Why You Must Choose To Focus On Opportunities, Not Threats

I’ve had the privilege to facilitate several sessions of situation analysis with school during the end of the year.

The recurring theme is this: the future is uncertain and we must prepare for it.

Dealing with threats

Along with uncertainties are the threats. According to Krane, Johansen, and Alstad (2014), their research showed that in practice, there is a significant focus on dealing with threats when it comes to managing uncertainty in projects, and less focus on the opportunities.

So, how do we focus more on exploiting opportunities rather than tackling threats?

Kayaking, rocks, opportunities

In his New York Times article, Carl Richards shared the story of how when he was learning to paddle a kayak, he was focusing on the rocks, and ended upside down. Instead, when he switched his focus on the spaces instead, he was able to achieve his objective without having to take a dip in the icy water.

He then drew the parallel between his kayaking experience and financial planning. He asked,

Do we focus on the possibility that the Federal Reserve might raise interest rates sometime soon, or do we try to save more money by refinancing our mortgage now?

Focus is a choice

Whether to focus on the opportunities or to tackle the threat comes down to being a matter of choice. By default, we tend to focus on the threats, the rocks. Because of our conditioning, we are more inclined to avoid pain rather than work towards pleasure.
For instance, entrepreneurs are urged to build their startups as a “pain killers” rather than “vitamins”.

The analogy is simple. Would you be more inclined to take action if you have an acute toothache or if you want stronger immune system?

The answer is obvious.

Take a pain killer to alleviate the toothache immediately. As for stronger immune system, that can wait.

Training your mind to focus on opportunities is, therefore, a choice.

Is it work and life or just life

Many people of my generation were taught the idea that we work so we can have the money to buy the things to make our lives better. My Dad certainly did subscribed to the idea. So did I. Except now, I am beginning to question it.

In other words, instead of work and then live my life around it, is it possible for me to live and then design my work around it?

Many people I spoke to remarked that I am well-positioned to do so because I am an entrepreneur. That is not even true anymore.

Companies such as Buffer are just one example of how you can choose to work anywhere in the world so long as you are happy, inspired, and becoming a better self in the process.

Another example is Jacqueline Novogratz in Warren Berger’s book. Novogratz graduated and was offered a dream job with Chase Manhattan bank. But soon, she quit her job to help entrepreneurs in developing secure loans so that they would be able to bring their ideas to reality.

Hers is a great example of how someone could choose to live the way they want to impact the world and then designing their work around it.

The future belongs to creators

The best way to predict your future is to create it ~ Abraham Lincoln

The future is uncertain.

Are you focusing on the threats or the opportunities?

The future is, and has been, yours to create.

Your turn

  • What would you focus on?
  • What would you create?