By Jeremy Godwin
What is opportunity? How do you turn challenges and tough times into opportunities to grow? That’s what I’m talking about this week on… Let’s Talk About Mental Health, the weekly podcast full of practical advice for better mental health.
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This podcast episode was originally released on 20 February, 2022.
Hello and welcome to Episode 119, I’m Jeremy Godwin and thanks so much for joining me!
This week I’m talking about opportunity and I’ll be covering what opportunity is, why focusing on opportunity matters, and how to identify and create opportunities in your life. So, let’s talk!
In last week’s episode about trauma I made a reference to Billy Ocean’s 1985/1986 single When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going (because long song titles were really popular in the 80’s for some reason!) and I’m bringing it up here again for two reasons: number one, it’s one of my top five favourites from that decade, and number two, it has a lyric that I think is a good way to start this episode off; the line is, “I’m gonna put this dream in motion, I never let nothing stand in my way.”
Now, completely ignoring the fact that ‘never let nothing stand in my way’ is a double-negative (which means they cancel one another out, but you’re not here for an English lesson), the intention of that lyric is to say that you get to choose whether or not you see an obstacle in front of you or an opportunity; there will inevitably be roadblocks in life which require you to take detours, and quite often those diversions will be more complicated and take a lot longer than you might have expected, but they can also serve to lead you to new places that you might never have explored otherwise.
Difficult experiences and situations can be quite confronting and it can be easy to focus on the problem rather than potential solutions, especially since we human beings tend to have a bit of a bias towards the negative as a form of self-protection, but here’s the thing: life will inevitably present you with difficult times and tough circumstances, yet even from the darkest of days there is still opportunity to be discovered (and created) so that you can grow little by little… and that is what helps you to be the very best version of yourself possible. I know it’s a cliché to say this, but diamonds are formed under extreme pressure over a very long period of time… so, out of tough times we can actually create something new and beautiful.
OK, let’s cover off on some definitions and let’s talk about…
What is opportunity?
According to the Oxford Dictionary, opportunity is “a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something.” It’s very closely related to ‘possibility’ and I have to say that the word ‘possibility’ is possibly one of my absolute favourites, because it reminds us that virtually anything is achievable with enough time, effort and perseverance; you can have, do and be anything you want… with patience, and with hard work.
Every single one of us is born with a unique set of circumstances and while some might seem to have it easier than others, most people are battling their own challenges and difficulties in life. We all experience loss, sorrow, setbacks and disappointment from time to time — because that’s just part of the human condition — however whether or not you are able to see opportunities to grow in amongst even the most challenging times is not fixed; you can absolutely do things that will help to shift your focus more towards opportunity and I’ll talk about how to do that in a few minutes. First, however, let’s talk about…
Why focusing on opportunity matters
And it matters because from great adversity comes great opportunity… and being able to recognise that helps to shift your focus away from the problem or challenge so that you can make your peace with it and look for positive ways to move forward. I mean, look, when we’re talking about really traumatic situations you’re hardly likely to immediately begin skipping merrily towards a fairytale future (and, by the way, I covered how to manage trauma last week in Episode 118), but making progress begins with making choices about where your focus will go: whether you focus on the negative or the positive is up to you, however what you focus on will then influence more and more of what you focus on over time. I don’t think anybody in the entire history of the world has ever overcome setbacks and challenges in life by getting sucked into a downward spiral of negative thinking, because when that happens it becomes virtually impossible to find positive solutions and so that type of negativity winds up sucking the life out of you.
Dwelling on problems leads to stress, burnout, anxiety, negative thinking and lower life satisfaction. Pivoting your focus towards solutions takes all of that negative stuff and turns it into positive, because that’s when you begin to identify opportunities. It’s one of the main reasons why I started this show in late 2019; I wanted to find a way to turn my own challenges with depression and anxiety and turn that stuff into something positive so it felt like it meant something; doing so meant that I was able to take back a lot of my own power, after 7 or 8 years of feeling like my life had been derailed following my breakdown. Instead of focusing on the negative and the losses, instead I chose to turn that into something tangible and use it to push myself forward… and now I get to do what I love each week here on my podcast and over on my YouTube channel (which is linked in the episode description, by the way, and the content there is different to what I share here).
