Many times opportunities travel at a snail’s pace, decisions take weeks or even months, and transitions are slow. But sometimes the opposite happens.

The latter was the case for me most recently. An opportunity was presented to me, a decision was made within a few days, successful negotiations took less than an hour to complete and I was traveling down a path I would not have predicted even a few weeks prior.

As a person of faith, I do believe in God’s timing, but I am also a firm believer in free will. What this means from a practical standpoint is we still always have the capacity to mess it up! Although I have done that more than once, I don’t think that was the case this time. It is obvious to me that this will ultimately be a success from my perspective.

Recently I was presented with a working opportunity that was very out of the blue. I wasn’t necessarily prepared for the opportunity because it never occurred to me that something like this might come up, but nevertheless – there it was. Ultimately I took that opportunity and I feel very confident now that it was the right choice to make, though at the time it took me some careful thought to arrive at that point.

Now, two weeks since the initial email, I am able to look back and see how the choices I’d been making prior to this situation made a difference in how I was able to approach it. As I think more broadly I realize that it was as much about preparation as anything else – I was prepared to say yes when the “right” opportunity presented itself.

So with that in mind, here are the three elements that I found useful in being able to say yes when it was really important:

1. Don’t say “yes” to all of the other wrong stuff. 

I had just finished listening to Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism. Although there is much good information in the book, the key message is, you must selectively choose which things you say “yes” to, or else when the perfect opportunity presents itself, you won’t have capacity to accept it. The challenge is that we never know when that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is going to arise.

This also means you can’t continue to do things that were once “right” but no longer fit into that category. For me, this is much more challenging – saying no to something new seems infinitely easier than stopping something that has been the “right” thing in days gone by.

2. Focus on your skills and the areas where you truly excel.

Many of us are capable of doing a huge list of activities, even moderately well. But when push comes to shove, there is usually a much smaller list where we would qualify ourselves as truly outstanding. Focusing on where we bring the most value is critical to knowing which opportunity is truly the “right” one.

When you are using your greatest talents, it is much easier to be successful. In addition, you will undoubtedly find much more excitement and energy around the new opportunity when it is something you do exceedingly well. Remember, just because it is easy for you, doesn’t mean it is for anyone else, so don’t discount your particular gifts.

3. Continually build your confidence; you don’t know when you will need it.

Building and maintaining confidence in yourself and your skills is a key element in preparation. Almost every new opportunity that presents itself will have some element of uncertainty and/or fear of failure. However, maintaining a confident demeanor will help minimize some of the possible negative emotions.

Not only is confidence needed to say “yes”, but once you get started, confidence will be required to get past the initial phases which inevitably come with some measure of uncertainty. Having confidence will allow you to move beyond the first few stumbles until you are able to find your stride.

As I begin this new journey, I am grateful not only for the opportunities it will afford me but also for the choices I made in the past that allowed me to seize this moment and run with it. As I have spent the last several months honing my focus and identifying my purpose in this world, I can see how this opportunity is ideal for bringing together all the pieces of my past work history into one big project which will hopefully propel me forward in the direction I’m hoping to go. I’ll continue to show my work as I undertake this adventure, and I hope you will share yours with me as well.

Has there been a big YES in your life? Looking back on that, what were the key elements that led you to the moment where you were able to accept such an opportunity? Tell me about it in the comments!