Say Yes: 5 Ways to Assess Opportunities

By Kristen Harris

Ever heard that phrase “a big part of life is just showing up”? Even more so, I believe a big part of life is saying “Yes”. Showing up is important, but it’s really just a minimum requirement. It just means you’ll be there when opportunities come up. 

To maximize those opportunities and really take advantage of what comes your way, you have to say yes. A lot. Sometimes even when you’d rather say no. If you don’t reach out and grab an opportunity when it’s in front of you, it will pass you by and go to someone else. 

I’ve said yes to a lot of things in my life, both large and small. And, let’s be honest, some didn’t turn out to be so great. Later I wished I’d said no to a few. But each one took me somewhere new, led to the next opportunity, and the one after that. And that is how a life, a career, and an impact are built. 

I’ve said yes to freelance projects, new jobs, promotions, changes in responsibility, starting a business, board positions, and change that I knew would be hard. And I’ve been rewarded with a lifetime of experiences, growth, learning, friends, and the ability to impact others and my community. 

Often we have to say yes to opportunities, ideas or situations without knowing where it will go. In fact, this is most often the case. We usually have no idea where things will lead, but have to decide quickly whether we’re on board or not. It’s a leap of faith, but you can be thoughtful about it. 

Here are a few tips on how to assess an opportunity:

1. Do your research. Talk to trusted family, friends, and advisors about the idea. Ask people who have different experiences and points of view. Get the opinions of people who will be honest with you, and not just tell you what you want to hear. 

2. What’s the worst that can happen? Ask the “devil’s advocate” people in your life to poke holes in the idea. What are all the ways this can go wrong? What’s the worst-case scenario, and can you live with it if it happens? (It usually doesn’t).

3. Know the level of risk. Everyone has their own personal risk tolerance. Know what you’re willing to risk and, more importantly, what you’re not willing to risk. If it’s below that bar, maybe you should go for it.

4. Know what you want. Be honest with yourself about what you really want from your job, career, and life. Does this align with your personal goals? Does it get you closer to where you want to be, or take you further from what you really want?

5. Say yes more often. Try saying yes more often. To little things, items with low commitment or low risk. See how it feels. In general, I believe in saying yes more often than no. That doesn’t mean I always say yes to things, because sometimes it’s clearly a bad idea or won’t get me where I want to go. But, if it’s seems like a reasonably good opportunity, and I can live with the risk, I’m inclined to say yes.

If you’ve done all your research, can live with the worst case scenario, and the opportunity aligns with what you want, seriously consider saying yes. Saying no guarantees you’ll stay where you are. Saying yes guarantees nothing, but opens the door wide to new possibilities.