It can be easy to get discouraged in this world — to write yourself off before you’ve even given yourself the opportunity to see whether you’ll sink or swim. For some of us, it can seem like the cards are stacked against us before we’ve even begun.
Maybe your parents were less than nurturing — maybe you didn’t even know your parents at all. Perhaps you’ve grown up in poverty or amid violence and you think that’s all there is for you. Maybe you’ve never had an easy time of it academically — despite your best efforts; you can’t earn good grades.
But if you look around with your eyes — and your heart — wide open, a strange thing will start to happen. You’ll notice there are opportunities around you, even if it feels at first like there aren’t. Will they always be obvious? No, and in fact, they might feel more like hardships than opportunities at first. But if you embrace the challenge, you’ll see doors start to open and your circumstances begin to change.
Here are some tips that have helped me make the most out my opportunities in life and hopefully help you make the most out of the ones that come your way.
You Do You
Everyone has their unique talents. Some are great at school while others shine when thinking outside the box. But too many of us get down on ourselves, trying to be like other people. While there is nothing wrong with trying to improve yourself and work on your weaknesses, don’t forget to shine that spotlight on your strengths.
Give up trying to be someone else and highlight your inner talents instead of trying to focus on what you think people think you should be doing.
Take Baby Steps
The problem with opportunity is that everyone thinks it should be huge — a big life-changing step. But it usually doesn’t work that way. It’s often something much smaller, like a promotion or a new networking relationship that may not pay off for months or even years.
If I had relied on huge opportunities to jumpstart my exit from the small village in India I lived in as a child, I would still be there. Instead, I grabbed every rung of the ladder that I saw ahead of me. I didn’t know where it would lead, but it seemed like a step in the right direction, so I seized each opportunity as they came along. And I’m glad I did. It has transformed my life — yes, I have earned a lot of money, but more importantly, I’ve had the chance to do good and change lives with that money.
Now, what I’m talking about here is taking carefully weighed risks. I don’t want you going to work tomorrow morning, putting in your two weeks’ notice, and telling your loved ones I told you to quit your job.
Before you take a risk, you should have an idea about how you’re going to upgrade from what you’ve currently been doing. You need a plan in place. Never lose sight of the next step you need to take and where it can lead you.
A risk might be small, such as taking a night class at your local community college when money is already tight and you’re not sure it will pay off. Or it could be bigger, such as moving across the country for a job opportunity. Weigh your options, and the right decision will come to you.
Do More Than Expected
No matter what you’re working on in life, make sure you give it everything you have. Opportunities aren’t guarantees, but some people treat them like they are. Then they are devastated when they realize those opportunities have dried up and blown away.
You need to treat that opportunity like it’s gold, not a given. At the start of the week, make a list of what you need to accomplish — and shoot big, now isn’t the time to set your standards low. Then every day, make a list of everything you need to accomplish that day. Strive to get every item crossed off that list, and when you’re done, begin working on at least one item from the weekly list. You’ll feel your momentum building.
Start Doing and Stop Complaining
One of the reasons people miss out on their opportunities is that they’re too busy complaining to notice them or get the work done to capitalize on them. We’ve all seen people like this in our lives. Maybe we’ve worked with them, maybe we are related to them, or maybe we are them.
Complaining instead of doing is one of the biggest wastes of our time, energy, and talent. All complaining does is build negativity, take away momentum, and keep us from doing work that will have to be done anyway eventually. It delays our progress and doesn’t bring any positives to the table.
The urge to complain can be overwhelming, especially if you feel overworked and under-appreciated. But like anything else, it’s a habit. And habits can be broken. The next time you have the urge to complain, stop yourself and use that energy to get to work. See what happens. You’ll accomplish much more than you’d ever imagine, and you’ll free up some of your time too.
Don’t Be Afraid to Fail
One of the top reasons we don’t grasp our opportunities isn’t laziness or apathy; it’s the fear of failure. For every chance that comes our way, there is the risk we’ll fail. So some of us would rather make excuses about why we’re not going to try for our opportunity, rather than take the chance that we’ll look like a failure to other people or ourselves.
Failure stinks — there’s no way around that. It’s disheartening and sometimes even embarrassing. But what’s even more embarrassing to me is never trying anything — never challenging yourself or allowing yourself to dream because you’re worried about the possibility of failure.
I’ve failed at plenty of things in life. Everyone has. But it’s never stopped me from dreaming or trying. In fact, a spectacular failure can give you more clarity, drive, and energy. In the end, that failure could end up being your biggest motivation for success.