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Last Updated on June 18, 2020

How to Seize Your Opportunities and Take on Challenges

How to Seize Your Opportunities and Take on Challenges

I once heard Richard Branson say, “Business opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming.”

As soon as I heard that, I remember thinking “wow, that’s so true.” And that wisdom doesn’t just apply to business opportunities. It applies to all opportunities.

Regardless of whether you’re looking to getting ahead in your career, business, academics, or personal life, you will always be presented with fresh opportunities.

But here’s the thing: no matter what you’re after, it’s likely you’ll be presented with a number of challenges along the way.

Here are some ways to prepare yourself to seize the opportunity of a lifetime from the moment you recognize it.

1. Develop a Clear Vision of What You Want

Imagine if you could have anything your heart desires. Imagine if you could seize the opportunity of a lifetime the moment it presents itself.

Literally, take a moment right now and imagine it.

Because if you do, then you’ll be putting your brain’s Reticular Activating System into function – and that can be the difference between achieving your dreams, or living a life of quiet desperation.

In his book, Getting Things Done, author David Allen talks about how this works:

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“When you focus on something–the vacation you’re going to take, the meeting you’re about to go into, the project you want to launch–that focus instantly creates ideas and thought patterns you wouldn’t have had otherwise. Even your physiology will respond to an image in your head as if it were reality.”

Did you catch that last line?

Even your physiology will respond to an image in your head as if it were reality.

Let’s talk a little more about that, shall we?

Back in May 1957, Scientific American published an article describing the discovery of the “reticular formation” at the base of the brain. This is basically the gateway to your conscious awareness.

In other words, it acts as a “switch” of sorts, to turn on your perceptions of ideas and data. It is the thing that keeps you asleep even when music is playing but wakes you up if a special little baby cries in another room.

Your brain has a search function, just like your computer does.

But your brain’s search function is even better. It’s programmed by what you focus on, what you identify with, and what you believe in. It notices things and opportunities that are your current beliefs and focus.

For example, if you’re an architect, you’re more likely to notice the square footage and design of buildings. If you work in shoe sales, you’ll probably notice the details and the degree of craftsmanship of a person’s shoes when you meet them.

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Take a moment to close your eyes for ten seconds and focus on nothing but color red, and then just glance around your environment. If there’s any red at all, even if it’s a little bit, you’ll notice it!

That’s your reticular activating system at work. And you’ll need to keep it sharp if you want to seize any potential opportunities as they arise.

The lesson here is this: develop a clear mental picture of what you want. Keep that vision in mind and imagine it regularly. This will prime your mind to stay on the look-out for opportunities that can help you bring that vision to reality.

2. Set Goals

Once you’ve developed a mental picture of what you want or what an ideal opportunity may look like, it’s time to commit that vision to paper.

In other words, it’s time to set some written goals: How to Use SMART Goal to Become Highly Successful in Life

And once you set those goals, you’ll want to make sure you review them regularly to remind your brain what you’re looking for.

Your brain operates in terms of goals and results. Once you give it a clear goal to achieve, it automatically begins to look for ways to help you achieve it.

Once you have a goal, your brain looks for different opportunities to help you bring it to life. It looks for actions you can take or ideas that might help you achieve a given goal.

So, grab some paper, and write down exactly what you want and why you want it.

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3. Take Consistent Action

Some people will tell you that positive thinking is the key to seizing opportunities and getting whatever you want in life.

I’m here to tell you that this is absolutely NOT true.

If you get lost in the woods without a map to help guide you back to where you need to be, it doesn’t matter how positive you think you are, because unless you get yourself a map, you’re STILL going to be lost.

And if you only focus on “thinking positive,” you’ll just be happy about being lost.

To get back home, you need a map. You need guidance. You’ve got to update your approach. And you absolutely need to take action.[1]

If you want to achieve your goals, get your dream job, attract the perfect partner, or seize the opportunity of a lifetime. It doesn’t matter how positive you think you are if your way of thinking is faulty.

