“Never turn your back on an opportunity” is a phrase most of us are accustomed to hearing. We are encouraged to “grab life with both hands” and go “outside your comfort zone” to constantly expand our skills and experience. All of this is true, as long as the so-called opportunity is a genuine one.
Opportunities arrive in many different forms such as a job promotion, a speaking engagement or a chance to take on a new project. It is flattering to be offered a chance to demonstrate our expertise and passion, especially when we are promised potentially wonderful outcomes.
The opposite of an opportunity is an opportunity cost, which is what you miss out on when you take up the opportunity. For example, the opportunity cost of accepting a promotion that requires frequent travel or an international posting is that you will not be able to spend as much time with your family and may miss certain key events in your children’s life.
Not all opportunity costs are negative, however. Perhaps the opportunity cost of a new job is a longer commute but one during which you could spend catching up on reading. Or the opportunity cost of working part time means a lower paycheck but more free hours to work on your passion project.
Knowing this, why is it that many of us feel an almost obligation to grab what is on offer, and then struggle to justify or accommodate an unpleasant opportunity cost? One reason is because we believe we need what is offered simply because it has come our way.
Another reason is because many of us are programmed to believe that any lost opportunity will never come by us again. We also have a fear of missing out especially if people around us have already snapped up the opportunity or urge us to take it before it is “too late”.
Every opportunity comes with its own set of pros and cons, and sometimes a simple ‘For and Against’ list does not suffice. These four questions will help you find the clarity to guide your decision:
#1: Does it lead to where I want to go? In other words, it gets you closer to your own goals rather than those of another party, unless both your goals are aligned.
#2: Does it align with my values and life purpose? For example, if you are in the business of empowering women and you are offered an opportunity to promote a motivational book to your client base, you need to decide whether the book’s contents are aligned with your passion, beliefs and core values.
#3: Do I feel genuinely excited? Real opportunities stretch us so it is perfectly natural to feel a little nervous about heading into the unknown. But the fear should never supersede the excitement. There is a big difference between having butterflies in your tummy and a sinking heart.
#4: Does it adversely affect other areas of my life. If you have to sacrifice something you deeply value or enjoy for the sake of this new opportunity, then it is unlikely that you will be happy in the long run.
The next time an opportunity comes your way, first identify the opportunity cost. Then ask yourself these four questions to determine if the opportunity cost is worth you taking the opportunity. If you follow this process each time an opportunity comes your way, you will be better equipped to determine if what is being offered is right for you, your family and your business.