The connection between opportunities and plants
This phrase is not a mistake. Just as we prepare the soil, plant our seeds or seedlings, and nurture them so they will strive, we should create and cultivate opportunities.
How are opportunities created? How do we make the decision whether to grab them or say no thanks? And what we should do when we find out that the glamorous opportunity isn’t what we were thinking?
Let’s take a look at the process of growing opportunities.
How are opportunities created?
With the assumption that an opportunity is the direct result of activities, one very good reason why we should be active. That’s why our activities should be fertile soil to grow the opportunities we wish to recieve.
Just as a job project has a work plan with measurable goals, we should set ourselves a work plan for our personal goals with defined metrics. If that holds, then these are the questions we should ask ourselves:
What are the opportunities that we want to create for ourselves? Where would we like to meet them? Do we share this process with our close circle or a wider one? What will help to grow the opportunities? Are there relevant events or places that we can get exposed to opportunities? Do we do something that prevents us from receiving the opportunities? How can we recognize opportunities in our daily life, even when we didn’t receive any offer?
We all know the annoying phrase “money doesn’t grow on trees”. In spite of money, opportunities indeed can grow from nothing, but we must help and nurture them.
If we don’t tell people that we’re looking for X or need Y, they won’t be able to help us. And the good news is that most people are willing to help. Moreover, if we don’t come out of our comfort zone and move one step forward, the opportunities will materialize slower in the best-case scenario, or not at all. Coming out of our comfort zone is not easy at all, but usually it pays off. Speaking with people that are not necessarily close to us or know us well, sharing with them our dreams and goals — all of these may lead to amazing experiences. In sociology that’s called the strength of weak ties.
Say yes or no?
Sometimes the opportunities that come across our way are just what we wanted, some are less so, and most of the time we need to think twice about whether to utilize them. It often happens in what I call “a surprise opportunity” — an opportunity that we didn’t forecast and that can distract us from the goals we set for ourselves.
That’s why we should make sure to share expectations with ourselves and with the people who are related to the opportunity:
Does the opportunity lead us to the goal we would like to achieve? Which resources does it require, and do we have them? How do we relate to the opportunity? Is it going to “steal” resources from us or do we invest in it? Have we checked who are the people behind it, who else is involved in it, and what are the interests and expectations of all the parties involved? Who are the people that can help us to make the decision?
If we referred to the opportunity in a negative way, it’s probably an opportunity that isn’t interesting to us and consumed resources that we could have better invested in other opportunities. Opportunities are a bit like plants: some plants thrive with minimum care and surprise us with unexpected flowers, while others need particular care: special soil, food, access to the right light, and regular maintenance.
Sometimes we’ll need external help to foster our plants. Most of the time, when I make decisions, I consult with people who know me and are familiar with the processes I go through. I call these people my personal “advisory committee.” They are the people that objectively judge and consult. However, we are the ones who make the final decision, often heavily relying on a gut feeling. It’s important to listen to ourselves. If there’s something that is stopping us, we need to respect that feeling and try to understand why. Not everything is meant to be.
Speaking about listening, this is the most critical point in the process. Sometimes we just have to be open minded and listen — to ourselves, to others, to ideas that seem to make no sense, or to ideas that we hadn’t thought of at all.
I found out that it’s not what I was thinking…
Finding out that we invested time and energy in opportunities that don’t lead us to an undesired consequence can be really frustrating. That’s why, to make sure the opportunity won’t be a complete waste of time, I firmly believe that we can at least learn from it. Everything can be a learning opportunity if you let it.
Therefore, the questions in this phase will be:
What have we learned from the process? What could we do differently? What will we take with us further on? Has the process made our goals more focused, changed them, or affected our personal work plan? What are the steps that we should do to make sure this process will end for the best?
Perhaps we didn’t ask enough questions when we began the process. Maybe there were some components in the process that we couldn’t control, therefore there’s no point being too critical with ourselves.
In any case, one of the most important activities in the process is to update the people that thanks to them the opportunity was initially created; they contributed to the process and were an integral part of it. First of all, it’s a good practice to let those who helped know you appreciate their time and input. Secondly, if these people made efforts, it shows they care. The big take-away is that perhaps this time the opportunity or plan didn’t succeed, but who knows? Together, we might grow a new opportunity?
Do you know to identify opportunities? Share in the comments your growing opportunities process.