Can’t decide whether an opportunity is right for you? Ask yourself this one question.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the importance of being able to recognise opportunity. Often opportunity abounds but we don’t see it because we don’t know what we’re looking for. By changing our perspective we can create and attract new possibilities.

Funnily enough though, talking to a friend a little while ago her challenge was the exact opposite. She had decided to move on from her current position working for a government agency and was trying to decide what to do next. One problem stood in the way or should I say three problems because that was the number of opportunities laid out before her. To make a tough decision even tougher they were all great ones.

Choosing between one great and one not so great opportunity is probably pretty straightforward but what do you do when they all have lots of potential, when they all seem great?

One thing I remember is that just because something looks good doesn’t mean I have to jump at it. Think about that dress hanging on the rack in the store. It looks great on the hanger but when you try it on sometimes it just doesn’t fit right. Opportunities can be like that, it may be a great opportunity but just not the right opportunity for you.

So that is what we talked about that evening and a few weeks later she made a decision. In the end she chose the option with the long game plan, very challenging but ultimately one that she was happy and excited about; but the question still remained. If your opportunity basket is overflowing how do you decide?

Well the answer to this one question can provide all the clarity you need.

Does this opportunity align with my core values?

Your values are the things that you believe are important in the way you live, behave and interact with others. They include things like honesty, family, faith, loyalty, the list goes on, and they pervade all areas of our lives. We may value many things but usually there is a list of non-negotiable ones and these constitute our core values. They are the values we will not compromise on and they differ from person to person.

If you are actually living by your values they will determine what you prioritise and are a barometer for the quality of life you experience. When your actions and behaviours match your values your life is in balance, when they’re not you have conflict, discontent and unhappiness.

Over the years this has become, for me, the most important question to ask. Why is that?

Because I’ve been in jobs with great pay but felt totally unfulfilled. Where what I valued wasn’t valued by my employers. The result? A feeling of listlessness and discontent, working to get paid but little else.

I’ve been in relationships where what was important to me wasn’t that important to the other person and I’ve minimised it’s importance. In effect trying to be who they want not who I really am.

I’ve had friendships die because once the party was over, we really had nothing in common. What mattered to me didn’t matter to them.

Experience has taught me that the key to long term success in relationships whether in business or in my personal life is to focus on values and seek alignment there.

So I encourage you to ask the question: ‘Does this opportunity align with my core values?’ In other words, does the opportunity line up with those things I believe are most important to me? The answer will give a good indication of what quality of life you should expect were you to take the opportunity on. If it aligns with your values great. If it doesn’t you may be storing up long term pain.

Know your values and live by them.

Identifying our values allows us to make better decisions, decisions that move us towards our vision for our lives. They also allow us to see distractions masquerading as opportunities as what they really are.

When you know who you are you will find it easier to recognise those things that aren’t. When your actions and interactions align with what you value your life is in balance and you are content. If you’re not sure what your values are there are some great tools that can help, like this one.

Knowing what you value is one thing but often we don’t live by them. I’ve been guilty of that and often we will compromise on certain things while we suffer in silence. Being brave in expressing who we are and what we really need is the first step to connecting honestly with others. We understand whether our values are shared or not.

Your values really say who you are and what you stand for so take that journey of self-discovery.

Does that mean that the opportunity has to be an exact match?

It doesn’t mean that every opportunity that you consider is going to align with every one of your values. However, it will highlight immediately whether a particular opportunity requires that you compromise on a non-negotiable core value. You will know right away that it just isn’t for you.

If, for example, a job requires that you do and say whatever is needed to make a sale but one of your core values is honesty, you know without taking the job that there is going to be inner conflict at some point. If faith is a core value for you but not for your potential partner it is also a potential area of future conflict. Knowing what those non-negotiable values are will help you decide whether any opportunity is a good fit.

There are lots of things we can evaluate in any opportunity in any area of our lives. What is the return (financial or otherwise)? How will it impact my lifestyle? Does it allow me to grow and develop? Does it excite me? There are lots of great things that we will get a chance to explore and do. Sometimes we will compromise on our values as a calculated decision usually for the short term. The danger is that the short term ends up being the long term and quite soon we find ourselves miserable and unfulfilled.

So look beyond the obvious perks when seemingly great opportunities come round. Look under the covers and take the time to do that values check. Ask the question:

‘Does this opportunity align with my core values?’

I’m convinced that the key to success in the long term is to ensure that the choice we make is compatible with our core values.

Originally published at on November 19, 2016.