What does a plane crash and receiving a windfall have in common? In the first few days of a windfall, sudden wealth recipients can experience shock and disassociation. Both are highly charged events that spike our adrenaline and cortisol levels and initiate a flight, freeze or fight response. Contrary to Hollywood movies, research shows that we don’t panic, but instead freeze and respond to the crisis with paralysis.
Author and researcher of The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes and Why, Amanda Ripley, writes in Time Magazine, “Panic is rare. The bigger problem is that people do too little, too slowly. They sometimes shut down completely, falling into a stupor.” (For more from this author, see: The 6 Biggest Sudden Wealth Mistakes.)
The solution, say the experts, is to keep emotions under control but maybe even more importantly, to live in the moment and to react based on what is actually happening. Instead of asking, “Why me?” survivors focus on the facts and ask better questions such as, “What is happening right now and what can I do about it?”
The sudden wealth recipients who respond best to their windfall are those who control their emotions, accurately assess the situation and take responsibility for doing what is required. Fortunately, you don’t have to have all of the answers. It’s completely normal and understandable that as a result of your sudden wealth, you will be in new situations and not know what to do.
Former Navy SEAL Cade Courtley, who trains people in how to survive disasters, says, “Don't wait for someone to come and rescue you. As an officer in the military, I was always told . . . you can't sort of wait for somebody to help you out. You can't expect somebody will be there to assist."
For almost everyone, sudden wealth is a novel and awkward experience. Most people just do not have the experience or knowledge to deal with the situation they find themselves in. It’s okay to feel like a foreigner in a strange land, but you cannot be passive. At best, passivity leads to indecisiveness and at worst, to being taken advantage of. If you don’t assume control, others will. If you’re lucky, they will have your best interests at heart, but they may not.
Instead of letting sudden wealth happen to you, stand up, take charge and own it. Taking control doesn’t mean you have to have all of the answers or that you need to make decisions. Taking control means you are not going to passively sit back and let the events unfold before your eyes. Whether you have just learned you will be coming into sudden wealth or if you did years ago, it’s never too late to take control.
This article is adapted from the book, "The Sudden Wealth Solution: 12 Principles to Transform Sudden Wealth Into Lasting Wealth." (For more from this author, see: Lottery Winnings: Take the Lump Sum or Annuity?)
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