It’s probably no surprise to regular readers of this blog that I am an avid listener of public radio, so much so that my alarm clock is set to wake me to the sounds of the local public radio station. As usual today the clock went off at the normal painful time of 7:25am and I took the first few minutes to listen to world happenings while finding my bearings. The hot story this morning was the Mega Millions jackpot which is up to some ridiculously crazy sum of money, in my groggy state I really didn’t pay much attention until I heard a man say he was praying he could win the jackpot so that he could finally start living life. I am not sure why, but that statement stayed in my head throughout my prayers and meditation this morning.

As I hopped online a little later, I noticed many people talking about what they would do if they won the jackpot. There is nothing wrong with playfully fantasizing about what we would do if we won a jackpot but as I strive to be more mindful in all areas of my life, I often think how many years I wasted not enjoying the life I have at hand.

Look, I am not saying anyone is unhappy with the life they have at present but I do believe words have power and what we speak is powerful and can impact how we feel. For someone to say even in jest that winning a bajillion dollars will allow them to finally starting living life, actually says a lot. It says what most of us think, that life finally begins when we lose weight, get our degrees, get a partner and the list goes on. I most certainly have been guilty of thinking that if I accomplished XYZ that I would finally be living and nothing could be further from the truth. I spent 6 years or so in my late 20’s to early 30’s going to school getting my undergraduate and graduate degrees. When I was in school, I gave up a lot, missed a lot too; always thinking that once I received my degrees life would be grand. Well those papers are nice, but life didn’t magically change other than I owe a shitload of cash. I don’t regret going to school though I regret that I went at such a pace that I missed a lot of life because I was under the impression something special would happen once I met my goal.

The thing is every day we wake up, in reasonable good spirits with a relatively healthy body/mind and a roof over our heads, food on the table and people who care about us, is a great day. We live our lives as if time is infinite and that we know we will get 90+ years and the fact is not even our next minute is promised. Life can change on a dime, ask Trayvon Martin’s parents…he went out to grab a snack and never came home.

There is nothing wrong with a little fantasizing or even daydreaming about the what if’s, but far too many us ignore our now and stay focused on things that are not promised thus missing what we do have. This has been a struggle of mine and one that in the past year I have worked to deal with, because more times than I care to admit I realized I was ignoring what I had in hopes of what I wanted.

Last night I shared on twitter a tool I use to keep me grounded in my now, every night before I go to bed, I go low tech and grab a pen and my journal (remember those?) and write down what I call gratitudes. Gratitudes are 5 things that happened over the course of my day that added some value to my life, made me smile or were just cool as hell. I admit it was hard at first, initially my list was pretty redundant: man, kids, house…you get the point. Then I really started looking at my days and saw gifts where I had never seen them: staff member who made my day easier, cuddles with my kid, great conversation, sunrise that made me stop and so on. Some days the gratitudes just pour out and some days I admit they are hard but the point is to see what I have and in looking to see what I have, it makes me more present in my life.

Winning a jackpot probably does add a lot of value but often times what we need and what will truly make us happy goes far beyond money. So good luck if you played but even if you don’t win, remember you are already a winner!