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Why Do Pessimists Buy Lottery Tickets?

February 20, 2023

Why in the world does a pessimist buy a lottery ticket? He knows he won’t win because nothing ever works out for him, so why purchase a ticket? Because even though it’s a long shot, he believes it is probably the only way to change his circumstances. That glimmer of hope of maybe 1 chance in 302,575,350, is better than his current perspective of there being no other possible way of succeeding. 

Of course, all who buy lottery tickets are not pessimists. The other side of the coin is the optimist. Optimists look for possibilities to create opportunities. They, too, buy tickets; however, they also know it’s a long shot and believe they have a chance, but the difference is the lottery ticket is not their only strategy for getting the future they want.

We Are Each Part Pessimist and Part Optimist

A similar question can be asked: “Why do pessimists seek coaches?” Pessimists typically focus on history to define their future. This filter provides the framing and evidence for them of why things are the way they are and are likely to never improve, or even get worse. Since they “know” what is possible, which is typically bleak, why then would they seek a coach? Because people are neither innately pessimists nor optimists. We are both. The pessimists who seek a coach are those who acknowledge the direction they are currently heading is not where they want to go. They just can’t tell you where they do want to go.

Pessimism, like cynicism can be helpful in our jobs. These perspectives look for what “will” go wrong, allowing us to create contingency plans to mitigate the issue. Letting the pessimistic side of ourselves take over will suck the energy out of us, as well as our colleagues. Stay in this frame of mind long enough and soon your life will absolutely match your perspective. 

The pessimist stops looking for possibilities or opportunities because they believe they don’t exist or won’t happen for them. Instead of creating possibilities, they succumb to the obstacles because they have bought into the perspective of nothing good is possible. 

A corporate zombie develops from an extended period of pessimistic outlook. She can recite the promotions missed, the managers who won’t help with job growth, and why the industry and company are declining. She laments about how there are no opportunities out there for her that will pay enough or even be available. Taking away future possibilities is enough to kill anyone’s spirit.

Overcoming Your Pessimistic Mindset

Meet Carrie

Carrie came to me having quit her job and feeling lost. She was certain she should find a role that limited her contact with people because of her recent work history. 

We worked together for six months, giving her the tools she needed to find her place in the workforce. On a recent follow-up call with her, she told me she discovered she needs to be around people after all and understands what is critical for her in a job. She also has the tools to deal with the unexpected things that arise – she knows how to figure them out rather than view them as a roadblock. She is now optimistic about her career.

Meet Ralph

Ralph is a 70+ year-old physician who came to me lamenting about how the COVID years were shutting down opportunities for him to practice. He was buying into his age being the reason he was no longer employable. 

Our work together uncovered possibilities, proving a 70-year-old can be employed. He was hired as the lead investigator for a drug company running vaccine trials in his area.

These are two examples of people who started with me believing they could not find work. In both cases, they were laser focused on what didn’t work. I helped them use those experiences to create new possibilities. Both can now buy lottery tickets to supplement their futures rather than rely on winning the lottery as their only hope at a future.

Creating a New Future

Are you lost or stuck in your job with a list of what you don’t like about your job or circumstances? Do you know you are an achiever and if only you knew what you wanted to do, you would do it? If you are in this rut or identify with the pessimists in the room, I suggest you view my four-part video series on “How to Have a Job You Love” for tips on how to find your new direction!