How to Spot Opportune Moments and Act

Leaders view time differently. It’s not just that they are more efficient with their time, they are. Leaders recognize meaning in moments that appear ordinary to everyone else. They recognize opportune moments and act on them.

The other day, I met someone “by chance”. After talking to him, I realized he was exactly the person I needed to talk to move one of my projects forward. I don’t think we met by chance. I think it was an opportune moment. Which makes me wonder how many opportune moments I miss because I’m not looking for them.

There are two ancient Greek words for time: chronos and kairos. Chronos is chronological time. It’s time that is. Like clock time. No special meaning. Kairos, on the other hand, is time imbedded with meaning. We might say, “an opportune time” or “the time is ripe” – that’s kairos.

We can live life as chronos by doing all the things we must do each day. Writing emails, planning, make calls, sitting in meeting – all the day’s activities. Day in and day out. Life just happens and the clock ticks on.

Or we can live life as kairos, by looking for meaning among the circumstances of our day. The activities may be the same, but our perspective is not. We recognize and act on opportune moments.

To paraphrase the Biblical poet, there is…

A time for efficiency, and a time for innovation.
A time to consider, and a time to decide.
A time to quit, and a time to begin.
A time to downsize, and a time to expand.
A time to make the leap, and a time to make do.
A time to hire, and a time to fire.

How to Spot Opportune Moments

Which moments are opportune and which are simply, well, moments?

Part of the answer is how you interpret the data. But it is really more about the wisdom to recognize kairos and the judgement to act prudently. Here’s how:

  1. Look at the success or failure of your products and processes. I created COACH Model™ cards to use at my training events. People asked me for extra copies. I recognized the opportunity and now sell cards and bookmarks.
  2. Look for changes in your market, your competition, or effecting your industry. In 2008, most US airlines were loosing money. Someone got the brave idea to begin charging for checked bags. Fast forward to 2012, US airlines brought in $6 billion in baggage and change fees. Which accounts for all their profit.
  3. Look for a gap between what is and what could be. Pay attention to the aspirations of customers and the realities they face. Opportunity is in the gap.
  4. Look for new innovation or information. Amazon and Apple each recognized the opportunity the Internet presented to deliver books and music not as physical products, but as digital products. The publishing and music industries still don’t recognize the opportunity.

Not every circumstance is a kairos moment. But some are. By not looking for them, we may miss them altogether.

Anticipate kairos as you move through through the ordinary of your day. Ask yourself, “What opportunities does this present?” Spot the opportune moment and act prudently for results.

Question: How do you spot opportune moments? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

    Keith is President of Creative Results Management. He helps busy leaders multiply their impact. Keith is the author of several books including The COACH Model for Christian Leaders.

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    3 thoughts on “How to Spot Opportune Moments and Act

    1. I frequently spot opportune moments (or topics) by listening sideways – that is, listening for collateral opportunities that are not currently the main topic of a conversation with someone but poke into the conversation, sometimes quite accidentally. These are sometimes asides. Or they are little bursts of inspiration that crop up in the conversation that demand attention.

      It takes some commitment to pay attention both to the subject at hand while also listening for these incoming missiles of inspiration that can be high opportunities for collaboration. It requires an eclectic mind as well, one that can jump from one topic to another quickly. Opportunity waits for no man, so quick-mindedness is called for in this search for grabbing opportune moments.