That Once-In-a-Lifetime Opportunity: Does it Really Exist?

Can we talk about that “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” for a moment?

We hear this a lot, and it’s all really exciting, but I want to pick it apart a little bit.

“Once-in-a-lifetime” things are electric. They give us butterflies in our stomachs. They feel as though, if we play our cards just right, we will go places and experience things that we couldn’t otherwise.

    Thus, we feel compelled to say yes to:

  • that job,
  • that project,
  • this risk,
  • that trip,
  • that guy/girl,
  • that client, etc.


… all because they are “once-in-a-lifetime opportunities”.

After we say yes, we enter into these situations with an incredible amount of pressure. We tell ourselves, “You’d better make this count!” or “If you screw this up, there’s no recovery!” But who can perform well under that kind of pressure? And if (heaven forbid) it doesn’t work out, there can be all kinds of regret about missing out, loosing out, or messing things up. After all, it’s called a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” because it only happens once, right?

Well, here’s the deal: That “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” is not what we tend to think it is. I’m learning more and more that life doesn’t work like that.

Sure (don’t get me wrong), there certainly are opportunities that are incredibly unique and distinct in their particular flavor; there may not ever be another other like it.

But when we talk about “once-in-a-lifetime” it is often in a fatalistic and singular way, as if it’s the only way to get from point A to point B. We think that between where we are and what we want to go is a chasm which only this “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity bridges.

The “once-in-a-lifetime” event at hand, whatever it may be, is only one of many ways across. It may be the most obvious, most present, and the most appealing right now, but it’s almost certainly not the only way to get where we want to go.

So take the risk when it makes sense.
It it doesn’t work out, know that (as the saying goes), “there’s more than one way to skin a cat.” (Gross, but true.) So let’s keep moving forward.

What is your experience with once in a lifetime opportunities? How have you found other ways forward when one passes by?

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10 Comments

  1. Jackie May 16, 2014 at 3:14 am

    Hi, my once in a lifetime opportunity was with a band I really loved and the opportunity to get a picture n autograph but fear of rejection stopped me.Now it will never happen:( I read this article to help get over it!
    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. fred key April 12, 2016 at 11:25 pm

      Hi Jacki speek it to existence and better opportunity will come speak it into your life as if you had the opportunity now. What would be your actions act if you have the opportunity now.

      Reply
  2. Michael January 6, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    Hi

    I want to mention the biggest opportunity of my life that I stupidly wasted away. Seven months ago I completed a one year HR college course at age 39. I did this because I wanted a new chance at life after battling constant handi-caps, and coasting through life, for so long. I was never happy with my life, and also have always been single. During the course I tried befriending many people, but battled constant anxiety. I especially befriended one woman in particular. A sweet heart of a woman, who was in a relationship. At the end of the course, our professor talked about how girls are “on the pill” at the end of college (post-grad course, not high school kids) and told me repeatedly to go see her. She had been successful at her placement, and moved to another province (Canada). My colleagues constantly encouraged me to go see her, but at the end of the course we had broken away. My anxiety got the worst of me. However, she sent me an invitation through social media, saying the door was open. At the time, I was sick, and didn’t know what to do. I was in my “comfort zone”, and had never really traveled on my own before. This was a huge chance. One I would never see again. However, I stupidly did not go. Instead, I stuck around the area, and didn’t realize what I had passed up until now. After lamenting on Facebook, she now ignores me. I can’t believe what I have passed up, and how negative, lamenting, and stupid I have become. I am also still unemployed. Only now do I finally see the error of my ways. She was the ticket to a new life. Love, sex (and she has a man in her life, and in her late twenties!), life long friendship, and possibly a job too. All gone. All because I did not jump at an opportunity when I saw it (because of trust for some stupid reason), and failed to communicate my health at the time as well. Only long after the fact did I tell her. The last thing she said was “so sorry”, and never said anything again. And the biggest thing that hurts about this – that invitation was ONLY for ME. No one else. Gone forever.

    Reply
    1. Dan Cumberland January 7, 2016 at 10:11 am

      Wow. That’s intense, Michael. So sorry to hear about the loss here. Thanks for sharing.

      If I can spin this a little for you though, maybe this chance is gone, but you made this chance happen by facing your anxiety and befriending people. You took a risk and made this connection as a result. Yes, it didn’t pan out, but it’s totally within your power to step out and meet more new people.

      I’m rooting for you!

      Reply
      1. Michael January 7, 2016 at 11:26 am

        Thank you for the kind and encouraging words Dan. I appreciate what you said, and it really does help. And your right in saying I will meet other people. Already have. Kind of funny how different paths appear depending on what direction you take. I have instead ended up volunteering for two non-profit boards of directors, performed a live musical performance in front of over two hundred people (I am a musician), took a course on sound production, collaboratively formed a later failed HR consulting firm (turned out to be a pyramid scheme, but gained experience), helped my father prepare for winter on the farm, and have begun teaching my two year old niece how to play ukulele. So I still have life experiences. Not what might have been waiting in the other direction, but I might still have a chance at that too. Her wedding is in June, and if I post my music appropriately on social media, I may have a chance at saving my reputation with some of my HR colleagues. All of this talent and none of them know about it because I was so full of anxiety. But lots of options in front of me. A pilot I once knew said he has to keep the planes nose on the horizon to fly properly. I need to do the same. Keep my nose on the horizon. Don’t look down. Just look straight and fly on into the sunset.

        Reply
      2. Michael McNamara January 14, 2016 at 7:32 pm

        Hey Dan. I just want to add a quick update, and I will stop this nonsense talking. And thanks again for the words of encouragement. I have been talking to family and friends, and calming down. Plus fighting a bad sickness. This whole “love interest” thing was pushed by a college professor, and a bunch of colleagues. She is a 25 year old young woman, with a fiance her age, and a kid she calls ‘it’ on social media because she is a bit immature and is establishing herself. Although I have struggled through life, I already know how to establish myself. I know how to cook, clean, do laundry, fix stuff, and so on. When I was 20, she was 5. I think seriously she is just young and nieve, and was talked into it. And this whole thing was pushed by a college professor who calls his wife ‘replaceable’, and other college ‘colleagues’. I seriously would never do that. Maybe I miss understood something, but I just don’t sleep around. I entered college to try and find new education, and simply did not prepare myself before hand. Simple as that. So thanks for the encouraging words. Turns out I already had a girl back in my early twenties, and who screwed me up really bad because she was just so messed up. It’s been a really rocky life, and I have done some really, really, stupid things, and took really wrong turns. Everyone does stupid things. It’s called life.

        Reply
  3. Joseph Samuel Benjamin October 27, 2016 at 4:30 am

    thanks so much for that word of encouragement… to be sincere I don’t believe opportunities comes once..
    for me it knocks every time.. because if a man fails he doesn’t stop trying until he get it right…so why then does opportunities comes once?

    Reply
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