Our view of a problem determines our reaction to the problem. Life, because it is how it is, will continually bring headaches and heartaches. Life is too complex to perfectly predict. We never can prepare for every possibility. Our success, then, is not in perfect preparation but often from an effective mindset that tackles unpleasant surprises. Capitalizing on problems, turning hassles into opportunity is referred to as an “opportunity mindset.” If we have an opportunity mindset, then we recognize opportunity where others see roadblocks.
If you have responded to past failures with pessimism, mourning the misfortune and surrendering in disappointment, you must confront this opportunity destroying pattern. Failures are common in worthwhile endeavors. Success is not for the faint of heart. If high achievement were simple, it would lose its sparkle. Fighting through adversity is our human heritage. Embrace it. grow from it. Learn from it. But most of all, find opportunity in the struggle.
New ventures push abilities, challenge resolve and expose weakness. Oh yea, and develop skill. Success is the crown jewel of courageous, curious explorations in to the unknown.
Benefits of an Opportunity Mindset
We don’t need much imagination to list reasons why an opportunity mindset outshines catastrophic thinking. However, let me point out a few: Failure feels crappy. Period. The disappointment, fear, and deprecating self narratives of being “good for nothing” just hurt. Painful failures demand a soothing response to dull the pain. We often do this with justifications. We blame unforeseen hurdles, bad luck, and the stupidity of others.
While justifying dulls the pain, it doesn’t resolve the dark secret looming under our fancy faultless façade. We failed and our self-confidence is battered.
Shifting from growth prohibiting justification of failure, to glorious opportunity seeking in disappointment creates a much different reactive response. With an opportunity mindset, curiosity, engagement, and hope follow the surprise, bringing new enthusiasms of opportunity to energize and excite.
The bottom line is the opportunity mindset reduces stress, assisting with difficult emotional regulation during difficult situations. Seeking opportunity in failure expands limited thinking patterns. We get stuck, thinking in confined circles. Widening inspection, seeing correlations, and understanding contributing factors frees us from confined cognitive spaces, opening a new world of intrigue, skill and knowledge.
Opportunity Mindsets and Growth
Opportunity mindsets encourage growth by responding to unplanned circumstances by sharpening skills and knowledge in adjacent areas of expertise. Power Source, a fitness training site, wrote that opportunity mindsets, “helps you see every challenge as an opportunity to improve, to get a little better than you were before you did it.”
For example, when my wellness-psychology website failed to generate traffic, I learned SEO basics, social media marketing, and more creative writing techniques. Each of these new skills provided new directions and opportunity I never imagined at the onset of this venture.
Jayson Demurs explains that people with opportunity mindsets, “rather than seeing problems as burdensome forces of opposition, they see problems as opportunities—opportunities to learn, grow, improve, or adjust in a way that leaves them better off than before the problem existed” (2015).
“And when Travis Kalanick and a friend couldn’t get a cab in Paris one day they didn’t just complain about it, they founded Uber. The rest, as we know, is history.”The Churning
Discovering new avenues of response is the ultimate remedy to helplessness. You keep moving, even if it is in a much different direction. We control the response. The opportunity mindset forces adaptation rather than blame and retreat.
Demers suggests following five steps when faced with substantial obstacles:
- Accept That Problems Are Inevitable
- Steel Yourself to First Impressions
- Distance Yourself From the Problem
- Learn to Objectively Evaluate the Threats and Consequences
- Ignore Reactions, Focus on Improvements (2015).
Demers steps puts us back in the driver’s seat. The problem motivates action in different directions than planned.
Two Components of Opportunity Mindsets
In a fabulous 2020 study on the mindsets of successful entrepreneurial leaders, Authors Ramnaranyan Subramaniam & Raj Krishnan Shankar refer a learning mindset instead of an opportunity mindset. Their learning mindset shares the basic qualities—an approach to experience that is geared to discover opportunity. They suggest the learning mindset is composed of two qualities: Openness and Risk-Taking (2020).
Opportunities flow from smooth exchange of information. If communication channels are constrained, opportunities from a large shared community of knowledge will never emerge. Open investigation to all input received and recognition for contributions encourages a running dialogue of possibilities. Successful Netflix CEO Reed Hastings once chastised his division managers for their high percentage of success on new projects. While success is cherished and essential to business, he understood the value of risk to keep pace in a dynamic and competitive industry. Lack of failure signals over protective plans, missing valuable opportunity to expand in unsaturated markets.
Creative experimenting finds opportunities others may miss. During the 70’s and 80’s, while IBM was being safe, Apple was experimenting.
Success comes from sound established practice while sprinkling in enough risk to discover hidden gems of opportunity. Susan Jeffers explains, “the more we are able to reach out into the world, the greater the likelihood is that we are going to experience ‘failure’ or rejection. But those who are living rich lives wouldn’t change them for a moment. They delight in the opportunity to taste all that life has to offer-the good and the bad” (2006).
Opportunity arises from unexpected paths. The opportunity mindset is ready to take advantage of the surprises. B. F. Skinner taught, “When you find something interesting, drop everything else and study it. Too many fail to answer opportunity’s knock at the door because they have to finish some preconceived plan” (Michalko, 1998),
Opportunity mindsets listen for the knock at the door. They don’t wait for opportunity to pound, screaming for attention while they are preoccupied with the mundane. Opportunity knocks, and quietly moves on.
Our Mindset Changes How We See the World
In 1965, John Gardner, an official of the Lyndon Johnson administration, remarked regarding the current social issues, “What we have before us are some breathtaking opportunities disguised as insoluble problems” (2004, Easterbrook, location 1092). We struggle to escape inhibiting mindsets. They flow invisibly into thoughts. Consequently, we frame the world with worn out thinking and limit opportunities. We fail to recognize opportunity. In the Art of Possibilities, the authors explain, “the frames our minds create define-and confine-what we perceive to be possible. Every problem, every dilemma, every dead end we find ourselves facing in life, only appears unsolvable inside a particular frame or point of view. Enlarge the box, or create another frame around the data, and problems vanish, while new opportunities appear” (Zander & Zander, 2002, page 14).
Writer and philosopher Dan Garro suffered from heightened anxiety and bouts of depression. He discovered that as he began to work on himself, taking responsibility of his experience, the world began to appear differently. He writes, “what I found most interesting was the fact that the world started to appear noticeably different. Before, it seemed like everywhere I looked I found my negativity, pessimism, and sense of hopelessness confirmed and justified. Now, however, the world seemed brighter, and I found myself thinking about the future with hope” (2021). Our mindset matters. Problems take shape by the manner in which we view them. Close up they appear unpassable but with wider perspectives, we discover great opportunities. Step back, investigate with curiosity, trust your creativity, and nourish the opportunity mindset, enhancing your life in unfathomable and fabulous ways.
Easterbrook, G. (2004). The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse. Random House Trade Paperbacks
Garro, D. (2021) Creating Opportunities. Do Better With Dan. Published 4-20-2021. Accessed 7-7-2021.
Jeffers, S. (2006). Feel the Fear . . . and Do It Anyway. Ballantine Books; 20th Anniversary edition
Michael Michalko (1998). Thinking like a Genius: Eight Strategies Used by the Supercreative, from Aristotle and Leonardo to Einstein and Edison. The Futurist, Vol. 32, May 1998.
Subramaniam, R., & Shankar, R. (2020). Three Mindsets of Entrepreneurial Leaders. Journal of Entrepreneurship,29(1), 7-37.
Zander, R. S.; Zander, B. (2002). The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life. Penguin Books; REV ed. edition.