We’re all faced with opportunities every day. How do we decide which to take, and which to pass up? 

This is a question I never really asked myself until recently.

Hello, my name is Arielle Zieja, and I am an opportunity addict.

I get a thrill from showing you what I can do. From letting you see my talents shine. From hearing you praise my skills.

Sometimes I can’t get to sleep at night. I lie awake, fearing that I’m living a mediocre life. And when something comes along that might make it better …

I drop everything and run toward it.

OK, so maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s not too far from the truth. I’ve had no less than 12 jobs, I’ve traveled to over 25 countries, I’ve learned the basics of multiple languages, I’ve become proficient in countless artistic endeavors, and I have more certifications that I can count on both hands.

To say I take opportunities when they arise is an understatement. But recently I’ve learned that this way of living isn’t serving me.

There is something about opportunities. It’s a bit like what happens when you lock two opposite-sex rabbits into a closet for a few hours.

“Opportunities multiply as they are seized.” -Sun Tzu

Thanks for the wisdon, Sun Tzu. They sure do. Say yes to one opportunity, and you’ll suddenly have 3 more come your way.

Is this a bad thing? No. It can be a great thing. If you’re sitting at home watching episodes of Game of Thrones all day in your underwear, then maybe you should consider saying yes to a few more opportunities in your life. But if you’re a serial opportunity taker like me, maybe it’s time to learn how to save your best yes.

Learning how to master your opportunity-taking skills can mean the difference between choosing opportunities that will serve you, and those that will bring you down. It’s the difference between life-long success and a burst of great success followed by burnout.

Get to Your Core

Do you want to take this opportunity because it’s in line with your goals and values? Or are you considering it because it will bring you “social value”? Figuring this out is key in making successful opportunity decisions.

 

To avoid choosing opportunities that won’t serve you, consider asking yourself the following questions as opportunities arise.

  1. If I take this opportunity, will I be able to stay true to myself in the process?
  2. If I take this opportunity, how might I be affected (negatively and positively)?
  3. If I take this opportunity, how will my loved ones be affected? How will their reactions affect my life and inner peace?
  4. Does this opportunity align with my life goals or life mission?
  5. Am I wanting to pursue this opportunity out of a selfish desire, or out of a desire to do good in the world?
  6. If I pass up on this opportunity, how will I be affected (negatively and positively)?
  7. If I say YES to this opportunity, what will I have to say NO to in order to make room for it to happen? Is this opportunity my best YES, or might there be another one that’s more worth my time? 

Take a few days to think about these questions before taking the opportunity before you. It might be a good time to journal and reflect.

If you don’t know what your life goals are, or you feel disconnected from your true self, maybe it’s time to put off taking on opportunities, and instead, just spend some time contemplating those issues. When you feel you have some idea of the answers, review your opportunities again.

If Needed, Let the Opportunities Go

It’s simple. Just say, “No thank you”. There will be plenty of opportunities that will come up later.

This happened to me recently. A few clients asked me for help with meals: they wanted ready-made, healthy meals that fit within the dietary guidelines I was giving them. I saw that I could produce those meals for a cheaper price than other companies. I saw the potential for a lucrative business venture.

I spent one day cooking their meals, and oh goodness! I will never do that again! It was horrible. I disliked it so much, that I embarrassingly had to send apology letters to those I had made meals for. I told them I was ceasing operations right away, and that they would never get meals from me again.

It was a great opportunity, but it wasn’t an opportunity that worked for me.

There was a time in my life when I would have looked back at what I had done – the time spent, the money invested, the work – and I would have moped for a week. I had put so much of myself into this opportunity and ACK! It was all for nothing! I would push myself to continue doing things out of fear of failure.

But it wasn’t a failure.

It was a growth experience. I can say now that I am more focused on my business. I know more of what I love to do, and more of what I don’t. It wasn’t time wasted. It was refinement.

Alexander Graham Bell once said, “When one door closes, another opens; But we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” 

You see, that’s the magic of choosing your opportunities wisely. It’s not about saying no to all opportunities. It’s about taking risks that are WORTH taking, and when you fail, seeing it as another opportunity to continue moving in the right direction.

I wish you luck on finding your great opportunities, and trying enough bad opportunities that they become fewer and fewer as time goes on!

Have you ever taken a risky opportunity and had it lead to great success? What was your formula for success? Do you feel like you’ve tried many opportunities but always fail? Share your story in the comments below!

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