Making the most of opportunities has been the key to the success of many people. There are countless quotes from successful people that come to mind when writing about them.
But what is an opportunity? How will you know when you are presented with one?
Dictionary.com says an opportunity is an “appropriate or favorable time or occasion”, “a situation or condition favorable for attainment of a goal.” or “a good position, chance, or prospect, as for advancement or success.”
Interestingly the word chance only appears in the 3rd one. So opportunities are not completely random, you can play a part in bringing them about. They are also not rare. In fact they are commonplace. They are around us everyday, and we walk pass countless numbers of them in our lives. So how do we find them?
Bear with me while I make this analogy: If you imagine a long hall with a great big majestic door at the end. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the opportunity is behind that big majestic door. But it may also be behind a small inconspicuous door halfway down the hallway that most people don’t notice. It may be in a cupboard. It may be behind you. It may be under the rug on the floor.
There are certainly plenty of opportunities out there, it’s simply a matter of knowing how to spot them. Here are some guidelines:
Know what you want – Actually knowing what you want in life can help you recognise an opportunity when you see one. So put pen to paper and figure out what’s important to you. It doesn’t have to be a formal process, just get some ideas down.
Know yourself – Sometimes there are opportunities lying at your feet. Look at your job, family, friends, abilities, skills and experiences.
It probably won’t have a big sign on it saying “Opportunity” – In fact if it does then you should probably be very wary. Opportunities often have very small beginnings. Sam Morgan, who started Trademe.co.nz (New Zealand’s answer to eBay and the most popular site in the country), saw an opportunity for such a site after not being able to find a second hand heater online. He sold the site a couple of years ago for $700 million.
Keep your eyes open – Observe the world around you. Take note of what is going on. Listen, be curious and notice what’s happening. If you are looking then you are more likely to find an opportunity. If you walk along the road of life with your eyes towards the ground then you will, without a shadow of a doubt, miss some amazing opportunities.
An opportunity may present itself in the form of a problem, or even a crisis – When faced with a crisis people are forced to act. Sometimes that action can bring them something better than what they had in the first place. Approaching problems in this frame of mind can make them easier to deal with as well.
Engage with people – Take an active role in life, don’t sit on the sideline. Talk to people and find out about their lives. Create personal connections and see what springs from them.
Try new things – Walk home from work a different way. Talk to someone on the bus. Ask your drycleaner what he thinks about global warming. Tony Robbins said “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got”. So try new things and see what happens.
Don’t wait for opportunities – Expect them, but don’t count on them. “Success always comes when preparation meets opportunity” said Henry Hartman. Do the hard work anyway and the opportunities you find are just a bonus.
“Opportunities are where you find them” – Dr George King – The pessimist sees problems around every corner so doesn’t recognise opportunity even if it is staring him in the face. The optimist sees potential in everything. Have a state of mind that constantly seeks out opportunity.
Don’t give up looking – Some people give up when opportunity is just around the corner. Hang in there, you never know when things what is just around the corner.
“Jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.” – This quote from Benjamin Franklin is an important one to finish on. When you see an opportunity you really should take it or it could be a long while before it comes your way again.