Opportunity is just as much dependent on external circumstances as it is on our views and attitude about the world.
When we actively change our thinking and perception toward a more opportunistic mindset, we can actually invite more opportunities into our lives.
Many people are perfectly capable of discovering opportunities that greatly benefit their lives, but they unknowingly ignore these opportunities. This is because much of opportunity is based on our way of seeing things.
Opportunities are a lot like self-fulfilling prophecies.
If we keep our eyes open for new ones, we are more likely to spot them when they actually pop up in our lives. But if we never look for opportunities, we often don’t see them – even when they are actually there waiting for us.
Of course, opportunity has a bit to do with luck and chance, but it also has a lot to do with our beliefs and perspective.
Here are some of the main beliefs and attitudes that correlate with opportunistic thinking:
Believe in free will
Those who don’t believe they have any will-power or control over their life are going to automatically inhibit themselves from taking advantage of the opportunities that pass us by on a daily basis.
We must not view ourselves as puppets on strings, subject only to the whims of external forces. Instead, we are conscious thinkers and actors that participate with our environments.
Life is not just something that happens to us from the outside, it is also what we choose to make of it. We shouldn’t ignore this power and responsibility.
For more on my take on free will (a compatibilist approach): The Illusion of No Control.
Have an openness to possibility
To be an opportunist, we can’t be stubborn in our thinking, and we can’t limit our beliefs and map of reality to a single narrow perspective.
Instead, we have to at least show openness to new perspectives, new ideas, and new beliefs that we may not have previously considered.
It’s important to have this sense of flexibility in our thinking, because it opens us to more creative ways of interpreting the information we get about our world, and how we can apply that information in new and unconventional ways.
Opportunistic thinking can often be enhanced when we allow ourselves to view the world a bit more differently than others.
Take quick action
Sometimes we miss out on opportunities because we keep thinking there will be “something better around the corner.”
Opportunists avoid this trap by taking quick action.
An opportunist doesn’t spend too much time waiting, hoping, or praying for some ideal situation. They know that the quest for perfection often leads to procrastination.
So instead, they stay vigilant for the little (but imperfect) opportunities that pass us by on a daily basis, and they take advantage of these opportunities soon after they present themselves.
They know that if they hesitate too long, they may never get a second chance.
This can be just as true for filling out a job application as it is approaching a good-looking girl at a bar, or buying tickets for an upcoming concert, or following through on a business plan.
An opportunist knows that opportunities don’t sit there and wait for us – we have to take action while they are still available.
Our ability to discover new opportunities is intrinsically dependent on our awareness of our environment and our surroundings.
Having this increased awareness greatly increases our chances of discovering new opportunities. And it also improves skills in problem-solving and creativity. Be aware of your awareness, because it plays a huge role in how you process the world.
Optimism is a positive perspective we hold about life that encompasses beliefs and thought patterns like:
- “Good things will happen to me.”
- “I can overcome obstacles.”
- “Life and people are generally good.”
- “I am capable of achieving my values and goals.”
Interestingly, positive psychologists are discovering that our optimism is not something we are predestined or born with, but something we can learn and cultivate on our own. And by cultivating this positive attitude, we often invite good things to happen to us.
This doesn’t mean that a positive attitude alone can give you everything you want (see my post on Dangerous Trends in Personal Development to help avoid this unhealthy thinking). However, I do believe that positivity within reason can be a very constructive outlook on life.
Learn more tools in psychology in the digital guide The Science of Self Improvement.