From adversity comes opportunity; obstacles are opportunities. Why? Because they force you to look at things differently, they push you completely out of your comfort zone, and they help you to see what you might not have otherwise seen (or even been looking for). When things are safe and comfortable it’s hard to find the push necessary to shake things up so we can grow, and while I certainly wouldn’t wish challenging and difficult times on anyone I’m not going to pretend that they don’t also serve to drag us kicking and screaming into new places… whether or not that’s a good thing is up to you.
You create your own opportunities; nobody is going to do it for you and nobody is going to turn your challenges into opportunities… only you can do that (although you can definitely work with a professional like a therapist, counsellor or coach who can help you to sift through things so that you can identify areas to focus on — and I highly recommend that; I have said many times in this show that I have no shame in admitting that I work with a therapist myself each week and I also have a coach I meet with every two weeks to help me make the progress I want to professionally).
So how do you do that? How do you create your own opportunities? Well, let’s get into the how-to part of this week’s episode and let’s talk about…
How to identify and create opportunities in your life
Alright, so my first tip is…
Decide what you want for your future — because if you don’t know where you’re headed, how can you know what steps to take to get there? By this I mean to have a clear idea of what your priorities are (which I covered back in Episode 3) and to have a broad idea of the things you want to achieve in terms of creating a life for yourself that feels satisfying (and I talked about satisfaction in Episode 110). I’m not talking about material things here; as I covered in Episode 111 about abundance, true wealth is measured in terms of feeling good about who you are and what you do with your life. For example, my main goal with this show is to provide meaningful and practical content that can be easily accessed by anyone regardless of their financial status, because I know how hard it was to find quality resources that didn’t cost a fortune when I was struggling with my own mental health a few years ago. And beyond that, I know that I’ve never felt happier than I have since leaving the city to move to the countryside, so my focus on opportunities are about how I marry those two things: being able to do work I love, which feels meaningful and helpful to others, while living a simple life in an area I love. Those are two deliberately broad things to focus on because that gives plenty of room for me to identify opportunities and try new things along the way, since I cannot control anything other than what I do and say. Figure out what it is that you want broadly for your own future and use that to then guide yourself towards where you might be able to identify opportunities to make that happen little by little. OK, next…
Start with some emotional CPR — and by this I mean to confront, process and release your emotions and thoughts around adversity. If you’re prone to focusing on the roadblock rather than the opportunity, then it’s time to look at how you can turn your mindset towards more positive thinking patterns. I talked about how to do that in both Episode 31 (about mindset) and Episode 90 (about positivity), which I encourage you to explore (the audio and full transcripts are available on my website at letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au and that’s linked in the episode description); however one of the main ways that you can do that is with my next point, which is…
Focus on solutions — because when you focus your attention onto the problem, you tend to find more problems… whereas when you turn your attention to identifying potential solutions you immediately begin to go into problem-solving mode. There are five simple steps for dealing with virtually any issue: define the problem, identify its causes, identify possible solutions, do one of them, then review how it goes and adapt as necessary. One way to do that is with my next point…
Consider the bigger picture — often we see problems as being things that we need to resolve in order to get back to the way things were… however, sometimes, there is no way of going back because things are constantly evolving and you can either adapt or be left behind. A problem is a sign that it’s time for a new perspective on things. That type of mindset shift does require a lot of thought and consideration so that you are making educated guesses about the best way to respond rather than simply having a knee-jerk reaction which can make things more challenging instead. Let me give you a recent example from my work. I post daily to my two Instagram accounts, @ltamentalhealth and @jeremygodwinofficial, and my focus is on providing content that is simple and which adds value… but my primary focus is on the type of longer-form content I do here on the podcast and in my YouTube videos (although they’re a lot shorter than this podcast!). Anyone who has been on Instagram for any length of time would notice that it has moved much more towards video and the message they have explicitly said to creators (on their own @creators account) is that, effectively, we need to adapt because Instagram is now focused on video rather than still images. Which is great and they can structure their business how they want, but that means a massive amount of change and choices that need to be made about how to approach content on that platform. I have been working through many different options and trying to find an approach that remains simple while also adding value… and that’s something I’m still trying to figure out. But it’s better to make the effort rather than just