A funny thing happens when we’re presented with an opportunity.
We get scared.
Because we’ve often spent years chasing the opportunity and discover we grew comfortable with that chase. It became part of our daily narrative, of our identity.
Then, suddenly, that opportunity is within our grasp.
And we freak out.
Turns out what it takes to chase an opportunity isn’t the same as what it takes to act on one.
Scared by the potential changes an opportunity may bring with it, we often find ways to avoid acting on it. We self-sabotage, hide, and create excuses why it’s not the right opportunity or the right time.
But that’s just fear and we can move past it if we remind ourselves of five simple things.
1. It’s OK to be nervous.
Seth Godin has a great metaphor about marathon runners.
Even the best runners in the world get tired when they run a marathon — it’s not optional.
But successful marathon runners are willing to accept and endure the fatigue to accomplish their goal of running a marathon.
The same is true of most opportunities.
A big opportunity will make us nervous, but that’s OK. It doesn’t mean we’re going to fail and doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pursue it.
Being nervous only means we care.
It’s a sign we should pursue the opportunity, not recoil from it. We just need to recognize our nerves are a normal side effect of what it takes to embark on something new.
2. The alternative is scarier.
When we focus on how scared we are by a new opportunity, we tend to forget the alternative is likely scarier.
Passing on an opportunity may calm our fears momentarily, but it ultimately inflates them.
We’ll forever wonder what might have been had we not let our fear dictate our choices.
Remember, nothing’s scarier than a missed opportunity.
That’s worth considering before letting one slip through our fingers.
3. Every opportunity can be undone.
When an opportunity scares us it’s typically because we fear we’ll make a mistake and screw up our work, career, or life in the process.
But most opportunities don’t represent life or death decisions.
If an opportunity doesn’t work out, it won’t kill us — it will just be a temporary setback and a learning experience.
Opportunities pursued can just as easily be undone. But opportunities avoided are difficult to rediscover.
If an opportunity doesn’t turn out how we hoped, we can always go backwards and choose a different path.
The same can’t be said for opportunities we decline in the first place.
4. Nothing’s ever guaranteed.
We’re good at convincing ourselves an opportunity is too risky to pursue — too good at it.
Because every opportunity carries risk and pursuing any opportunity will always lead us into an unknown future.
If we wait for a guarantee of success, we’ll wait forever and never get where we want to go.
We must recognize that nothing will ever be guaranteed, all opportunities are inherently risky, and that playing it safe will only hold us back.
5. Is it a fear of failure…or success?
We’re quick to assume the fear that keeps us from acting on an opportunity stems from a worry that we’ll fail.
But it’s not always that simple. Sometimes what truly scares us is the idea that we might succeed.
Success changes our lives more than failure and that can be scary — especially when we’ve spent years becoming comfortable with the current way we live.
But remember that change isn’t necessarily bad— and success rarely leads us to a worse place than we are right now.
The reason we work to secure an opportunity in the first place is because we believe it will make us happier — it will drive a positive change.
And it will. But only if we stop being scared of the opportunity in front of us and start to embrace it.