Opportunity or Distraction?

Opportunties can be fleeting. In some cases, you may have just a moment to respond to a given set of variables. If you don’t make the call, your chance to have an impact, build a relationship, or change a trajectory may pass you by, never to present itself again. All true. It is also true that you can’t respond to every opportunity before you, and some things you could respond to (and maybe would like to respond to) may actually be a distraction from reaching your strategic goals. How do you decide which opportunities to pursue and which to take a pass on? Trying viewing them through these four lenses.

Is it the right thing to do?

Start with your values. This may take the form of a nudge from your gut . . . that inner voice that says “you have the skills to positively impact this situation.” Please note, the right thing is often not the easy thing, which increases the chance that you will pass on the opportunity. A bit of extra effort to live out your values is worth the investment, every time.

Does it align with your strategic goals?

One of the challenges for many leaders is that there are a lot of things you could do . . . and could do well. Could is not the same as should. Could lives in the land of distractions. It is the shiny object that draws your attention away from the end goal you have intentionally identified. Always ask how an opportunity furthers your goals. If it doesn’t, it’s a distraction.

Is it a value-add or just a fad?

“Everyone else is doing it” is not a compelling reason to invest your time and energy into an activity dressed as an opportunity. How does pursuing a potential activity further your goals? Sometimes passing on an “opportunity bandwagon” that everyone else is jumping on means that you will have the capacity to pursue another unique option that really does move the dial and distinguishes you from the crowd.

What will you have to say no to?

Every yes comes with an often invisible set of no’s. If you invest your time and energy into one opportunity, that means you won’t have have time for/are saying no to one or more other opportunities. Even if something is consistent with your values, aligns with your goals and adds value to your efforts, a final consideration should be what will you have to stop doing to start pursuing this opportunity. What may seem like a good idea when viewed in isolation may not be the top priority when considered in the context of what you would have to give up.

Opportunities abound. So do distractions . . . and they may look a lot alike on first glance. The clearer your vision, the easier it is to see the difference.

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