stay stuck in the way things have always been done, because things evolve and so you either adapt or get left behind; just a couple of decades ago, the camera brand Kodak was one of the biggest brands on the planet… now, I guarantee that very few of you would know what they’re doing today or even if they’re still around (they are, but they’re a shadow of what they once were). When you take a step back to look at the bigger picture of what is going on — like with why video is a bigger focus on social media and what that means for delivering educational content like I do — you become more aware of trends and patterns so that you can stay ahead of changes… and that’s where you get to create your own opportunities. A little bit of vision and foresight goes a very long way, so be proactive about not getting so caught up in clinging on to the way that things once were that you wind up going the way of the dinosaur! OK, so my next point is…
Do the work — because things will very rarely fall into your lap or simply happen because you wish it to; progress takes work, and hard work at that. I mentioned ‘hard work’ specifically because turning anything from idea or possibility into actual reality takes consistent effort, and it’s rarely easy. Over the past two-and-a-bit years that I’ve been doing this, I’ve had a few people try and copy what I do (which I have no issue with, because they can never directly copy what I do!) and I have noticed that most of those attempts fade out after a few weeks or months once they realise the sheer amount of hard work and determination it takes to show up week after week. I do it because I love it and it feels like a rewarding outlet for me, but I’m not going to pretend that there aren’t some weeks that I struggle (which I just talked about in Episode 117, about motivation); I mean, I write four to four and a half thousand words every single week just for this podcast, then you add up the time and effort for social media content plus the scripts and editing for my YouTube channel (not to mention the one-on-one client work that I do) and it’s hard work. But the point I’m making here is that when you see something as being rewarding and that it’s creating opportunities for you now and in the future, it makes it easier to do the work… which is lucky, because doing the work is how you make progress. It would be great if you could just close your eyes and wish for whatever you wanted, but life doesn’t work that way; all things take time, effort and perseverance… and manifestation requires inspired action. Speaking of doing the work, my next point is…
Remember that you, and only you, are responsible for your success — this is going to be a really blunt message but it’s one that I think needs to be said: the world doesn’t owe you anything, and if you want to turn trash into treasure then it’s up to you to do it. Even if somebody wanted to do it for you, like a loving and supportive relative or friend, they just can’t, because only you can create your own progress. Think of it this way: when we go and take our test so we can get our driver’s licence you can get all the help and support in the world leading up to it… but then, when it comes to passing the actual test, you are on your own. Nobody can take that test for you and I don’t know what it’s like in other countries, but in mine (at least) nobody can sit in the car with you and tell you how to do all the things you need to do to pass; your success is 100% on you. Sure, that’s a bit daunting and maybe even overwhelming, but you can either focus in on the fear factor or you can turn that into an opportunity to prove to yourself what you’re made of and just how much you’ve grown… which really does make success taste so much sweeter, because you’ve done it on your own. Speaking of success, I covered that topic back in Episode 74 so you might find that helpful. And now let’s move on to my next point because I want to cover off on the single most important ingredient necessary to achieve any kind of success and it is…
Let yourself make mistakes — you cannot be perfect all the time, because perfect doesn’t exist (which I discussed in Episode 98, about perfectionism), and the reality of life is that you will make mistakes from time to time and you will fail sometimes. So there are two things I need you to be really clear on in order to help you focus on opportunities: (1) If you try to avoid making mistakes, you will be overly cautious which, in turn, will prevent you from trying new things and that will keep you stuck; and (2) mistakes are opportunities to grow. Full stop, end of sentence. In general, if you’re not making a bit of a mess of things every now and then, that means that you’re not taking risks… and without calculated risks, you won’t be able to turn challenges into opportunities. If I had stopped every time I have made a mistake with this show, I would not still be here doing this 119 episodes later (and loving every minute of it, even if it is hard work every week)! I talked about mistakes back in Episode 2 and failure in Episode 84, so check those out for more ideas on how to be comfortable with mistakes. Alright, so my next point is…
Break whatever you’re focusing on into smaller steps — and I say this one quite a lot on this show, which I do because when we try to focus on too much all at once we can quickly become overwhelmed which tends to make it harder to see the potential opportunities from whatever we’re dealing with. Figure out what the smallest possible steps are and then do the thing one step at a time; even small progress is still progress, and because you take your time with it you’re giving yourself a higher chance of succeeding in the long term. Speaking of success, my next point is…
