Recently, I had an amazing opportunity arrive in my inbox. Because I participated in last year’s Luminato, a Toronto arts festival, I was invited to be a member of a small rehearsal audience for a highly interactive piece of theatre. It would involve one day in the studio with a brilliant established artist doing innovative work with active audience participation. I looked at that email for a while, weighing all of the priorities of my busy week, juggling all the pieces on my schedule, wondering if I could make it work.
Justin’s reaction? “Just say yes. You LIVE for this stuff.”
And he’s right. Creativity. Vision. Experiences. Engagement. Experimentatipn. I just couldn’t say no. Luckily I had the tools for saying yes!
7 Tips for Saying Yes when Opportunity Knocks
Some of the most amazing experiences I’ve had have come from saying a brave and unwavering yes to unexpected opportunities like this one. In fact, I’ve cultivated some habits that help me seize the moment instead of letting these chances slip into the realm of ‘maybe someday’. Despite being Sagittarius, I’m actually not that good at being spontaneous and that’s why I prepare for it! Let me share my top tips with you.
1. Know What Matters to You
Knowing what’s important to you allows you to recognize a good opportunity when you see it. If this had been free tickets to a sporting event or a chance to learn how to make sushi, it might have been interesting but it wouldn’t have rung out with that loud “THIS IS FOR ME” that means an immediate yes. Knowing yourself and what matters to you allows you to make quick and good decisions about opportunities as they arise.
2. Let Others Know Too
Let your loved ones know the truth of who you are so that they can recognize what matters to you too. This isn’t always easy. Our relationships aren’t always supportive of our dreams. That’s why it’s crucial to develop relationships with at least one or two people who will cheer on the yeses of your soul. Let your people know who you are and what you love. Tell a friend or two or all of them what you’re yearning for. Not only can they be your cheerleaders but they can also keep their eye out for opportunities that will fit you just right!
3. Be Devoted to Your Practice
One of the purposes of practices is to prepare you for ‘show time’. When you regularly show up for your art, for your life, for your self, you maintain a sense of readiness. An actor doesn’t wait for the audition to prepare a monologue. She has one, two, three in her back pocket, ready to go when opportunity knocks. Her voice is strong. Her body limber. She is ready to show up for the work when the work shows up for her. Be devoted to your work. Develop your skills. Be ready to say yes when the moment arrives.
4. Put Yourself in Opportunity’s Way
Have you heard that saying, “What you seek seeks you”? It’s true but so often when we want something deeply, we hole up at home, hiding our desires (sometimes even from ourselves), making wish upon wish that something would happen to move us towards our hopes and dreams. But how is your art, your love, your puppy, your job, your show, your friend supposed to find you? Go to a class or a meetup. Be seen! Sign up for a newsletter – and read it. (That’s how I got the dance audition.) Send a letter. Make a call. Start somewhere.
5. Failure Isn’t Failure
There are no guarantees when you say yes. Sometimes we think that the results should match the bravery or effort we put in but it doesn’t always work that way (at least not directly). You may audition and not get the part. You may go to class and get discouraged. But direct results aren’t the only results worth having! You’ve gained experience, wisdom and maybe even a great story. You’ve tuned your inner compass. I know it isn’t easy but use the experience to move you forward. Turn every experience into a win.
6. Learn from Experience
You can do that by letting all of your experiences grow you as an artist. Take the time to lock in your learning by journaling out all of your insights and observations (or talking them out if you have a friend, colleague or coach). If it was hard, release your feelings onto the page. Process it all. I always take time after a class or artistic adventure to go to a coffee shop and write, write, write. I don’t want to lose a drop of that learning. I want to think it through. Try it on. Turn it over. Take it deeper. Be clear on my own thoughts and reactions. Then I can put it down and rest, trusting that all that I’ve learned is steeping into my creative soul.
7. Develop Self-Trust
When you can trust yourself to show up, when you know that you can tend to your needs whatever happens, it’s easier to say yes to opportunities, even challenging ones. You learn to trust that if an opportunity turns sour, you can manage it and if it is extraordinary, you can manage that too. You lay the foundations of self-trust in your practice and you deepen it by taking it ‘off the mat’. When you risk saying yes to something you truly want and you play it out, you build a confidence that in time will become unshakable.
When it comes to these habits and your creative life, no effort is wasted. Whether opportunities show up or not, being clear on what matters, having supportive relationships, devoting yourself to practice, putting your energy out in the world, developing resilience, actively learning and building self-trust will serve you well. Start today.
You never know what is going to happen but what you will know is that you are ready to say yes.
Bonus Tip: Leave Room for Magic
We often fill our schedules to the brim, piling on more to-dos than can reasonably be achieved by a regular human person. When opportunities show up, instead of feeling excited, we feel overwhelmed. We only see two options available – say no or let something drop – and neither of those feels right or good. Instead, make it a habit to leave a little room for magic. Create some space on your calendar so you have flexibility. Pare down your to-do list so there is room for the unexpected. (This is good for both opportunities and emergencies.) Get out of the habit of overextending yourself so that you have energy and presence to share.