Have you ever sat in a meeting or a difficult conversation and listened to yourself - more attuned to your language and word choice than you typically are? I facilitated one such meeting today and realized I have a serious propensity for overusing the word "opportunity."
I don't know if it's the promise and hope that the word embodies or the positive re-framing that the phrase "growth opportunity" lends to an otherwise demoralizing word such as "weakness," but in any case, I overuse it - a lot.
I reflected on my word choices this evening and decided, with renewed commitment, to continue overusing the word "opportunity." Here's why:
Our brains are programmed to more readily accept positive experiences - those that make us feel welcomed, heard, and accepted. Framing weaknesses in terms of growth opportunities emphasizes our potential in a strength-based and solution-oriented way rather than one centered squarely on deficits. I don't know about you, but I am more likely to leap at an opportunity rather than address a weakness any day. Even if I am responding to the same skill or mindset gap, this simple turn of phrase or positive narration completely reshapes the way in which I approach the experience.
The word "opportunity" inspires possibility. It enables us to see our potential beyond our current position and the steps we might take to get there. It not only ignites our actions, it propels them. When we share with someone, "I really want you to seriously consider this opportunity," they feel valued and dig in deep to the work. The impossible suddenly feels possible.
Opportunities are typically joint experiences - ones we enjoy with others. In contrast, weaknesses or areas of need can often feel isolating and lonely - a road we travel alone. Most of us would much rather grow in collaboration with a thought partner and support system than trod the path solo. Opportunities feel more like adventures than solo missions.
So without apology, I will continue to overuse the word "opportunity" for the positivity it embodies, the joyful moments it inspires, and the people it connects. Bring on the next opportunity!!