by Annette Bridges. ©2010. All rights reserved.

When opportunity knocks at your door, what do you do? One friend said the answer to this question is obvious: “You open the damn door!”

As a woman who has spent much of her life talking herself out of practically everything, opening the door has not been so obvious or easy. I will say that I don’t actually believe that opportunities are chance happenings that fall out of the sky into our laps.

The choices we make and the actions we take move us towards our future. Indeed, what we choose today has an effect on what happens tomorrow. And our attitude, my friends, has everything to do with our decisions and consequently what opportunities are created.

I’ve been saying “yes” to many “opportunities” this year. And my typical answer when someone asks me why I said “yes,” is brief and simple — “Why not?” You have to understand that me saying “yes” has involved a big attitude adjustment. Remember, I’m the girl who has too often over analyzed and said, “I’m not sure I can, or I don’t think I should.”

Throughout my life, there have been many doors that I could have opened but didn’t.

For me, the decision to travel internationally for the first time ever earlier this year — without my husband — has impacted my life in numerous unforeseen ways. Largely, this has included me getting out of my comfort zone to being open to whatever is new and different in just about every way imaginable — even trying new foods and recipes.

It took me a couple of months to accept an invitation to travel to Italy with a friend and stay in a new friend’s villa on Lake Garda. In other words, no hotel bills! During my indecisiveness, whenever I mentioned my opportunity to anyone, the response was, “How can you even consider letting such an opportunity slip through your fingers?”

Since returning from that trip, I’ve pondered and written about the many insights and revelations that resulted from taking my Italian opportunity by its horns and going for it.

Keep in mind that opportunities come in all shapes and sizes. I’m not talking only about travel ones! Sometimes what makes a new opportunity difficult to grapple with is just that — its newness. Perhaps the opportunity is something you’ve never done before or never imagined doing. It can seem scary or too difficult to try something new and not feasible to venture into the unknown or unfamiliar.

Let’s say you’ve been saving sky miles for years for the trips you may someday take. Why not use some of those sky miles now?

Perhaps you’ve assumed hotel cost is more than you can afford. But have you ever done the research to confirm this assumption?

Or maybe you’ve saved money for years for your retirement. Why not spend some of it today instead of saving it all for a tomorrow that may not be there?

The point is it may just be that there are more opportunities that are attainable and within your reach than you believe. Don’t let unfounded assumptions and uninformed fears tell you differently.

I have discovered approaching my life with an “anything is possible” attitude often results in the proof that it indeed is. There are many reasons for expanding your horizons from your tried and true habits and routine.

My willingness to travel beyond the boundaries of my beloved country has broadened my outlook on life and the possibilities for the rest of my life. Being middle aged is no longer stopping me from attempting to learn and experience new things. I have a fresh appreciation of life and new meaning in life. I’ve discovered increased purpose with a hunger and desire to live life to its fullest that I never felt before.

My trip to Italy opened a door that has remained open. And now I’m preparing for another international adventure with the same friend as we plan to explore cities in Switzerland, Austria and the Czech Republic in route to visit her daughter in Germany. I even have a trip to the west coast of Mexico on the horizon two weeks after I return! And yes, I’m finally using some of my saved up sky miles!

So if you’re waiting around for opportunities to knock on your door, my advice is to stop waiting and start making them happen. Opportunities begin with a “yes” attitude, which opens doors and keeps them open, making us ready for anything. And when we’re ready for anything, the possibilities and the opportunities become surprisingly endless.