencing others. You can welcome all you meet instead of alienating some of them; that is, you can crush your enemies by making them your friends. And you can take the time to dream of a better world and help to bring it about.

We are not only lucky to receive the gift of life, but we are lucky that others have as well. For without them we would have no one to share our happiness with, no one to learn from, and no one to help us grow. If two people each have an apple and give it to the other, they will still end up with one apple each. Yet, if each would share one idea, they would end up with two ideas each. The more ideas we share the faster we grow. Share 16 ideas and wind up with 32. It should be clear, then, the greatest gift life offers us is other people.

I think by now we have concluded EVERYDAY IS A GIFT. That’s why it is called THE PRESENT. Now, to come full circle, I’ll return to the subject of the lottery. True, your chances of winning the lottery grows slightly better if you buy a ticket, but your best bet is to play your winning ticket, life. Now that you have it, use it. Or, as the CEO of Breakthrough Coaching, Brian Koslow, says, “Forget the lottery. Bet on yourself instead.”

Lastly, if you can use some inspiration in the form of how 50 people turned their lives around, check out “WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH MY LIFE?: The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question” by Po Bronson, Ballantine Books, 2005.