I have the opportunity to do something audacious and scary in my career right now. It’s something I’d thought about doing in the past, but stopped short because of all the reasons: I don’t have time. Now’s not the right time. What if I fail? What if I suck (and I don’t know it)? What if I succeed?
How does the saying go… many people don’t open the door to opportunity because it comes dressed as hard work? I know neither you or I turn away from hard work. Nope. There is no mistaking what’s keeping me from opening this particular door. It’s fear.
Fear throws up all the rational excuses for not doing something. And there’s the problem! Looking at an opportunity like I have to commit to the whole thing in its entirety when that’s not what’s being asked of me. It can be hard to decipher the difference between what’s being offered to me, and what’s being asked of me. And here’s why: whatever the opportunity is, it will unfold in a series of steps that allow me to decide, at each step, if it’s something that aligns with my values and career aspirations. Along that path I may have unique opportunities to shape the final outcome so it better aligns with my needs, and the needs of others.
Opportunity should always be something empowering; and not just for my bank account but for my soul. I may not be exclusively in control of everything all the time, but I am empowered to help make decisions; including the all-important decision to say “no” to something that doesn’t work for me because it crosses important boundaries in my life (ethical, commitment balance, interest, etc.).
One of my clients also faced an opportunity dilemma. She was asked to take on a promotion to a managerial position that was well beyond her comfort zone. It was brought to her as a very “black and white” opportunity; take it, or don’t. That didn’t feel empowering. So, she and I took a coaching session and brainstormed all her questions, and fears. In looking at it, she determined she didn’t have enough information to say “yes” and went back with her questions. In essence she was qualifying the opportunity, checking to see what was there to empower her.
We also devised a counter-offer where she would try the new role for 3 months to ensure it could work for her, her new team and her organization. If it turned out it wasn’t working (or it wasn’t what she thought or wanted), she’d return to her former position once a new manager was hired. No harm no foul. It worked brilliantly and she was able to turn a black and white opportunity into an empowering one that worked better for her (and she is still a happy and successful manager today).
In my case, I have the opportunity to write a book. It’s always something I’ve flirted with doing, tried and walked away from many times. There’s a big fear of failure here – if I’m writing a book it’s going to be worth the reader’s time. And it’s going to alleviate suffering in people’s working lives. These are my success criteria. I know that’s a tall order for a book, but so many of my favourite books have done this for me, it’s possible (whether I can do this or not is still untested). The opportunity here for me is to be of greater service to a community I care for deeply, and that’s empowering. Along the way I’ll learn something about creating useful content, gain a deeper understanding of the people I want to help, and discover more about myself.
It’s worth the risk, taking it one simple step at a time. That’s how opportunity empowers.