For millions of people, their wildest (and, often, only) dream is to win the lottery. Week after week they pick up tickets at their convenience store and wait to hear their numbers called.

Why is that? Dig a bit deeper and you’ll discover that many of these folks are convinced that such an event would be the solution to all of their problems.

But would it?

A closer look at the real lives of those who once picked the winning numbers shows a slightly different picture. A surprising number of lottery multimillionaires dispose of their newfound wealth rather quickly.

The same is true for many athletes and performers whose wealth arrived in an avalanche. Most of us, it appears, are far more successful when change of any sort is a gradual process.

But that’s not the whole story.

Recently, Paula Pant’s blog, Afford Anything, had an interesting post called How Would Your Life Change If You Had Millions? The article was inspired when her partner asked her what she would do if she found herself super wealthy?

Her reply? “Nothing would change. I’d do the same things I’m doing now: buy rental properties, run a website, write articles. I’d just do it on a bigger scale.”

Pant goes on to explore how people who handled their wealth really well were often people who had already been doing what they loved and just expanded their territory as they prospered.

The piece reminded me of one of my all-time favorite episodes of Inside the Actors Studio on Bravo, an interview with Dustin Hoffman.

At the end of the evening, during the Q & A with the students, Hoffman was asked, “Why do you act?” His answer was passionate and memorable.

He said, (and I’m paraphrasing a bit here), “If I hadn’t gotten the movie (The Graduate), I’d still be doing this. I would be doing this period. I would be doing this in community theater. I’d be teaching at some college or a repertory theater. I can do it anywhere—and I would.”

Even if you consider playing the lottery to be a pleasant hobby, stop fooling yourself that a windfall is the solution to making peace with money.

Instead, consider this observation from Mike Dooley: “Both having money and not having money make fantastic adventures possible that would not otherwise be possible. Same for having, and not having anything else.”

It’s a new month so there’s a new theme here at Buon Viaggio. For the next four weeks, we’ll explore a question that I ponder regularly: got options?

Of course, it’s a bit of a trick question since options aren’t something we get; options are more often something that we recognize.

It’s a lesson I learned long ago.

At a particularly difficult time in my life, I was sharing my frustration with a friend. She listened attentively to my story and then quietly said, “Barbara, you always have options.”

I was too miserable to grasp what she said in that  moment of my despair. Later, as I was making decisions, changing directions, and setting new goals, I’d remember those wise words and get busy exploring the options available to me.

It’s a practice that has served me well—and I’m not alone in that discovery.

Several months ago, CBS Sunday Morning did a piece about comedian/actor Chris Rock who was appearing in a Broadway play that was about to open. The interviewer commented on the diversity of Rock’s career and his financial success as a performer.

Rock sat up a little straighter and said, “Being rich is not about having lots of money. Being rich is about having lots of options.”

By that definition, which I believe is totally accurate, the world is full of rich people who have no idea. As writer Brenda Uleland said in her marvelous If You Want to Write, “It seems to me like this: if you have a million dollars in the bank and you don’t know it’s there, it doesn’t do you any good.”

Seems to me like this, if you have unlimited options and don’t know it, it doesn’t do you any good.

So this month, we’ll look at practical ways to uncover all that buried treasure. It may take a bit of digging, but I predict you’re going to love what you discover.

In the meantime, consider this bit of advice from Mike Dooley: “Both having money and not having money make fantastic adventures possible that would not otherwise be possible. Same for having, and not having, anything else.”

Opens the options window wider, doesn’t it?