To fix your way of thinking, you need to envision a detailed desired outcome of what you want. Once you’ve done that, you’ve got to take deliberate action towards that desired outcome.

Unless you map out a detailed picture of what you want AND you combine that with action, you’ll veer off-path and bypass great opportunities.

So, here’s what you need to do:

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Step 1: Think About an Area of Your Life You’d Like to Change for the Better

Imagine what it would feel and look like if you were able to change this area of your life. Think about the best possible outcome/scenario that could occur if everything were to go exactly the way you want it to go (it never goes perfect, but don’t worry about that right now).

Step 2: Take This Vision You’ve Created in Your Mind From Step 1, and write it Down as a Goal.

Be as detailed and specific as possible.

Step 3: Break That Goal Down Into Several Small Steps That Need to Be Taken for You to Achieve it

If you’re not sure about what steps you need to take to achieve your goal, then your first step is to start reading, researching, and gathering knowledge about what you need to do. You might need to talk to someone who’s already done what you want to do or find an inspiring podcast that can help fast-track your way to success.

The main idea is this: you need to decide on some sort of action you can right now to make progress on your goal.

Some examples: Want to start a business? Start researching how to get a business license. Want a new car? Go to the car dealership and test drive that car you want.

Do something, anything, to get the ball rolling.

Step 4: Remain Consistent and Keep Taking Action

Once you’ve taken one small step towards your goal, you’ll need to set up another one. And another one. And another one.

Along the way, you’ll notice different ideas and opportunities that you can leverage towards achieving your goal.

Bottom Line

Follow these steps and eventually your goals won’t be in your imagination anymore, they’ll be your reality.

Now go out there and start seizing opportunities like a boss.

More About Seizing Opportunities

Featured photo credit: Juan Jose via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Dean Bokhari: Action Leads to Motivation

More by this author

Dean Bokhari

Author, Entrepreneur, Podcast & TV Host

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed, and exhausted. Therefore, if you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, it’s time to do something about it.

Here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm, leaving you calmer, in control, and a lot less stressed at work.

1. Write Everything Down to Offload Your Mind

The first thing you can do when work feels overwhelming is to write everything down that is on your mind.

Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s occupying your thoughts[1].

For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind, write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind.”

The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will help you stop feeling overwhelmed at work. Writing things down can really change your life.

2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

Once you have emptied your head, go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. You can learn how to create a more meaningful to-do list here.

3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

Here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago to help when work feels overwhelming. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and we humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take[2]:

When feeling overwhelmed at work, use Parkinson's Law.

    This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad. It’s more wishful thinking than bad judgment.

    We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage when we’re feeling overwhelmed at work. If you have estimated that to write five important emails will take ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

    Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is that you put yourself under a little time pressure, and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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    When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time, so it plays tricks on us, and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our team members to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

    Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening, and we get more focused and more work done. This will help when work feels overwhelming.

    4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

    Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos to avoid getting overwhelmed at work. Schedule time for each task, especially high priority tasks, while also grouping together similar tasks. This will help relieve stress and anxiety in your daily work life.

    For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

    Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done, and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer, and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

    5. Make Decisions

    For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one[3]. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

    If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend, or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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    If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss or a colleague and get advice.

    Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away and will only make you feel more overwhelmed at work. You need to make a decision to deal with it, and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved.

    I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed, and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend about the problem.

    He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem, and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I pay a smaller amount for a couple of months.

    This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

    The first was: don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second: there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

    6. Take Some Form of Action

    Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we are feeling overwhelmed at work (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

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    The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

    It also means that, rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible, and you can make decisions about what to do about them.

    Often, it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be that you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

    When work feels overwhelming, it’s not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work. It can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

    The Bottom Line

    It’s easy to feel like you have too much on your plate, but there are things you do to make it more manageable. 

    Make a decision, even if it’s just talking to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution.

    When you follow these strategies, you can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

    More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

    Featured photo credit: Josefa nDiaz via unsplash.com

    Reference

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