7 Reasons We Avoid New Opportunities

Avoiding opportunity

Over this past weekend, a group of colleagues and I volunteered our time to provide coaching conversations to a group of men at the Pacific Garden Mission (homeless shelter) in Chicago.

I was one of the first coaches to arrive at the location, so I took on the responsibility of gathering twenty men from a lounge area to join my team for this coaching opportunity.

As I walked into this room, I visually counted about 200 – 250 men. My initial reaction to seeing so many men, was a concern that the response for a free one on one coaching session would be overwhelming. However, that concerned was quickly quelled when I began to share the details about the opportunity verbally and noticed that the men barely acknowledged my presence.

I stood in front of these men somewhat baffled.
Here I am, offering an opportunity that most people would pay good money to receive, for free, and there is no movement.

Then it hit me…
Of course these men won’t move, they’re bound by the same reasons most humans use to avoid new opportunities.

After that epiphany, I began to openly share all the reasons a grown man wouldn’t explore an opportunity for change in his life, and as I named off each reason, a few men began to stir and come to the front of the room.

After a minute or two, twenty men finally volunteered for coaching, while the other men in that room, remained shackled by one or more of the 7 reasons we use to avoid new opportunity.

1. Current circumstance

One of the major barriers for engaging new opportunities is the circumstance. Circumstance has a way of showing up in a variety of different ways. Here are a few:

  • Not enough time
  • Something happened
  • Something didn't happen
  • What someone did to you
  • What someone didn't do for you

...and plenty more.

All these things fall into the realm of circumstances, that we allow to prevent our access to a world of new and wonderful possibilities.

2. Our present comfort...

Opportunity is often in opposition to comfort. Opportunity is new and unpredictable; it often requires a decision to abandon our current comfort zone. That is tough to do when 'more of the same' seems so safe and predictable. Phenomenal opportunities have been lost, because many of us were seduced by the illusion of safety in our present comfort.

Disappointment is a feeling and feelings don't last.
Disappointment is a feeling and feelings don't last.

3. Avoiding disappointment...

In the book, "The Unfolding", Price Pritchett points out the following:

"Research shows that human beings have a far greater sensitivity to losses than gains. In fact, losses carry twice the psychological impact of gains. So when we assess the potential risks associated  with uncertainty, our short-term gamble will normally be warped. We'll much prefer to take risks that might avoid a possible loss than take risks to achieve a possible gain. To put it another way, we're far more concerned about what uncertainty (opportunity) might take from us than what good it might bring."

4. Self-protection

We've all been hurt, harmed or taken advantage of, in some way or another. These unfortunate happenings haven't always been a result of opportunity; but somehow we feel like we must protect ourselves from unknown sources of pain, by avoiding any new opportunities. It's as if opportunity itself has caused all of our misfortunes to befall us, when in essence our pains have been cause by so much more, than opportunities that seemed to back-fire.

5. We Want To Maintain Control

Many of us live in the illusion that we can control the things that we think we know. Thus, anything new comes with a level of unpredictability that causes us to steer clear of the entire vicinity. Opportunity, by its very nature is new. Therefore to explore an opportunity would mean consequently giving up the story we tell ourselves that we our in control. Unfortunately, the story of control is so strong with some of us, we remained trapped in a tiny space of predictability, with the sole purpose to stay safe. The sad thing is, you are no safer in that tiny space than you are in a gigantic world of opportunity.

6. We dislike vulnerability...

Opportunity makes us vulnerable. The newness of opportunity exposes us to a plethora of circumstances, situations and information that we may not know. Taking advantage of an opportunity can often leave us defenseless and outside the safety of the fence that encompasses our comfort zones. While these truths can seem disconcerting, it's important to remember that in this place is where most of the world's most successful human beings have found there magic!

Fear is a liar.
Fear is a liar.

7. Fear

We avoid new opportunities simply because they're scary. All seven of the reasons I just shared, about why we avoid new opportunities, are scary. Fear is typically the underlying reason for almost any decisions we make to keep our lives at status quo. So how do we conquer this humongous beast? Well, Will Smith summed it up perfectly in his recent movie, "After Earth".

Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity. Do not misunderstand me, danger is very real, but fear is a choice.”


After my colleagues and I finished our coaching sessions with the homeless men at Pacific Garden Mission, a couple of the men approached me to share how valuable the time we spent with them had been. One of these men said, "I can't believe I almost let what other people thought about me getting up, make me stay in my seat."

I'm sure walking back into that lounge after having had an empowering experience, that man could care less if he was ridiculed for his decision to join the others for this mysterious opportunity. That opportunity made a difference for him, and that's what really matters.

I suppose the eighth point could be; what other people think.

What other reasons do you have for why either you or someone you know has avoided opportunity?

What opportunity are you currently evaluating and what has you stuck?

Feel free to share and/or reach out to get some support, and as always stay inspired, it's a lifestyle choice!

About the Author:

Linal Harris
Global Entrepreneur - Certified Life Coach - Media Personality - Speaker


Linal Harris is a global entrepreneur, certified life coach, author, and media personality. As the founder of Inspirational Perspective® Publishing, LLC and Insights 4 Life™ Coaching, LLC, Harris challenges his global audience and coaching clients to Murder Mediocrity® and live their best life possible. Harris concentrates his work as an ontological coach with clients on what he calls the 4 pillars of life; the relationship we have to ourselves, the relationships we have with others, our relationship to work and money, and the connection we have to our spirit and life's purpose. Harris coaches CEO's, executives, entrepreneurs, athletes and celebrities. Harris is the author of "Slay Your Goals”, where he provides his readers with scientific and research backed tips for achieving their goals. Harris is an expert goal-setter and has been called upon by Fortune 500 companies to assist with setting their strategic priorities, facilitate goal-setting sessions and provide inspirational talks.

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