Sticking to the Plan–i.e. Choices, Opportunities, & Risks

“There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.”–J.F.K.

I believe it to be a given that having a course of action already worked out is the best way to help you achieve your goals, but what happens when opportunity gets in the way? That sounds weird so let me clarify. I have discovered that not all opportunities are automatically the best choices for us to make. Unfortunately a lot of sayings exist that would support that all opportunities are something not be passed up because they are such a rare and amazing thing. Like the old adage, “When opportunity knocks,” yes, someone has to (and will) answer, but does it have to be you? We feel bad passing over an otherwise great looking opportunity because we are trained to believe an opportunity is a god send—and some of them are, of course. The trick is to conscienscously decide whether it’s your god-send or not.  Some opportunities are absolutely those which you’d be an idiot to pass up, or those which fate has conveniently set in your path to help you snag something even better. The ones I am discussing in this post are those that only appear better because they exist in the face of a risk.

What do I mean? We chart our courses and preplan where we want to end up—even to the point of accepting an inevitable risk in the goal of achieving it. For example I recently accepted temporary unemployment as a given during my transition from Reno to Denver. We do this, then suddenly a safe, smart-looking opportunity opens up that suddenly makes your acceptance of risk seem unnecessary. Humans tend to avoid danger, being self-savers, so a safe, smart opportunity draws us in. Think of a bright light that blurs your vision. That is the concern; sometimes opportunities actually become distractions, temporary solutions, or immediate gratifications, like bright lights distorting your vision of the real goal. So the question becomes, how do we stick to the plan and face the risks that we could otherwise mitigate by taking up one of these “opportunities” ?

Well, this is when that plan of action, that vision board, comes in handy to help keep you on track and confident about why you do what you do. It is something that continually reminds you of your ultimate goals.  We need reminders of what we are really after so that we can determine whether a particular choice will get us there or not. Maybe it will, but it will take longer. Maybe it is the right choice for right now, or maybe not. Maybe you have an easy in; sure, but does the job really make you happy? Does it fulfill your needs beyond basics of pay or stability? Is that what you need right now? Is it only fear of the risky unkown that makes this choice appear so great?

Every choice comes with a risk, and we make choices all day long. If you choose this burger for lunch, you risk not tasting that new salad that just came out. When it comes to life choices, the risks are that much greater—or maybe not. By taking the easy or safe option, what are you now risking? Happiness, the chance to push yourself, the possibility of dream fulfillment or greater satisfaction? The last thing you want is to wind up regretting a choice that worked for a short time, but held you back from what you really wanted. Like playing chess, you have to make moves that set you up for further success, rather than focusing on the immediate satisfaction of removing a pawn from the board. You cannot let fear of the risk hold you back.

Why am I writing this post? To act as a reminder to conscientiously analyze and weigh your choices and opportunities before unwittingly allowing yourself to deviate from your plan. It’s risky business, one way or another. I want you to stick to the plan or deviate with full knowledge of it. Don’t have a plan? You better MAKE ONE and STICK TO IT! This is your life and sometimes you can relax and let the tide guide you, but other times you have to take control and steer yourself. Don’t let those bright lights distract you unless they really are your special, once in a lifetime opportunity.

Choices, risks and opportunities are a part of life, so we need to determine how and when to handle them. The fact that risk exists makes it interesting. The fact that opportunity exists makes it worth pursuing. The fact that choice exists makes it our responsibility.

Your goal: Analyze your opportunities. Don’t be afraid to make a choice and take a risk to get what you really want. If you really want it, then the risk is worth it, right?


Related Reading Becoming a Risk Taker.

Leadership Now Risk Quotes

Taking a risk gives you the competitive edge.

Life Optimizer: Create your life plan.

Christine Kane: How to Make a Vision Board

You know what…just Google “risk taking” “life plan” and “vision board” and you’ll find all kinds of great articles!


2 thoughts on “Sticking to the Plan–i.e. Choices, Opportunities, & Risks

  1. Caitlin,

    I’m really into the law of attraction, so I think it’s great that you discussed vision boards in this post. They definitely help us focus on what we really want.

    I like how you said that there are risks with either choice. Personally, my approach is to do my best to go for what I really want. Over the long term, this has made me so much happier.

    I’m 38 now, but I know what it feels like to not have everything figured out in my 20s. I did really well in school, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to pursue. A couple of months after I graduated in late 1996, I went on a six-week trip to Europe. And then about a year after I graduated college, I decided to write the first version of my book (The Supermanager is the 5th version). I moved out to Denver (ironically), got a job to pay the bills, and started working on the first version of the book.

    I lived in Denver, Chicago, Los Angeles between late 1997 and late 2004. I worked in lots of temp jobs in Chicago and Los Angeles. And I learned so much from all of the experiences that I had in those jobs. It’s a great way to try out companies and managers. While the pay isn’t usually great, it feels good to work and people who do well usually get promoted anyway.

    Whatever you decide to do, I hope you go for what you really want. And I think it’s OK to just test things out for a while. I believe there is too much pressure put on people who graduate college to have everything figured out right when they graduate. Sometimes people need to experiment and try a few jobs out before they find something that they really connect with.

    If it were me, I’d do my best to follow my passion, follow my excitement, experiment, not worry about if it takes some time to figure everything out, and not worry about having the “perfect” job so it sounds good to other people when you tell them about it.

    • Hi Greg!

      Thanks for the advice–I completely agree, which was why I wrote the post I guess. We all want to live well, but get hung up on the idea of “right” and “wrong” choices, “safe/smart” and “risky/wild” choices. I don’t want to say we learn from our mistakes (which we do), but rather that we learn from all our choices, and if it doesn’t work out in the long run that doesn’t mean it was a mistake. I completely agree that following your happiness is the best option. How can you go wrong with that?

      As usual, it’s good hear from you, Greg. I appreciate the advice and hope others can glean from it too!


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