While introducing me to a gathering of young and aspiring managers, the speaker said: “He used the opportunities before him so well in his life and that is the secret of his success. One needs to be an ‘opportunist’ like him”. The first sentence amused me and the second one bewildered me. Knowing the ‘language proficiency’ of the speaker, I understood what he really meant! But the word opportunist lingered in my mind during the entire session and I pondered over it to comprehend how important it is for a person to be an opportunist in this world to be successful.
The word opportunist has a very negative connotation. The MS Word has a stock of synonyms: Freebooter, Speculator, Buccaneer, Swashbuckler, Chancer, Carpetbagger, Fortune hunter etc. There is only one positive meaning given there. That is ‘entrepreneur’.
An opportunist grabs an opportunity aggressively. He is ready to snatch it from other potential competitors. In its negative sense, the person uses all possible means, including unethical ways, to get what he wanted. They become unpopular and their greediness will not have any end.
But in its positive sense, an opportunist is a person who is an opportunity user or 'utilizer'. This is a better term than opportunity seeker. He is always alert to discover the ways and means that can take him closer to his goals. For this purpose, he does not bypass someone deliberately. He does not thwart someone’s effort to reach the same goal as his. He explores the ways that can facilitate a quicker movement towards fulfilling his goals. He looks around and finds that life has given diverse opportunities in a platter for him to excel.
Our creator is just and there are enough ways open before every human being irrespective his ascribed status or current circumstances provided there is a will to pursue that. The strides in the pursuit of utilizing the opportunities are small, simple and easily replicable. In this article let me focus on one of the many stepping stones. That is the utilization of our time.
When we travel in a nonstop vehicle called time, we encounter several opportunities on our way. It is our decision to take the vehicle through the best or worst opportunities that determines our comfortable early arrival at the chosen destination. The vehicle runs automatically in a constant pace for everyone in the world whether he is a Prime Minister, fastest sprinter, or a farmer in a remote village. But it is we who drive the vehicle of time decide on its course.
I practice successfully for many years a process called ‘time audit’ every night before going to sleep. The audit starts with an exhaustive recall of the moments of that day and what I did in those minutes. I evaluate how much of the available time I was creative, how much of the time I was re-creative and how much of the time I simply wasted. One could categorize them as creative, re-creative, and destructive.
Examples of creative use of time could be a) helping someone, b) applying creativity in work and producing something new, c) completion of a long pending domestic work, d) setting in order the cluttered stuff in the virtual and real realms, e) writing an article, f) reading a book, watching a high quality program or a movie that motivates us to be creative, g) doing physical exercise properly, h) going for a refreshing walk with your partner or family etc. Even taking a short afternoon nap (some people call it power nap) after many hours of creative work can also be a creative activity as that would revitalize the body and mind. A creative person spends most part of his time on similar activities as described above.
Examples of re-creative activity includes enjoying entertainment programs created or presented by others, long activity sessions in social networking sites and instant messengers, watching live or recorded matches etc. These are not creative utilization of time unless we derive any skill, knowledge or experience or gain a positive attitude from the above activities or such activities soothe our mind and make us enthusiastic to do creative work. A creative person spends less time on the above.
There are many examples of what we can call ‘destructive’ activity. (The word destructive is used here in comparison to the word creativity.) The first and foremost one is the activity of listening or sharing gossips or negative comments about someone else. Spending considerable time with toxic people- those who are cynical, sarcastic, pessimistic and cunning would be destructive. Lazy, lethargic and laidback attitudes and consequent behavioral patterns would convert us to perennial deadbeats. Such type of people indulge in long sleep (also extended hours of day nap), unnecessary and aimless wandering, repeated indulgence (like watching the same movie or match again and again, continuous parties without a break, attending events or functions that do not require the presence etc.)
One should devise his or her own strategies to spend more time for creative activity, less time on re-creative activity and least time on ‘destructive’ activity. After every creative work, you will find that your batteries are recharged faster and you enjoy more peace and happiness. You will instantly carry a positive vibe and the confidence and satisfaction you gain from a creative activity would result in better behaviour with people around you. On the contrary, after spending too much time on a re-creating or ‘destructive’ activity you will feel guilty and your behavior with others become petty and less impressive.
We should try to utilize the time even when we are on the move. I catch up with my reading and writing work while travelling in a train or flight. If the official travel during the day is to a destination that can be reached in less than six hours, I opt to travel by train rather than flight. I always felt that I am more creative in a moving train as my thoughts take a comfortable pace along with the train. Most of my articles are the products of train journeys and long waits at the airport lounges (this article is an example!). I avoid sleeping during the day time travel. I used to see some people sleeping during the entire travel. What a waste of time! They could pick up a few books, magazines or a reader device like kindle and read rather than wasting time in sleep. Even watching a good movie in the laptop during the train journey or spending time in prayer or meditation would be better utilization of time during a day-time train journey rather than sleeping all along.
Mobile phones are ubiquitous now and people can’t live without it. People spend substantial amount of time on the smartphones. One needs to evaluate how much of that time is used for unproductive purposes. Apart from using the internet in smartphones just for messaging and social networking, one could engage in creative reading, writing and planning even when we wait at salon, restaurant, clinic or transport stations. But that should be done only when we finish with enjoying the nature and surroundings and interacting with people around us. We should not become an inanimate object wired to the smart devices with scant regard to whatever happening around us.
More on other stepping stones later!
© Sibichen K Mathew
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