Betting on Me: Why a lottery ticket made me feel powerful

The power of choice

“Would you like your winnings in one lump sum or in installments?”

Believe it or not, that question, asked to me by a cashier at a convenience store in Hoboken, N.J., made me feel powerful.

In an act of self-care, I was buying a lottery ticket. I’d had a rough and mentally draining day and needed to dream. I thought about what I’d do with the winnings, something like $100 million, and smiled. Then the cashier asked me that question, as if he truly believed I had a chance, and I felt the stress of the past few hours melt away.

It sounds strange, but I think about this interaction often. It reminds me that, no matter how challenging our circumstances, we always have a choice—a choice to wallow or look for solutions, a choice to fear failure or bet on ourselves. In that moment, I was looking for a small release, just for me. I found one, and I chose it.

Do you often feel you have no choices, that things just happen to you?

Maybe you’ve been trapped in a series of jobs that didn’t work out. Or perhaps you regularly deal with difficult family members. You feel powerless to change them—and you’d be right about that. You can’t change them, but you can set an intention for how (or if) you’d like to respond.

When I talk with clients who struggle to own their autonomy, I find it helpful to remove that pesky, self-inflicted barricade: fear.

Here’s how to conquer it—or at least look it in the face.

1. What would you do if failure wasn’t an option?

Would you leave your job and start that business? Would you confront that friend who’s become what I call a “bucket spiller” versus “bucket filler?” Removing failure from the scenario wipes away the fear fog and reveals our heart’s true wants and wishes.

2. What would you advise a friend to do?

What advice would you give her if she were in your shoes? It could reveal what you’ve always known—that you need to leave your job—or something smaller, like the fact that you need to take moment for yourself (like buying a lottery ticket).

3. Stop assigning blame.

Enter tough love. I’ve had clients stuck in a blame cycle—pointing the finger at others because of their circumstances. If you feel yourself doing this, consider the common thread in each scenario: you. And you’re the only one you can control.

The truth is we are all very powerful because we all have choices. The key is in knowing you have a choice, knowing how those choices relate to your core values, and deciding how you move from there.

I didn’t strike it rich the day I bought that lotto ticket. But I certainly changed my frame of mind and learned a lifelong lesson. You hold the power. You control your destiny. And you always win when you bet on you.

If you’re looking for help owning your life and directing your destiny, a coach could help you harness your power. I’m an executive coach who helps clients nationwide with personal and professional development. You can reach me at

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