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Obstacle or Opportunity?

Many leadership Capital L leaders believe perhaps the thing that defines true leaders from the followers is their ability to seize an opportunity. Those people, who can recognize an opportunity when they see one, and take advantage of it at the right moment, are the ones who are using their leadership power.A thriving business, company, or church is all about seizing opportunities. However, some people in positions of leadership do not find it easy to seize opportunities, much less see them and know which ones the true ones are. Unfortunately, most of us people let opportunity slip-by every day because we are untrained or unaware of the signals that life throws our way. Other times we see opportunities, but we do not take advantage of them simply because we feel they are nothing more than problems. Sometimes we don’t take advantage of them because doing life as we currently are doing is acceptable.Let’s think about first what actually defines an opportunity. An opportunity is anything that provides you with a chance to change your circumstances for the better. The work of Adam Sicinski, leadership guru, is very helpful. He says that “many of the opportunities we come across are actually disguised as problems or hard work. However, to the untrained eye — unable to see past the present moment — all opportunities are actually insurmountable problems that make life difficult, stressful and hard.”This is where many of us make the fatal mistake: seeing issues as “problems” rather than challenges that test and strengthen your determination. Again, Sicinski says, “The moment you shift your perspective and begin seeing your problems as challenges, is the moment you begin training your brain to spot opportunities. Problems may very well be insurmountable. However, a challenge is something you can work with to better your current circumstances.”What keeps us from getting to the opportunities? Probably the best thing we can do is do a self-check. These are the self-destructive choices that will primarily keep us from successfully making the choices to move forward:

  • following the crowd

  • seeking security and comfort

  • waiting for opportunities to arrive

  • giving in to uncertainty, to fear of rejection or fear of making mistakes

  • pessimism and skepticism

We paralyze ourselves with what-if questions. What if this does not work, I fail, or I lose all the money? Or get criticized? While there is nothing wrong with wondering about the unknown, the moment you are unable to pull the trigger you have missed an opportunity to move forward.Failure is painful. It can produce scars that can last a lifetime. However, if you can get past the sting, you should be able to gather information that will be helpful in your next venture.Lack of confidence will always keep you in the “would have, should have, could have” mode. Confidence comes by trusting your knowledge and be willing to make a leap of faith. We too often close our minds. The moment you shut down and are unwilling to look at things from a different perspective or viewpoint, you abort the opportunity of moving forward.As you can see, in every situation, it is all about your attitude whether there are opportunities for you or not.Sicinski identifies certain indispensable qualities that separate a successful person from others who ignore or struggle to take advantage of the opportunities that life throws their way. You need to foster and cultivate these qualities every single day.Curiosity: Opportunity desires a curious mind that is always asking deeper and more insightful questions.Generosity: Opportunity desires a generous heart that is willing to give opportunities to others.Perseverance: Opportunity desires someone who has determination, who will keep persisting and persevering despite the seemingly insurmountable obstacles that stand in their way.Confidence: Opportunity desires a confident demeanor — someone who never doubts their skills, strength, resources and abilities.Optimism: Opportunity desires an optimistic attitude that does not end if things do not go as expected.Playfulness: Opportunity desires a light-hearted approach that is willing to be a little creative, willing to think outside the box, and willing to break conventional rules.Responsibility: Opportunity desires someone who is fully committed and responsible for their decisions, behavior and actions, someone who does not make excuses or blames others.Hindsight: Opportunity desires someone with hindsight who can see beyond this fleeting moment into the future. This person understands that what might look like a problem now might actually be a once in a lifetime opportunity.Gratitude: Opportunity desires a grateful spirit that is thankful for anything that life throws its way, no matter how dark or grim it might seem on the surface.Our opportunities and outcomes are just as dependent on our views and attitude about the world as it is on our external circumstances. We can actively change our thinking and perception to actually invite and take advantage of more opportunities in our daily lives.I absolutely believe in free will and choice. I do not believe in set destiny and karma. Those who do not believe they have any will-power or control over their life automatically inhibit themselves from taking advantage of the opportunities that pass us by on a daily basis. When we have openness to the future, and open ourselves to new options, even those which at first seem impossible become manageable.Those who lead well stay open, focused, and able to discern for quick action. They don’t spend too much time waiting, hoping, or praying for some ideal situation. The quest for spend too much time waiting, hoping, or praying for some ideal situation. The quest for perfection often leads to procrastination. They stay vigilant and discerning for the small and imperfect opportunities and they take advantage of these opportunities soon after they present themselves. Our ability to discover new opportunities is intrinsically dependent on our awareness of our environment and our surroundings. That’s why your intentional engagement is SO vital.Leaders who lead like this choose optimism, a positive perspective we hold about life, believing that good things will happen, that you can overcome obstacles and that you are capable of achieving your goals. Optimism is not something we are born with, but something we can learn and cultivate on our own.So, how do we go about identifying opportunities? Sicinski urges you to:

  • Identify first what it is you want: “How in the world are you supposed to identify any opportunities that come your way if you are not clear about what it is you want in the first place? Unless you know exactly what it is you are looking for, then how exactly are you supposed to find it?”Then, you need to identify several things that may hold you back from taking advantage of the opportunities.

  • Look at your beliefs and identify if there are any unhelpful beliefs that could potentially prevent you from taking advantage of opportunities.

  • Look at your strengths and weaknesses and evaluate how they can help or hinder you throughout this process.

  • Identify your risk tolerance. This is important because the more risk you are willing and able to take, the more chances/opportunities you will be able to take.

