I’ve always shied away from spending too much time daydreaming, as I felt that it could quite easily become an unhealthy behaviour, and I also tend to agree with Dumbledore that:
‘It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live. Remember that.’
However the last few months have really gotten me down and I’ve found myself wondering constantly about winning a large sum of money. I read story after story about lottery winners, what to do if you win a large sum of money and even began watching YouTube real estate tours of multi-million dollar mansions.
I knew that this was not a healthy behaviour to be indulging in, but I could not see a way forward in my life, so I continued. As each day passed my plans become more and more specific and detailed – it was a way to escape my real life problems.
However, something surprising happened. By giving myself free reign to image my life without constraints and boundaries or the usual run of the mill problems, it gave me a lot of insight into what I desire, where my life is lacking and what kind of person I am.
Overall I realised that I don’t need or want nearly as much money as I initially thought – I began at 9 figures and by the end I realised that around £250,000 would get me the vast majority of what I desire. It also forced me to think about what aspects of my life wouldn’t change if I won the lottery (or essentially any other kind of scenario where life’s usual problems and hurdles are absent). All in all, I’ve found my month down the rabbit hole to be quite enlightening as what kind of direction I need to be heading in. So, what did I learn about myself and my life while I was in Wonderland?
What did I learn
1. I don’t want a mansion
- Maintenance – I grew up spending my Saturday mornings like many other teenagers – watching Cribs. Back then I saw nothing bad about the huge houses that the featured celebrities lived in. Now I’m older (and a little wiser) I was surprised to realise I didn’t lust after the mansions I was looking at. Not only did most of them look cold, empty and like it would take forever to get anywhere but I also found out that some of the mansions I was looking at cost around £20,000-£108,000 per month just to maintain. Imagine having to find that kind of money every month indefinitely just to live in your house, before you’ve bought food, gone anywhere or done anything…! One thing I found particularly interesting is that shows like Cribs sold you the dream of wanting a mansion without mentioning just how much these places cost to upkeep – it’s little wonder then that through my research I found swathes of people who had either earnt or won big money and gone on to buy multi-million dollar mansions, only to lose them or go bankrupt due to the crazy cost of upkeep!
- Security – One thing that struck me was that living in such a large house would make it difficult to be aware of your surroundings and that many large homes have been broken into without their owners even noticing, which I would think is in part due to the sheer size of the house.
- Cool…or not? – As I continued to watch real estate videos I couldn’t help but wonder what the point was of many features. What use was owing 21 bathrooms when even with an average sized family of four you’d struggle to need more than 2 at any one time even if everyone was home all day every day. Or let’s assume that you like to throw a party a few times a year – why not just hire a venue for one night rather than spend 365 days a year paying to maintain, heat and clean rooms that are not in use the majority of the time?
I also found out that some uber rich people have things like a whole room dedicated just to wrapping gifts, or just to store suitcases in. It also seemed like every mansion came with its own bowling alley, tennis court, pool, theatre and so on. Another mansion had about 10 televisions in it at least which made me wonder what the point of having all that wealth was if you were just going to spend it in front of a TV – you could live that lifestyle for far less than the £5 million advertised without all the maintenance!
Many of these homes seemed like an island unto themselves – but where’s the fun in staying in your home constantly? Whatever happened to going out and seeing the world with friends? Most of these mansions seemed geared towards a reclusive lifestyle – there’s nothing wrong with that by the way, I’m quite the recluse myself – but when it’s every single house and you have the money and potential to go anywhere in the world and do anything, I had to wonder – why?
Overall my experience of looking at mansions and mega mansions was to realise how much I crave a family home full of life, fun, love, joy and vitality rather than owning masses of empty, unused rooms for the pure sake of it.
2. I don’t want an expensive car
It seems almost a given that everyone who wins a large sum of money must want several expensive cars. I have never been particularly good at driving but luckily I do enjoy going for long walks – except when I have a lot to carry or the weather is really bad and I have to do it out of necessity – still, a car would be a great asset even if we only used it part time for bringing heavy shopping home. Yet even with my imaginary 9-figure-unlimited-spending-power I quickly realised I had zero real desire to buy an expensive fleet of cars. In fact all I dreamt of was a nice four-door car in grey, white or black. Even with driving lessons all this could probably all be achieved for less than 10% of the £250,000 many lottery winners have spent on a single car.
