How Do You Know if an Opportunity Isn't for You?

Our society instills in us the need to take advantage of every opportunity. However, not every door that opens is the right one. How do you know which opportunities don't suit you and it's better to let pass? We take a look.
How Do You Know if an Opportunity Isn't for You?
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

We all tend to live focused on the idea that we shouldn’t let opportunities pass us by. In fact, we think that those who hesitate and stop and think are indecisive and lacking in courage. It seems that we live in a reality where we’re forced to act quickly and make decisions at the speed of light without weighing up the possible consequences.

However, nothing requires as much deep introspection and analysis as making decisions. Furthermore, there are some doors that simply shouldn’t be opened and bridges that it’s better not to cross. Indeed, just as you sometimes might regret not ever having taken the first step, you can just as easily feel bad for throwing yourself into the abyss without thinking first.

This is an all too common experience. Your first impulse is almost always to take a risk. You’re scared that you’ll later regret it, be criticized, and feel bad about yourself if you don’t grab every opportunity by the horns.

On the other hand, thinking and reflecting is an art in which you must enable yourself. Therefore, let’s take a look at what you should do when you’re faced with an opportunity.

“The only way to be sure of catching a train is to miss the one before it.” 

-G.K. Chesterton-

Person thinking about when an opportunity is not for you
When evaluating an opportunity, we must think about whether it fits our most important objectives.

How to find out if an opportunity isn’t for you

You’ve probably been instilled with the idea that nothing is as costly and reprehensible as a missed opportunity. However, those who don’t take a second to think carefully about the opportunity in front of them may end up rushing and possibly making the wrong decision. For example, you might leave one job for another and, in the end, be left without a job at all.

Nobody has a crystal ball. You can’t predict what’ll happen after making your decision. Nevertheless, if your decision is in tune with your objectives and values, the cost of your possible error will be lower. Remember, you’re not a professional risk analyst, most of the time you’re a juggler, juggling with your luck and destiny.

If you have adequate techniques at hand for analyzing each opportunity, you’ll leave less room for chance. In fact, the chances of your choice being successful will always be a little higher. So let’s take a look at the keys to recognizing when an opportunity isn’t for you.

Before taking advantage of or discarding an opportunity, you must give yourself time to analyze what’s behind the proposal.

Is it in tune with your goals?

When weighing up a proposal, be it work, personal, or of any other nature, you should assess whether it’s in tune with your life goals. To do this, ask yourself the following questions:

  • If I accept this opportunity, where will it take me? Is what I have to do or what’s expected of me linked to my short- and long-term goals?

In 1920, sociologist, Max Weber coined the term, ‘life opportunities’. They define those situations that can improve your well-being and self-realization. In other words, the doors that open to you must allow you to satisfy your needs.

For example, say your goal is to become a leader in your company but you get promoted to a position where you won’t have a chance to show off your leadership skills. It’s probably best to turn it down. In this situation, it’s the variable with the greatest weight that you must take into account.

Does it fit your values?

Now you’ve assessed whether the opportunity fits your own objectives, you need to work out if it fits your values.

A value is a dimension with which you identify yourself and in which you believe. For instance, if you’re offered a job with a higher salary, but whose responsibilities aren’t in tune with what defines you as a person, you won’t feel good in that position.

Personal values are the fundamental pillars on which your beliefs, vision of the world, and vital priorities are based. When making any decision, you must always bear them in mind.

What would it cost you to lose the opportunity?

When it comes to knowing whether an opportunity isn’t for you, you must consider what the cost would be to you if you let it pass. How would your reality change? Would the cost of letting it go be greater than the cost of accepting it and having it go wrong?

You should also take into account something mentioned in a study conducted by the Universities of Arkansas and Ohio. They claimed that regret is greater when we know that certain opportunities won’t present themselves again. This means you should ask yourself what the chances are that in the future you’ll have a similar opportunity.

When you have an interesting possibility of change in front of you, think about the following: in ten years’ time, will you regret not having accepted this opportunity?

girl on the road thinking about when an opportunity is not for you
If you’re thinking of taking a risk and seizing an opportunity, it’s a good idea to ask yourself if you might get the same chance in the future.

When an opportunity isn’t for you, practice acceptance

Gabriel García Márquez said that life is nothing more than a succession of opportunities to survive. This is a suitable, inspiring, and powerful image to keep in mind. Because, although it’s true that during your life you’ll let many chances of change pass you by, others will always come.

It’s important to know how to accept each circumstance, including those opportunities that aren’t suitable at certain times. Instead of obsessing over whether or not you were wrong, focus on the here and now. Concentrate on what surrounds you. In fact, it’s sometimes better to stay where you are so you can build momentum for your next opportunity.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Beike DR, Markman KD, Karadogan F. What We Regret Most Are Lost Opportunities: A Theory of Regret Intensity. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 2009;35(3):385-397. doi:10.1177/0146167208328329
  • Papé, L., Martinez, L.F. Past and future regret and missed opportunities: an experimental approach on separate evaluation and different time frames. Psicol. Refl. Crít. 30, 20 (2017).

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.