Your big opportunity may be right where you are now.
Not knowing when the dawn will come, I open every door.”
How do you find the path that will make a real difference—in your life or the lives of others?
When in your life do you find the time to do the important things?
We all have things we must do—the practical and the necessary—making a living, taking care of our stuff; but a lot of what drives us is more fundamental.
When we move through our day, some of the things that motivate us might include:
- Making the world a better place
- Making people happy
- Learning something new
- Having fun or finding excitement
It can be an interesting mental exercise to identify these motivations. They will differ from person to person and it can be enlightening to track these feelings.
Once we have them in our heads, we will be much more likely to find opportunities related to our motivations.
It can be too easy to go on autopilot as our day-to-day routines and the white noise of busy lives overwhelm our senses and our attention. This can make us miss the numerous opportunities to do something important that will inevitably cross our paths.
The opportunities are there—we just have to adjust our senses so that we notice them, and make sure we have the flexibility and initiative to act on them.
They don’t have to be big things, like curing cancer or saving someone from a burning building. Sometimes the most meaningful opportunities in our lives are not obvious. We have to be on the lookout for them.
One of the most effective mental filters we can use is need.
One of my jobs growing up was working as a mate on a charter fishing boat. On any working boat, there are always a thousand little things that need to be done at any given moment. The captain I worked for would drill into my head that if I saw something that needed to be done, I should just do it.
That attitude can carry over into many aspects of our lives. If we combine our mental images of our motivations with a mental filter of identifying needs, we will be much more likely to see opportunities for meaningful actions.
An example of this might be the motivation to be a positive influence on the world. If that is one of the things that motivates you and you keep it in the back of your mind, you might be more likely to notice, for example, someone who looks down or upset (someone in need). You might strike up a conversation with that person and provide some moral support. You might just say hello and smile.
We should never underestimate the power of positive energy. It can pay forward in ways we could never anticipate. We might not think we accomplished anything in our day, but if we raised a few peoples’ spirits—even a little—we’ve had a good day.
If we are on the lookout for opportunities, we will eventually find the big ones too; the opportunities that will define our lives and lead to significant contributions to the world.
It is important to be on the lookout for opportunities that are both inward and outward in nature. Some opportunities will lead to personal growth (which to me, includes those that contribute to learning, happiness, fun, and excitement), and some will result in our positive influence on the world. It will be easier to achieve the latter, if we have plenty of the former.
Our life-changing opportunities are not necessarily going to jump up and grab us. They might be that penny on the ground that we see out of the corner of our eyes. They might be a tiny snippet of conversation that we latch onto and run with. They might be in that bulk e-mail we were about to delete.
The trick is to stay away from autopilot and treat all of our moments as special ones, no matter how normal they may seem.
You never know when the next opportunity will arise. It may be related to the person who sold you a cup of coffee, or it may come up in an important meeting—or anywhere in between.
Life will constantly throw the extraordinary at us; the ordinary will only happen if we let it.