I often ask my clients with small businesses if they respond to every opportunity with open arms. I hear back a variety of answers. Mostly the answers are a form of yes. It’s paying attention what’s driving the “no’s” that is ultimately important.
When I was 13 my goal was to be an artist. I worked hard because I was so passionate about my art.
One day my father had some people over for dinner, including the curator for the Museum of Art in Mexico City. I was asked to share my sketches with the curator and his family. We discussed my passion for art and what it meant to me.
The following day my father received a call from the curator that blew us all away. He invited me to go live with his family in Mexico City and get a full education in art at the most prestigious art school in Mexico! My family left me to decide whether I would take this life-altering opportunity.
I turned it down. At the time, my rationale was I was not equipped to be on my own yet. Secretly I was terrified! I walked away from the opportunity. To this day I am very clear the terror I felt back then – fear of leaving my family at age 13 for the unknown was my nemesis and ultimately kept me from taking advantage of this opportunity and along with it, the experience and education I would have gained.
I ask my clients if there are opportunities that have been passed up. If the answer is yes, I probe for a “why?” It’s important for my clients to dig deep and really explore the “why” and to understand the motivations and beliefs underpinning their choices. This challenges them to examine the underlying causes for missed opportunities.
The common reasons opportunities are missed are:
- The opportunity didn’t meet current needs
- Budgetary concerns
- Timing out of sync with present focus
The first three reasons are easy to understand. The last reason, fear, begs for exploration.
Fear as a motivator can be extremely powerful.
The emotions that are triggered when we face the unknown challenge our control and our security. Frequently these emotions stop us from moving forward. At times the cycle is so powerful, it paralyzes us to fully see the opportunities surrounding us.
The belief that we are kept safe within our fear is actually what prevents us from moving forward. We experience fear as a trigger to keep ourselves safe and secure.
So the question then becomes, “How do we create room in the fear/security/safety cycle so we can grow into our opportunities and not get sidelined by fear?”
Clearly I didn’t possess the tools to tackle the belief systems that were in the way of opportunity at 13 years old. Fast-forward to now in my life, I have a great number of tools, mentors and friends that support me in my goals and help me to update belief systems that are in my way.
Today, the availability to try opportunities on for size is more accessible in both my professional life and personal life. I have made a personal commitment to overcome my fears.
How about you?
- What opportunities have you turned away from?
- Did you understand the fear that may have been running behind the scenes?
The opportunities that have been successful all have the same formula. You stepped into the opportunity. You owned it. You did whatever it took for you to make it happen. No terror, but just enough fear to keep you moving forward.
So what is the distinction for you? How do you embrace fear and move forward to opportunity?
Understanding what motivates you to take or walk away from opportunities is huge. If you are building your business and you want to understand the elements for success, it’s imperative you understand the motivations behind your choices. Don’t block your own success.