Next, you need to know how to spot opportunities: Sicinski suggests there are three things you need to do to spot opportunities:Be in a state of readiness. You have no idea what opportunities are right in front of you that you are simply not ready to see. The single most important thing to consider when looking for opportunities is to be in a state-of-readiness for any opportunities that may come your way. You have to divest yourself of the prejudices against the people or situations from which the opportunities may come. You have to divest yourself of the idea that if there is a great idea, it will come from you or you have already thought of that. That will cause you to check out early.You must be constantly on the lookout for anything that could possibly help you achieve your goals and objectives far more quickly, effectively or cheaply. It also means that you must be open to new perspectives and ideas. The key to this awareness lies within your willingness and ability to ask the right kinds of questions. The more you ask questions, the more curious you will become. As a result, you focus your mind on the right events, people, things or circumstances that can help you move forward in the best possible way.Search for clues When you get in the habit of asking questions that help spark your curiosity, you will get many clues that can lead you to great opportunities. They come in many forms, like trends, problems that people face or things that they complain about, gaps in the market, and unusual patterns, events or circumstances. All of these clues can provide you with an opportunity to do something different, new or unusual. It helps to keep a notebook of your random thoughts and observations as you go about your day, and it will enable you to filter them.Expand your reach it is absolutely critical that you expand your reach by learning new skills, by regularly networking with people who may be able to support you in your endeavors, and by acquiring new resources that will help expand your life resources list. In addition, you will naturally expose yourself to more opportunities by attempting new things. Look for gaps in coverage. Look for more responsibility. Look for bigger problems. Look for opportunities to listen.Once you have actually identified what you consider an opportunity and you see one presenting itself, how do you go about seizing it? Well, not all opportunities are worth pursuing, and you don’t have time for all of them, either, so you need to focus on the key ones. To do this well, you have to step outside your comfort zone. Many of the best opportunities will stretch and challenge you in a variety of ways. You will feel inadequate. You may need to step into a world of uncertainty and take a few risks that you were not expecting. Every risk will have its own consequences. You have to weigh them against the benefits and decide whether it is a risk worth pursuing.Don’t take or reject an opportunity because of the size. What you do with that opportunity is what makes all the difference in the end. Therefore, you should never underestimate or discount what an opportunity can do for you. Who knows, a small opportunity here could very well lead to bigger opportunities in the future. You just have to be willing and ready to take advantage when the moment arrives. Focus on networking with the people who stretch you, who have the resources, contacts, experience and skills to help you achieve your goals and objectives. Connect with people who think outside the box — who constantly challenge you to think differently about your life, goals, problems and circumstances. Don’t just adopt but adapt.This may seem overwhelming to you, like it requires a complete personality overhaul. Actually, the evidence shows there is usually only a small degree of difference between a positive, optimistic perception and a negative, pessimistic one. Even though these two attitudes are polar opposites, they both often start with the same challenges. If our first response to any given situation is negative, it makes a positive outcome much more difficult to achieve. Training ourselves to respond positively or at least neutrally will have the opposite effect. An optimistic response to new challenges will trigger a completely different set of response patterns.Every one of us can find opportunities in every obstacle.The first step is to recognize that we are in control and take responsibility. We need to accept responsibility for our responses and recognize that they assert a powerful influence on our life. Until we accept responsibility, we will not have any reason to change. Accepting responsibility is a wonderfully liberating experience. It means that you are in control, not the circumstances.Leverage what we have. Leverage means that you exert the greatest amount of control with the least amount of effort. The time to do this is during the first few moments whenever you are faced with new challenges. Once you start down a negative road, it is much more difficult to reverse your course. If you control your first step, you start out in the right direction, and it is much easier to maintain that direction. So, find something you CAN do as quickly as possible.Refuse to be deadly serious. If we do, we overreact to situations. If you tend to react negatively to challenges, try imitating somebody who almost always reacts positively.What Does Opportunity Look Like? It’s different for everyone and in every season. What is an opportunity for one person could be a distraction for you. You must define what opportunity looks like to you. You won’t find it if you’re not looking for it. It’s up to YOU to be prepared and pursue it. Most people wait for opportunity to show up and then get upset when it does because they aren’t ready. You are in charge of creating your own chances. Put yourself in a position to say yes. “YOUR CHIEF VALUE IN YOUR POSITION IS SEEING THE RIGHT OPPORTUNITIES AND TAKING THEM APPROPRIATELY.” This requires emotional intelligence. Work on THAT.Opportunities are present throughout the day, every day. You have the chance and choice every day to not think negative thoughts, rise above gossip, to help and be kind to others. If you’re not ready, you’ll screw it up. Your greatest chance of success is today and how you spend it. Crisis does not destroy opportunity. In every financial crisis like the Great Depression, many millionaires and billionaires were created.The people who get where they need to go are not “lucky.” Run from that idea. You may very well be blocking opportunities by thinking that you will never get the big break. Ask yourself why you are saying no. Is there a valid reason you’re rejecting an opportunity or is it because you are afraid? Some people say no to great chances in life and business because deep down they don’t believe they deserve it. Sometimes because they don’t want the work. Sometimes because they actually don’t want the outcome.It’s absolutely okay to say no to an opportunity. Just make sure you’re saying no for the right reasons. And watch for the distraction element. You can’t let what you believe is a great opportunity take your time and attention away from other areas of responsibility or ignore other people.So, that thing that is stopping you may not be an obstacle. It may be an opportunity. Think on these thoughts, and then get started.“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Albert Einstein“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” Warren Bennis“One of the biggest jobs for any leader is using our imaginations to imagine a future that’s different than the one we have today.” Scott Case“Effective leadership is mainly a combination of imagination and courage.”

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