When Preparation Meets Opportunity, or You Can’t Climb Through the Window of Opportunity Without a Ladder

Tom Peters once said, ”If a window of opportunity appears, don’t pull down the shade.” But if we don’t prepare, if we aren’t ready to climb through that window, the opportunity will be lost. And it is a choice whether we will anticipate and prepare for that opportunity.

If we want to succeed in any personal or professional arena, we need to know what we want and what it will take to get us there, and then take the steps necessary.

If we want to be able to purchase a home when it comes on the market, we need to line up the financing and get our current house ready to sell. 

If we want a promotion, we may need to study or take additional assignments to develop the skills required for the position. 

If we want to be ready to take advantage of an opportunity, it helps if we:

  1. Have a clear goal and commit to it. Wishing doesn’t make it so. We need to decide what we want and whether we want it strongly enough to take the actions, or make the sacrifices, necessary to achieve it. Achieving goals typically involves the investment of time, effort, and possibly money. We need to be okay with the fact that other things may get less attention or need to be rearranged. 
  2. Know and accept what it will take to get there. We need a plan of action that outlines the steps to achieve our goal. It is important that those steps are specific and achievable. It is also important for us to prepare ourselves mentally and emotionally. Goals are rarely achieved overnight. They require persistence, patience, and resilience when faced with potholes on the path.
  3. Work the plan and keep the goal in mind. As much as we may desire the goal, we may procrastinate getting started because we feel overwhelmed. This is where the Swiss Cheese effect can be useful. We can poke holes in the project, starting with something that is easy to accomplish. This will give us the momentum that will carry us through to the next step. Always keep the goal in mind, to stay motivated when the going gets tough.
  4. Request and appreciate support. We will need the active support, encouragement, and understanding of our family, friends, and/or co-workers. There is likely to be less time to devote to previous activities. We’ll probably need to delegate certain household chores, social responsibilities, or work assignments. The more the people in your life understand what you’ve decided to do and why it is important to you, the more likely they will be to support you- as long as you honor and appreciate their efforts, and don’t cut them out of your life.
  5. Pace yourself and stay accessible. Concentrating all our time and energy on achieving our goal can have a devastating impact on our health, our happiness, and our relationships. Make sure to make time for yourself to rest, to spend time with others, and to keep things in perspective. Yes, we want to be prepared when opportunities arise, but we won’t be able to take advantage of them if we are physically exhausted or emotionally depleted. Be kind to yourself.

We may never know if and when an opportunity will present itself. But if we make sure we have our ladder, we’ll be able to climb through that window of opportunity when it opens.

Deborah Spring Laurel has been a workplace learning and performance improvement consultant for forty years, helping companies achieve their goals. She is the President of Laurel and Associates, Ltd. and the Founder and Director of The Peer Learning Institute. She has her master’s degree from UW-Madison. Deborah designs and delivers virtual, classroom, and peer learning group programs for employees, managers, and trainers. If you’re looking for high energy, quality learning experiences that engage and delight participants while building practical skills- or if you’d like your trainers to learn how to do that- talk with her.