Opportunities vs. obligations



We all to do activities that we do not like once in a while. Someone has to wake up early in the morning to go to work, while staying in bed did not sound like a bad idea. However, not going to work is not an option because then they wouldn’t even have a bed to begin with.  

Another might have to pick up his partner from work every Tuesday, while the sports match is on and they do not want to miss it. But otherwise his partner has to walk alone in the dark at night and that is not something he would like.

Or maybe you wanted to go work out, but then you realised that there is no food to make dinner with at home and now you have to go to the supermarket to get groceries. If you don’t do it, no one will, and then there would be no dinner!

In all these examples I am describing a feeling of ‘I have to’ and not ‘I want to’. These examples might not sound familiar to you, but you might be able to think of some examples that you experience once in a while. When you want to do something, but then you are almost obligated to do something else. This would change your whole attitude wouldn’t it? You might go from being in a happy state to an annoyed state in merely a matter of seconds. Now why is that and what can we do about it?

‘It’s through curiosity and looking at opportunities in new ways that we’ve always mapped our path’
– Michael Dell

During a podcast I heard something interesting. They were discussing the differences between feeling obliged to do something or seeking the opportunities in it. As the title says, my focus during this blog will be obligations and opportunities. Now what do these concepts mean? In the dictionary you will find the definition of the word ‘opportunity’ and ‘obligation’.

Opportunity means: ‘a good position, chance, or prospect, as for advancement or success’. An opportunity is then a favourable moment or condition that allows you to attain a goal. Obligation is something else. The definition of Obligation is: ‘something by which a person is bound or obliged to do certain things, and which arises out of a sense of duty or results from custom, law, etc.’ An obligation is something that needs to be done for such reasons.

If we look a bit deeper into them, we can see that when we look at situations from a perspective of opportunity, we might be more intrinsically motivated to do them. Intrinsic motivation is a stronger and long-term type of motivation. If we go to work because we feel obligated, this is a type of extrinsic motivation, which might work wonders in the short-run, however, at a certain point that motivation wears off and now your bed really does look more interesting than going to work.

If you go to work because you have to, it becomes an obligation. If you don’t show up you get fired, so you have to go! This mindset will help you tremendously to focus on the negative aspects of your work.

‘A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds’
– Francis Bacon

If you, however, can make that shift in mindset that you go to work because you want to, you experience work as an opportunity to learn and grow, or as a place in which you can earn money to do other things, other possibilities. You’ll have more drive to go to work, because there is progress in the opportunities. As the definition mentions there are more chances for advancement. There is no sensation of feeling stuck.    

Everything you have to do is a new opportunity for you to learn something and grow from it. Even the ‘obligations’ are opportunities. It is not about looking in new places, but more about taking of your ‘obligatory’ goggles and putting on the opportunity ones.

This means that when you have to do something you feel obligated to do, try to change your mindset about it! You might start to notice new opportunities and experience might not be so bad after all.

If you would like to share your story and/or insights, or if you know someone who would want to, please let me know! You can send me a message or an e-mail. More contact information can be found hereLet’s grow together.

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