3. I don’t want designer clothes
Along with the huge house, fleet of cars comes the expected expensive wardrobe, but when I started looking at what kind of clothes are sold for thousands of pounds a piece I was unimpressed to say the least. The vast majority of these ‘designer’ outfits I would pay thousands not to wear! I honestly felt as though if the tag was for a low-cost brand no one would even dream of buying these hideous outfits, but because it had a designer label on it suddenly it was desirable and worth paying thousands for! I also felt that once you got past a certain price point it became less about quality and more about paying for a specific label.
Over the years I’ve typically bought from supermarket clothing ranges and Primark, having looked at designer wardrobes and labels I now think that I’d like to splash out a couple of hundred for a nice pair of boots but otherwise I’d quite content to shop at NEXT.
4. I don’t want to go to 5 star hotels
I thought back to when we once went to a 5 star hotel how out of place we both felt. Although I wanted to relax I felt like I had to dress up and wear makeup and even then I still felt awkward. When you feel out of place you aren’t comfortable and feel like you cannot be yourself – that’s not exactly how I’d want financial freedom to feel.
So, what do I want?
When you take out all of these big ticket items what is there left to do with a significant win? Well I didn’t just learn about what I didn’t want – and therefore stop thinking about wanting it – I also learnt a lot about what I really do want. My overall conclusion is that I actually want a rather ordinary life, and that although right now things feel totally hopeless and out of reach, nothing I want is anywhere close to being 9-figures out of reach. Perhaps surprisingly the vast majority of the things I wanted came down to a few basic things repeated over until a pattern emerged (and therefore later, a plan):
- A home – I crave a secure and stable base – having been homeless once as a child, again as an adult and then almost again a third time as a student before ending up in low-end unsafe rentals and always being left to wonder if we would become homeless, a home was top of my list. A modest house I could decorate, furnish and make into a warm, loving space for gathering family and friends, work from home and relax in is number one on my list. I also aspire a lot to remove the technology from the bedroom – having lived in a spare bedroom or in tiny flats for a long time, I’m really sick of not having a designated space just for sleep and relaxing that isn’t full of papers, books, laptops, computers and so on.
- Health – The second thing that came up over and over was spending on health related matters – whether that was muscle massage, sauna, private therapy, dental treatment or an updated eye test – over and over again I saw that many things came back to wanting to better my physical and emotional well-being.
- Writing room – Another thing that kept coming up again and again was a strong desire for a designated space for writing – a room I could decorate to inspire my writing and shut the rest of the world out while I got to work.
- Freedom from the pressure to work – Having been in poor health for a while I would love to know that I could provide for myself and my family long-term without the pressures of working while ill or fear I will become too ill to even push through the day. Another alternative that came up was the desire to work from home, preferably at writing.
- Outdoors – I’ve always dreamt of having my own garden with a vegetable patch, greenhouse and orchard and this dream really came to the forefront when I was imagining what I would do with £119 million!
- Charity – Helping others was also high on my list with dreams of doing a huge food bank shop at a supermarket, or going to Toys R Us to shop for charities like Toys for Tots. Other ideas were to help friends get on the property ladder or donating to Shelter Scotland – the thought of being able to help others even more got me genuinely excited! We already help as much as we can but with our own precarious situation there comes limits as to how much we can help – a large win would remove that restraint. I truly believe that there is greater joy in gifting presents to others than to receive!
So there you have it – I learnt a lot by ‘wasting’ my time dreaming and it’s definitely given me food for thought about how I might go about actually achieving this kind of life. I really believe that by imagining my dream life without constraints, boundaries or problems has given me great insight into the steps that I need to take next to begin that journey in 2018. In fact I’ve already scoped out many solutions to taking those first steps. I also felt reassured that everything I want is not nearly as far out of reach as I had previously been feeling.
Have you ever dreamed of winning the lottery? What would you do? Do you think that imagining a life without constraints might help you envisage the path you need to take to be happier and more fulfilled in life? Share with me in the comments below! And Happy New Year!