By: Marilyn L. Davis
Opportunity or Dead-end?
“Allowing yourself to be a conduit for opportunity requires a brand new outlook on life. Lady fortune cannot enter a locked door, you know. And contrarily to that well-known saying, she has rarely been known to knock” ― Chris Murray
An opportunity is a constructive activity, time, or occasion; it is a situation favorable for accomplishing a goal, getting a better education, job advancement, or moving us closer to success.
Sometimes, an opportunity is only a matter of perspective. Whether this story is true or not, it illustrates my point perfectly. “There is a funny story I always tell my students…when I came for the first time to the US. I didn’t speak English (Only Spanish) & I saw on every door, the word “exit” which in Spanish means Success = Exito. And then I said:” No wonder Americans are winners, every door, they take leads to success” ~smile:)” ― Pablo
Missed Opportunities in our Use and our Recovery
So, if there are all these doors to success, why do we miss so many opportunities? Missed Opportunities are the times we fail to capitalize on the activity, occasion, situation, or circumstances that would better our lives or ourselves. Each of us has missed opportunities or not taken advantage of an opportunity often due to self-defeating behaviors, including our fears.
When you have a choice between two alternative options, there is conflict because you can’t take advantage of both. However, the disappointment is short-lived if you can simply postpone the other opportunity because you still have that choice.
What Are my Opportunity Choices?
Often we miss an opportunity due to our inability to experience even the isolated, singular opportunity. If you find that opportunities come your way, yet you do not seem to be able to take advantage of them, look for your patterns of:
- Types of Opportunities
- Self-defeating behaviors preventing you from taking advantage of the opportunities
- Cost: What have these Missed Opportunities cost you? (And it’s not always financial)
- Short and Long-term consequences for your Missed Opportunities
What are some types of opportunities that people miss? The opportunity categories are different for each person, though the reasons for missing an opportunity are often similar.
- Volunteer or Service Work
If you really want to understand your Missed Opportunities, then you will have to test the self-defeating behaviors, what they have cost, as well as the short-term and long-term consequences of missing opportunities.
When you can find your patterns, then you have a different kind of opportunity – breaking the cycle of self-defeating behaviors.
Behaviors that Cost Us an Opportunity
It is sometimes a painful process to look at specific actions, attitudes, and behaviors that have cost us opportunities, but we won’t change them without first identifying them.
Some of the self-defeating and counterproductive behaviors and attitudes are:
- Inability to ask for help
- Overly confident
In general, a counterproductive behavior is any thought, action, or behavior that prevents you from reaching your goals or taking advantage of the opportunity.
Old Behaviors – Same Outcomes
For most people, the real problem is that many of their familiar and comfortable actions, attitudes, and responses to what life offers, are self-defeating. These do not get positive outcomes. Instead of a positive result, we experience various negative costs like money, relationships, position at work, or status.
We tend to get the same negative results time after time when we don’t take advantage of the opportunities.
Typically, there are several self-defeating behaviors in any missed opportunity. For example, say you had a chance to be a cheerleader or play sports in high school. These activities would have given you exercise, a social network, and perhaps even some prestige at school. Yet, both of these would have required that you:
- Show up on time
- Give up sitting with your friends
Instead of doing the work necessary, you:
- Showed up late for practice
- Assumed you were good enough to get away with these behaviors
These actions and attitudes were not okay, and you faced suspension – either show improvement or be dropped. You followed the notice to improve and were doing better until you got jealous of seeing your friends in the stadium and so you quit. As you can see in the example, there are several attitudes, actions, and feelings going on that created the problem.
Repeated Behaviors: Patterns in Lost Opportunities
Once you start to isolate your own personal Self-Defeating Behaviors, you will notice a pattern. Let us assume that you are arrogant and think that your way is always right, or you do not like people telling you what to do. How might these patterns from young adulthood play out today? Arrogance has probably cost you jobs, which may or may not cost you loss of income; or because you lost your job, your family is now homeless. This, in turn, may have cost you a relationship with your spouse who packed up the children and moved out.
For some people, determining just how long they’ve operated from a particular pattern is equally eye-opening and can give them the incentive to finally change. Realizing what your habitual behaviors have cost, you can motivate you to change, or you may still be willing to pay the costs and receive the consequences of your actions, thoughts, and behaviors. If that is your choice, then there is very little likelihood that you will adopt new and better behaviors and attitudes.
To change your self-defeating behaviors, you first have to name them and then decide whether to continue operating from them. This is a critical choice.
What Do These Self-defeating Behaviors Cost?
People often think in terms of monetary costs; however, a cost is a sacrifice, price, extra labor, effort, or expense. It is not just about money, but something we value that we are sacrificing, like:
- Career Advancement
- Financial Security
- Positive Self-esteem
Short and Long-term Consequences
The consequences, both positive and negative, are the result of an action, the outcome of a situation, or the effect of an action.
Short and Long-term consequences are the outcomes of your missed opportunities. These are what you got instead of the opportunity.
Unfortunately, if you are still willing to pay the price, or the consequences of missing an opportunity do not significantly affect you adversely, it is unlikely that you will change the self-defeating behaviors.
However, just reviewing some predictable short and long-term consequences might just get your attention and let you think about changing the self-defeating behaviors that get you less than favorable results.
Breaking the Patterns of Habitual Behaviors
Rather than finding that this quote from Harriet Beecher Stowe aptly describes your life, then put effort into improving. “The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.”
It is the process of first identifying your Missed Opportunities and self-defeating behaviors that allow you to change. It takes time to break a habit of behavior, thoughts, or actions. The habituated or mechanical way of doing things might be something to look at today to have more likelihood of taking advantage of that next opportunity that comes your way.
After all, it might even be today, and you would be better ready to capitalize on it and not adding yet another missed opportunity to your life.
Challenge for a Week
Rather than just preaching about chances and change, I took my advice and used the concepts yesterday. I ended up with the following opportunities, just running errands.
- Asked the dry cleaner if they ever ran specials on rug cleaning and would an antique tapestry count for that discount. She reached under the counter and gave me a 15% discount card to use anytime.
- Asked the librarian if they had any books like ones by authors that I liked. She looked at my list and added several that I’m now reading.
- Engaged in a conversation about a new restaurant with the clerk, when he told me about his family opening one. He then told me to use his name to receive a discount.
- A clerk told me about a new tea. The new brand had a coupon on my phone, so saved and got a unique treat.
- Returned a shopping cart for an elderly woman. I could add 56 steps to my daily goals for walking.
At the end of the day, I remembered this quote from Winston Churchill when he described many of us: “During their lifetimes, every man and woman will stumble across a great opportunity. Sadly, most of them will simply pick themselves up, dust themselves down and carry on as if nothing ever happened.”
Take one day this week and see what opportunities you have. More importantly, see how many opportunities you can create.
Writing, and recovery heals the heart.