What You Need to Know About Opportunity

I like to pick up pennies. Every time I happen upon a penny I get a little thrill. It doesn’t matter that it’s not worth much in the big scheme of things. I don’t care that it will take 100 of them to make a dollar, or that a dollar’s not much these days either. The thrill is still there.

I’ve noticed though, that not everyone picks up pennies. Some people pass on by…and I wonder about that.

Do they not see the penny lying there? Do they think the penny isn’t worth the time and effort to pick it up? Do they see the penny as not being valuable to them?

I don’t think like that. For me, pennies are like opportunities. It doesn’t matter how small in value each one may be, it’s still worth something.

You have to recognize an opportunity though, or you may just walk on by.

Be Open to the Possibility of an Opportunity

Do you have an opportunity mindset? After all, an opportunity is an opportunity. I don’t evaluate its worth based on how big it is or on its comparative value. I’ve learned over the years that small opportunities can lead to bigger ones.

Opportunities are everywhere. In any given day you are presented with multiple opportunities that can enhance your personal or professional life. Those opportunities can and will lead to growth and greater intention—unless you don’t see them.

Are you looking for opportunities? I go for a walk most mornings, even if it’s cold or slightly raining. It’s my time to talk with God and process my day with Him. It’s also a good time to spot pennies. Now, a disclaimer…I’m not trying to find pennies during my time with God. I don’t walk with my head down, scouring the ground. But I’m also not closed off to the possibility. I know pennies are out there. I know that other people have dropped them, or passed them by. I know that, given enough time, I will find one if I’m paying attention.

Sometimes, though, they can be hard to spot. What looks like a penny may just be a piece of discarded metal. That’s because not all pennies I find are shiny and new. Most aren’t. I don’t make judgments about them until I’ve taken a look.

Opportunities are the same way. They need to be evaluated for their viability, because you aren’t going to have the time, energy or resources to act on every opportunity that comes your way.

How can you recognize the value of an opportunity, even if it seems relatively small?

When Opportunity Meets Preparation

Opportunity favors the prepared. When you know that opportunities are out there, it creates curiosity within you. You begin to ask yourself questions like:

What kind of opportunities will present themselves to me today?

Sometimes we’re only focused on one aspect of our life, so we’re blind to the possibilities that present themselves elsewhere. Perhaps you’re looking for business opportunities, yet neglecting relationships that could be growing. Maybe you’re so focused on one relationship that you’re ignoring the potential in others. There could be a skill you have the potential to develop further that would create an opportunity not otherwise there.

How can I recognize a good opportunity when it shows up?

A good opportunity:

  • Looks attractive
  • Generates ideas, enthusiasm and energy
  • Has momentum (it leads to new opportunities)
  • Fits with your purpose and intentions
  • Is realistic and attainable
  • Withstands pressure and challenges

Sometimes we only focus on how good an opportunity looks and how excited we feel when it comes our way. We don’t do our due diligence to make sure it meets the other criteria. Lots of circumstances may appear like good opportunities, but instead lead to disappointment, heartbreak, or financial ruin.

Sometimes though, opportunities don’t present themselves; you have to create them. That means evaluating your situation for areas of your life that you can change. For example, perhaps you need to make more money, so you’re waiting for a better job to come along. In the meantime you can be improving your resume, evaluating your finances for areas to trim, paying down debt, or learning a new skill that will enhance your employability. Working on those changes encourages you to explore other possibilities and solutions, which keeps you productive and proactive.

When I came back from working in the Middle East a couple years ago, I needed a job to pay my bills while I was building my business again. I didn’t know what kind of counseling job I wanted or where to begin looking. It was a daunting process. In the meantime I began seeing a therapist to work through some of my own personal struggles at the time, and discovered that the Counseling Center I chose was hiring! Working on myself put me in the right place, at the right time.

Sometimes that’s how opportunity works. It’s also how finding pennies works. If I just keep walking the same path every day expecting to find something new, chances are it will take a while. When I change up my path and walk in a different direction or go somewhere new, I know my opportunities for finding pennies will improve.

The more potential pennies I pick up, the better I get at spotting them while they’re still on the ground. Sometimes it’s the shape that gives it away. Sometimes there’s a glimpse of the imprint stamped on it, and sometimes there’s a hint of that copper shine. I’ll see what looks like a penny from a distance, but perhaps as I walk closer I can tell that I was wrong. Other times I have to actually pick it up to know for certain. The more I do, the better my discernment gets at spotting them.

Your discernment will improve as well, as you evaluate each opportunity for its own merit. Does it just look good, or does it really lead you where you want to go?

How can I be ready to take advantage of that opportunity?

You have to know where you want to go! Your purpose and goals are your blueprint for life. Opportunities are the vehicles you get into that move you in that direction. Some opportunities will lead to dead ends, some will take you on detours, and some will speed your journey up considerably.

Knowing what you intend to do with opportunities when they come, and where you want them to take you, is essential. That doesn’t mean you do nothing in the meantime. There’s plenty you can do to move yourself forward, until the right opportunity comes by.

Have you educated yourself in ways that will allow you to take advantage of the opportunity? Have you saved enough money? Are you in a healthy mindset? Have you obtained the right skill set? Do you have the confidence or courage needed?

When I go on my morning walks and I see a penny, I’m not surprised. I know it’s just a matter of time. Days might go by before I find another, but I always make sure I have a pocket to put one in, just in case. That’s all the readiness I need. But if I am to take advantage of bigger opportunities, I need to plan and prepare for them.

That’s why I pick up pennies. They remind me that each small opportunity has growth potential, and helps me to gain confidence that I can take on bigger ones when they come.

No Risk, No Reward

Picking up a penny is easy. It asks nothing of me except a small stretch.

Small opportunities also have low risk. I can say yes to coffee with an acquaintance without committing to a deeper relationship. I can say yes to a networking event that gives me exposure without overwhelming me. I can invest small amounts of money in conservative ways as I learn to be more financially savvy.

Each time I make a small stretch away from my safe, familiar path I increase my risk tolerance.  I build trust in myself and others. I get better at assessing situations. I improve my decision-making skills. I ready myself for greater opportunities…which means more risk.

You need a willingness to venture into the unknown to take advantage of big opportunities, and that can be scary. You might get hurt. You might lose money. You might make a mistake or completely fail at what you set out to do. But fail or succeed, you will learn—and knowledge is priceless.

You will learn about yourself. What are you really capable of when things get tough? How do you handle pressure and change? How do you handle the unknown? How do you handle uncertainty?

You will learn about others. How comfortable are your loved ones with stepping away from the safe and familiar? Do they see value in taking risks, even though those risks may lead to challenges or setbacks? Every time you step away from the familiar and take a risk, you grow. With growth comes a greater ability to take on the next opportunity when it presents itself.

When You Identify an Opportunity, Seize It

All the planning in the world won’t help you if you don’t take action. When you recognize an opportunity for what it is, you must do something. You know the saying…”Strike while the iron is hot!”

Don’t sit there, analyzing the opportunity for its pros and cons, wondering “Should I or should I not?” The time for that has passed. It’s time to step out, in faith, and make a move.

I like to find pennies. I love finding a nickel, dime or quarter even more. That doesn’t happen as often of course. People are more likely to grab those. I guess that’s because they see the value of them more clearly.

That’s fine. I’ll keep picking up my pennies, biding my time. And when the bigger opportunity comes, I’ll be ready.

How about you?

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