I was talking to a couple of colleagues in the wake of a recent corporate restructure. What was interesting was that they both worked in the same department yet one saw the changes as the end of his career, a total gloom and doom situation. The other was much more circumspect, in fact, he was relishing the chance to make his mark in the ‘new world’. He saw it as an opportunity to learn, grow and expand his skill set.
It reminded me of a story I read a while ago, about how Richard Branson actually got started in the airline industry. He and his, now wife, were traveling to Puerto Rico when their flight was cancelled leaving them and hundreds of passengers stranded. Branson decided to do something about it. He located a chartered airplane and went on to charge the stranded passengers the thirty nine dollars required to cover the cost of each seat. Needless to say they made it to their destination and when he was presented the chance of starting a transatlantic airline a few months later, he jumped at it. The rest as they say is history.
Branson’s story came to mind because it highlighted how some people are able to seemingly conjure opportunity out of thin air. How many of us would have just accepted our fate that day at the airport? I dare say most. How many of us would have had the idea that he had? Probably not many. Are people like Richard Branson just special, their brains wired differently to the masses? I don’t know but there’s definitely something about the way they see the world and the way they think.
So how do opportunities show up in your life? Do they always seem to pass you by so you’ve just concluded you’re unlucky? Are you tired of looking with envy at those who seem to catch all the breaks? Maybe there are other reasons why you can’t seem to get those chances. Here’s why you may be missing out and what you can do about it.
1. It doesn’t match your expectation
‘I expected you to be taller.’
Opportunities abound but you have expectations of what they should look like and so ignore or miss what doesn’t match up to that expectation. I remember the days when I thought opportunity came as a shiny wrapped present. You know that great job offer with the company car, an expense account and travel thrown in.
Yes, it can look like that but more often it comes in the guise of unworked, aged backlogs, broken processes and demotivated, under-performing teams. It shows up as bad news, dreadful inconvenience and sometimes even a crisis. It can be that obstacle course between you and your desired goal. Opportunity can even be the germ of an idea just waiting for someone dedicated enough to flesh it out and get to work, because opportunity is rarely ever the finished article.
Expectations can blind you to opportunity and that holds true whether in business or in your personal life. If you have rigid expectations there is the potential to miss out on something worthwhile, even great, because you’re not even willing to look beneath the surface.
2. You’re waiting for it to come to you
‘I feel like I’m waiting for something that isn’t going to happen.’
You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘When opportunity comes knocking you have to be ready to answer’ and that’s true, but what if opportunity is walking by outside? You have to at least be looking out the window to see it. You have to be willing to go out there to meet it. I like to call this the Spoiled Princess mentality, the idea that you are entitled to something and so you’re waiting for it to be bestowed upon you. That mentality will keep you from seeing and capitalising on promising prospects. So every now and then look out the window, dare I say take a walk outside, you may be pleasantly surprised at what you find.
3. You don’t feel capable
‘Stupid me thinking I was good enough.’
Then there are those occasions where you spot a potential opportunity but you don’t take it on because you don’t feel capable of it. Someone else with the right skills is going to have to sort it out. It’s the classic ‘I’m not enough’ syndrome. Not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, connected enough, rich enough, the list goes on.
How you see yourself in any situation will directly influence whether you see possibilities or dead ends. If you see yourself as lacking and unable to measure up to what is required to take advantage, then you will never see any great opportunity as one you’re meant to have.
So how do you start to turn the tide?
You have to get better at recognising and attracting opportunity.
How to build your opportunity muscles
1. Change your perspective
‘Every problem is an opportunity in disguise.’
Whether an opportunity exists or not is really a matter of perception. What you know, what you’ve experienced and your beliefs will all influence how you perceive certain situations.
The key is to approach any circumstance from a standpoint of possibility and gratitude. Gratitude for the success you’ve had and also for the setbacks which are really opportunities to learn and grow. Yes, it may be a crisis situation but what are the possibilities that can flow from it? Which of those are opportunities worth exploring? Change your mindset to one that believes that for every problem there is a solution. Finding that solution is your chance to add value and grow from the experience. Be the person who is willing to put in the effort required to maximise the the situation that’s been presented to you.
2. Be open and creative
‘The mind that opens to a new idea never returns to its original size.’ Albert Einstein.
A key part of releasing expectation is being open-minded. Learn to listen, observe and experiment. Try new things, meet new people, just open yourself up to a variety of experiences and you’ll be amazed at the unexpected connections you create between apparently unrelated concepts. Imagine the possibilities, what could you make, what could you be, don’t limit yourself.
Bringing varied ideas and experiences together will enable you to identify promising opportunities.
3. Believe in yourself
‘Believing in yourself is the first key to success.’
Your self-image will make a huge difference to the type of opportunities you attract and the ones you see as possibilities for yourself. If you believe that you are less than and present yourself as such that is what others will see as well. Building a positive and powerful self-image is important to gaining confidence in your abilities. You may need to question and dismantle limiting beliefs that you’ve been carrying around probably most of your life. Beliefs that tell you you’re not smart enough or sound like: ‘this just isn’t me’. Question them. Test them. Are they really true?
It really comes down to what you are willing to do to eliminate those stories that hold you back. Are you willing to fail while you test yourself and go outside your comfort zone? Are you willing to look silly as you find your way? All of this will help you to see yourself as capable of more than you thought you were.
Yes, we all start from where we are but in order to push beyond that you have to challenge yourself and challenge those beliefs especially if they hold you back. By doing this you will start to see yourself as capable of taking on those opportunities that seemed an impossibility before.
4. Help others
‘Helping others is the way we help ourselves.’ Oprah Winfrey
Some of the greatest gifts will flow to you as you give and contribute to others. It’s something I’ve experienced in my life. Some of my most fruitful opportunities have come totally unexpectedly as a result of helping someone else. So be generous with your time and expertise, focus on creating and nurturing relationships with those around you, collaborate without expectation of a return. This is really important! If you are going to give, give without strings attached. Add value to others and watch as you become a magnet for opportunities. Remember what you put out in the world inevitably flows back to you.
You can be one of the ‘lucky’ ones starting right now
Remember the key is to approach any situation from a viewpoint of possibility and any problem as one that has a solution. Cultivate a mindset where you are the problem-solver looking to help others and add value. It can be the difference between accelerated progress versus stagnation, the thrill of tapping into endless potential versus the downward spiral of negativity. Missing out on opportunity can be a thing of the past so make these changes today and watch as a world of possibility unfolds.
Now over to you.
Do you find yourself missing out on opportunities?
What is one thing you can do to change that today?
Let me know in the comments.