Make things as simple as possible for yourself — sometimes we create our own adversity by over-complicating things unnecessarily. Do whatever you can to make things as easy as possible for yourself because when it’s simpler it’s easier to make progress. I talked about this topic in Episode 63, about simplicity, and you might find that helpful. OK, next…
Remember the four P’s — and they are: planning, proactivity, perseverance and patience. This is fairly straightforward in the sense that they are things you need to remember as you do whatever it is you’re doing: remember that failing to plan is planning to fail, remember that you need to be proactive about realising opportunities, remember that all things take continued effort so you need to persevere, and, finally, remember that all things take time so be patient. Success will definitely not happen overnight, but with consistency and a focus on quality you will absolutely get there. Most of those ‘p’ words I have covered in their own episodes: ‘planning’ in Episode 113, ‘perseverance’ in Episode 51 and ‘patience’ in Episode 64… I haven’t specifically covered proactivity in its own episode however it was the underlying theme of both Episode 106 (about saying yes to possibilities in life) and Episode 100 (about the future), so check some or all of those out for more advice. And that leads to my next point, which is…
Get support — because sometimes all of the perseverance and passion in the world doesn’t change the fact that you have little to no idea what you’re doing or how to approach a problem, and that’s where external support comes in. You can talk with a trusted friend or loved one, or a colleague/manager/mentor at work, or you might decide to work with a professional, like a coach, therapist or counsellor; they can guide you through whatever it is you want to (or need to) focus on and provide you with an objective perspective on things. I have shared openly many, many times that I see a therapist weekly, so I can work through personal stuff early (in order to hopefully work through it and address it while it’s still small, rather than letting it grow into a bigger issue) and I have a coach I meet with every second week so I can focus on how I move forward with my work and also how I turn ideas into opportunities. It might sound like a lot, and it’s not for everyone, but for me it has been the best thing I’ve ever done because it helps to keep me focused on what I want out of each day. So if you find yourself focusing more on adversity than opportunity, or if you’re just having a bit of trouble working out how to get from where you are to where you want to be, find a professional to work with (or at least someone who you trust who can be objective).
Summary and Close-Out
Because when it comes to opportunity and mental health, what it all boils down to is this: Your future is what you make it, and when you choose to see challenges as opportunities — rather than obstacles — you begin to discover new possibilities that you might never have seen otherwise. We’re all going to have difficult times to deal with every now and then, and I’m certainly not saying that setbacks and challenges are a good thing, but the thing is this: you cannot control most of what comes your way in life, but you can definitely control what you choose to do with what happens to you.
The choice is yours, as it is with all things related to your wellbeing… so, what choice will YOU make today?
Each week I like to finish up by sharing a quote about the week’s topic, and I encourage you to take a few moments to really reflect on it and consider what it means to you. This week’s quote is by Henry John Kaiser, and it is:
“Problems are only opportunities in work clothes.”Henry John Kaiser
Alright… that’s nearly it for this week. Next week I’ll be talking about you. In late January 2022 I celebrated a very special milestone here on the podcast by reaching over 1 million plays, which is a massive achievement for an independent program and one that I wanted to celebrate. However I was adamant that I didn’t want that celebration to be about me, since I do this show for you… so I put a call out on my Instagram for your tips and techniques for better mental health, and I received so many fantastic replies that I decided to make an episode all about you wonderful people and your advice for looking after your mental health and wellbeing… so, that’s what I’ll be covering next time!
I hope you’ll join me for that episode, which will be released on Sunday the 27th of February, 2022.
And catch my latest YouTube video on Wednesday over on my Better Mental Health channel; take a moment to subscribe to my channel using the link in the episode description or head to letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au where you can also join my mailing list for my free weekly newsletter (and you’ll find my website also linked in the episode description on whatever podcast service you’re currently listening to me on).
And, as always, find me on Instagram at @ltamentalhealth where I post extra content throughout the week.
Thank you very much for joining me today — look after yourself and make a conscious effort to share positivity and kindness in the world, because you get back what you put out. Take care and talk to you next time!
Let’s Talk About Mental Health is proudly produced by Reconnaissance Media, helping you find gratitude and meaning. For more information visit reconnaissancemedia.com
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Let’s Talk About Mental Health.
Simple ideas for better mental health.
Let’s Talk About Mental Health. © 2022 Jeremy Godwin.
The information provided in this episode is for general awareness on the topic and does not constitute advice. You should consult a doctor and/or a mental health professional if you are struggling with your mental health and wellbeing. You’ll find additional information on the Resources page of this website.