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hand knocker on doorHave you trained yourself to recognize when opportunity knocks?  Better yet, have you trained yourself to act, sometimes quickly, when opportunity knocks? As a person who craves routine and schedule, I’m working hard these days to learn to recognize unexpected opportunities, and to be willing to act quickly to make decisions on those opportunities.

For instance, we live on a small hobby farm with two horses.  As I drove toward home and by my next-door neighbor’s house the other day, I saw him cutting grass – tall grass.   You see, his riding mower broke down this summer, and as he waited for the new one he ordered to arrive at the dealer, he was forced to leave roughly a half acre of grass unmowed for several weeks.  By the time the new rider came in, the grass was over 2 feet tall.  His new rider wasn’t even big enough to do that job, so another neighbor was there with his tractor, cutting the small field down.

Now, to you, that might have looked like a whole lot of work, but to a girl with two horses, that long, fresh cut grass looked exactly like dollar signs.  On a whim, we drove up the neighbor’s driveway.

“Got plans for all of that grass?”  I asked our 70-year -old neighbors.

“No, just gonna throw it into the already-overflowing compost pile, I guess.”  said the husband.

“Well, you’re welcome to spread it into our pasture.  The kids and I would love to come and help.”  I answered.

“Really??  That would be great!!!  Thank you!!!”  was the grateful response.

The truth was that we were the ones who were grateful.  We haven’t had a decent rain here in a good month, and the pastures are growing quite slowly.  If there’s no grass for our horses, that means we have to start feeding them more hay: hay that costs us money.  And honestly, I’d rather feed them grass that’s free than hay that costs money.   The summer grass-growing season is a huge saving grace on our farm budget.  We saved a good $150-$200 by helping our neighbors toss that grass into a trailer and ATV it over to our place.

However, I wouldn’t have  had the “opportunity” to save that cash if I hadn’t been willing to do a few things to be prepared for that unexpected opportunity.  How can you learn to be prepared to take advantage of unexpected opportunities come your way?

Don’t Allow Yourself to Get too Comfortable With Your “Rut”

I like routine.  In many ways, I thrive on it.  But as I’ve started and grown my freelance career in the last year, I’ve learned that getting too comfortable with the daily routines of life can stifle opportunities because it can give you tunnel vision.  In order to be ready to act when opportunity knocks, get rid of that tunnel vision and keep your eyes peeled for potential opportunities that can propel you toward your goal, whatever that goal may be.

Start Learning to Be on the Lookout for Opportunity

Learn to see things differently, the same way I did with the neighbor’s grass-cutting task.  He saw work (and believe me: it was work) , I saw an opportunity to help a neighbor and save huge cash in the process.  By learning to think more big-picture and long-term you will start to see more doors open up to help you reach your goal.  For instance, if you have a weight loss or fitness goal, don’t confine yourself to simple, traditional exercise methods.  Help a country-living friend or relative chop and stack wood for their winter heating.  Or bike to the grocery store instead of drive.  Maybe better yet, start a hiking club.  Look for ways in which you can not only burn calories and increase strength, but also learn something new, help a friend, or incorporate your activities into a potential business.

Learn to Assess and Act Quickly

With the cut grass situation, if I hadn’t previously been working on learning to assess opportunities quickly – and act on them quickly – that $200 of savings could have easily passed me by.  But because I’ve been working so hard on thinking big-picture and long-term regarding our goals to achieve debt freedom and financial independence, I was able to quickly assess the benefits vs. the risks of not only helping our neighbor, but of taking his grass too.  The “negatives” of this situation, for instance, were that we were putting several more hours of work into an already jam-packed week, and that if the horses didn’t eat the grass, we’d be left having to dispose of it someplace on our own.  But I put a couple of quick “plan b’s” into place and decided it’d be worth the risk.  Luckily, our jam-packed schedule didn’t suffer too terribly much from the extra 4-6 hours of work, and we figured out a way to make sure the horses would eat the cut grass.  If either of those variables wouldn’t have worked, however, we would’ve had to “buck up and deal”, but we’d already prepared ourselves for that mentally, so it was okay.

So many great opportunities are missed simply because one is unable to see them or afraid to take the risk.  Don’t be that person.  Start training yourself now to recognize those opportunities, to assess them quickly, and to make the decision regarding acting on them quickly.  You might just open up a whole new world.

*Photo by Free Digital Photos