Lottery Thinking is bad for your health

“You gotta be in it to win it,” right? Every payday, around the world, one in three people buy one or many lottery tickets hoping for the wine. The odds of winning the big jackpot are in the range of 8 million-to-one or 220-million-to-one. So why do they continue to waste their money each week?

Here comes another brilliant marketing slogan: “Cause hey, ya never know.”

So true, and yet for the majority of lottery players, we do know, it ain’t gonna happen.  And year after year after year, it doesn’t.

So what’s this got to do with you and healthy aging?

The same thinking that keeps people in the “ya never know” mindset, keeps them in the “It can’t happen to me” mindset and what I call, lottery thinking.

Time for some truth.

According to the authors of Change Anything, The New Science of Personal Success, one of the principles that people who successfully make a change–and make it last–is to start by telling themselves the truth about the situation they plan to change. These scientists recommend telling it like it is about our situation and not use, what I call, squishy language.

Squishy language includes ideas like “I’m a little bit heavy” when you are forty pounds overweight. And this denial about diabetes, “Just because I have high blood sugar doesn’t mean I’ll get diabetes.” The truth about diabetes is that by the time it is diagnosed, the heart and cardiovascular system have been under siege and suffering the strain for ten to twenty years.

Look to the future

Rule number two is, be willing to look into the future and predict what your life might be like if you don’t choose change. If you are at risk of diabetes, or have been diagnosed as pre-diabetic, don’t hide from what that predicts. Tell yourself the truth of it: “If I don’t change and I get diabetes, I will have pain in my extremities, I will have heart disease, I will be on medications, which are expensive,” etc.

Squishy language has its roots in lottery thinking.

Let’s use weight loss as another example. Rather than the statement, “I could stand to lose a little weight” which does little to encourage change, the truth sounds like this: “I am 4o pounds overweight. This means I am likely to develop one or more of a host of problems and more weight gain if I don’t get it handled.”

“Not everyone gets these diseases though,” you say.

More lottery thinking — and in this game the odds favor the diseases. 85% of the most common diseases said to be the diseases of aging — eighty-five percent — are caused by lifestyle habits. Aging alone has little to do with it. You have a greater than 3-in-4 chance of getting something that will limit your quality of life if you don’t take on your health vs. a 1-in-a-million chance of winning your ticket to paradise.

Here’s the thing about the “it won’t happen to me” way of thinking. It takes responsibility for our futures right out of our hands. Whose hands do you want your future in if not your own?

Telling the truth may feel scary, but it’s far more powerful than, “I wish I’d done more.”

Here’s a recap of how to get started making change:

  • Choose what you want to change and get specific.
  • Assess where you are honestly.
  • Do not shy away from the truth and what that means if you choose not to change.

Next, brainstorm some ideas

What’s the change you want to see? Need more vegetables in your meals? Plan to add two per day for one week. If movement is what you need more of, start by standing up every hour for 5 minutes. Walk up one flight of stairs then take the elevator the rest of the way. Assess where you can fit 30 minutes per day into your tight schedule, in two sessions of fifteen minutes each.

Build in some support

Find a friend with the same goal, or a coach, or mentor. Change is hard when you are out there on your own. The reptilian brain is a master at reminding you of how safe and yummy it feels to stay home, stay on the couch, stay the same. Your mindset is key to successfully breaking the habit you’ve grown tired of.

There’s one more step

There are two sides to this change thing: adding in what will support our new goals and removing what won’t.

Do you remember my concept “everything is food”? Lifestyle changes are impossible if we change our minds but do nothing to change our environment. There will be things in your life today that will be better off gone, and lots of good things to invite in.

Play the lottery now and again or gamble some spare cash next time you’re in Vegas. It’s true, someone’s got to win. But leave nothing to chance when it comes to creating your life and aging in good health.