Opportunities vs. Temptations

“Opportunity knocks only once, but temptation leans on the doorbell.”

Can you tell the difference between an opportunity and a temptation? As a freelancing homeworker with a gazillion things clamouring for my attention and no-one telling me what to do from day to day and from hour to hour, it is really quite important that I learn to tell the difference.

I am not a “go getter” in life. I always default to passivity and it’s not something I am proud of but I also reject both go-getter-ism and let-it-happen-ism. There is a third way that assumes that everyone encounters opportunities, maybe five a day, regardless of who they are and what their circumstances. Each opportunity requires active appropriation – it’s the perfect blend of waiting for it and reaching out to grab it. It is not lazy for, as John James Ingalls said, “opportunities are usually disguised as hard work so few people recognise them”. By the slow accumulation of taken opportunities, massive change takes place.

Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915), an early thinker in the Arts and Crafts movement writes in “The Philistine” that:

” … the only place where you can get away from Opportunity is to lie down and die. Opportunity does not trouble dead men, or dead ones who flatter themselves that they are alive.”

It is simply not true for anyone to say that they do not have opportunities. It would be truer to say that we are simply quite poor at detecting their presence. Preoccupied with the demands of the rat-race and the need to maintain our standard of life and retire with a tidy sum, it is easy to think that there is nothing else for us.

Good Morning

A Window of Opportunity

Deep down, I think we all know the difference between an opportunity and a temptation and we can spot it well enough; we just want to kid ourselves that that temptation is really an opportunity.

Opportunities have a different flavour to them, they are like the hint of a scent in the breeze. They are a time-limited phenomenon that catches your attention for a moment, just like that knock on the door. I have a friend who has no qualms about politely addressing strangers on the train, “Please excuse me, but I couldn’t help overhearing you talking about … X … and I happen to be quite interested in that area, myself.” Conversation ensues, contacts are exchanged, connections are made. I envy that ability, but it is a highly developed instinctive recognition of the scent of opportunity. Opportunity, hangs momentarily in the air and then it is gone.

I see opportunities as doorways that stand open for a short time before closing and disappearing. They are always portals to a whole host of further possibilities. They often catch us on the hop and we never have enough time to weigh them before we need to decide. Because they are so transient, we have to prepare ourselves mentally to capitalise on opportunities and this involves being very aware, listening for that timid knock above the incessant, buzz of temptations.

Temptation is less delicate, in fact it is downright rude and it capitalises on missed opportunities saying, “I’m still here, you know … if that other thing doesn’t work out for you, you can always try me.” These nagging possibilities are often the good that is the enemy of the best if they are not monstrous time sinks with rapidly diminishing returns. An opportunity can take a few seconds to engage with and bring massive returns. A temptation sucks everything you have got and when you have finally extricated yourself from it, it sits in the corner making faces at you.

“I knock unbidden once at every gate — If sleeping, wake — if feasting, rise before I turn away — it is the hour of fate, And they who follow me reach every state Mortals desire, and conquer every foe Save death, but those who doubt of hesitate, Condemned to failure, penury and woe, Seek me in vain and uselessly implore, I answer not, and I return no more.” (John James Ingalls, 1833-1900)

I wish the reader all the best in staying awake and saying “yes” and “no” to the right things today.

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