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Susan R. Hatten Headshot

The Opportunity Factor

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We've all had opportunities in our lifetime. Some of these we have chosen to take, and some we have let pass us by. It is usually not until after the unseized moment has lapsed that we realize when an opportunity should have been plucked from the universe.

Without regret. These two words are often coveted and overused in social settings, where I would venture to guess that many who use this duo have more regrets than they would ever admit.

The 2008 film Slumdog Millionaire features the story of Jamal Malik, a young boy growing up in India, managing extreme circumstances, frightening encounters and up against some difficult odds, when his life changes and he appears on the Indian version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" During his adventures in India, Jamal chose to pay attention to cues that were offered to him throughout his life's journey. Jamal also seized opportunities as they came about, when he easily could have chosen safer -- and more impervious -- options.

Due to Jamal's strategic vision (mixed with a bit of adrenaline and his pure drive to survive), he answered all questions correctly during his game show stint.

I recall the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books of the 1980's, and remember fondly the moment of choice at each chapter's close. I've never been swift about making punctual decisions, so these bench-marking forks often caused me to pause, hesitate and painstakingly evaluate my options.

Oftentimes, if you take a hard and fast look at the build of your family tree, you can easily identify where your decision-making skills were rooted. Mine have been shaped and molded by my parents. My father was more experiential -- though still strategic -- than my mother, who has historically been incredibly risk-averse. My mother has yet to ever order anything online, for fear of her identity being jeopardized due to credit card fraud. Point made.

During a professional development training earlier this year I was introduced to Allison and Scott Pope, founders of the "Make or Break Minute (R)" methodology. It was through their training that I began to understand how this crucial moment (or minute) can be in every aspect of your life.

Decision-making is a skill and a carefully crafted art, if you will. Very few opportunities allow us to ponder how we will respond, answer, or reply. If you review your daily routine, just think of how many moments required you to make an on-point decision.

Snooze button or early rise. Cream or sugar. Respond to client via email or phone. Pay bill now or delay. Reply-all to Board email or single out individual. One more Hershey's Kiss or halt. Re-Tweet article or too controversial.

As I grow older and become more attune to how I manage situations, I am also becoming more skilled in my decision-making. The act of listening and honing in on nonverbal cues is absolutely imperative as you navigate your opportunity moments. I've often been a culprit of lacking true presence in situations. My mind always wanders to the next moment; a 3 p.m. Skype call, what shoes to wear with my satin romper, etc. Tisk, tisk.

Evaluating my senses has led me to better understand how to capitalize on opportunity factors. How we listen to, mentally process and immediately evaluate any given situation can lead to making -- or breaking -- an opportunity and, ultimately, our direction in life.

Never did I think that the premise of the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books would one day become a platform for my self-evaluation, but it seems the 1980's were good for something.