It is said that America is the land of opportunity. So why are there increasingly more have-nots than haves? Part of the equation may be that taking advantage of opportunities requires more than just sitting and waiting for good things to happen or for wishes to come true. Making the most of opportunity is an active process that requires attention, consideration, action and discipline.

Opportunity comes in many shapes and sizes. It may be in the form of an entrepreneurial idea, a new connection or a change in the market. Whether you are a CEO, a VP of marketing or an up-and-coming leader destined for greatness, these five tips will help you pursue every opportunity to its fullest extent.

1. Have Filters

Not every opportunity is worth the effort. Taking on too many opportunities will spread your resources too thin and likely lead to multiple failures. Take stock of the resources you have and establish a clear direction for where you want to go. Then you can assess each opportunity for its true value and capability within the context of your aspirations. Learn that a conditional "maybe" is often better than an immediate "yes." By establishing specific criteria that an opportunity must meet before you act, you'll let the fools' gold fall by the wayside, leaving you with more time and money to pursue the real nuggets.

2. Put Optimism Aside

The challenge for optimists, particularly entrepreneurial optimists, is that they see the potential in everything and everyone. Do a diligent assessment of risk versus reward for each new opportunity that comes your way. Look for reasons why it won't work rather than getting excited about the reasons you think it will. Examine the opportunity through a lens that helps you see the worst possible case. If, after you beat it apart, it still looks shiny and bright then you'll be much more confident in pursuing its worthiness and potential.

3. Assess Realistic Requirements

So many opportunities end up requiring more time, money or energy than originally anticipated. So many times people get halfway into a process only to discover they are stuck. They don't want to abandon the serious investment they made, but they don't have the resources to go forward. Spend some time estimating the necessary hours, dollars and skills required to fully pursue an opportunity to completion. Multiply that by two and make sure those resources are available before you start. In the worst case, if the opportunity doesn't pan out, you'll have resources available for the next bright, shiny object.

4. Be Clear on Objectives

To make the most of an opportunity, it helps to have a clear picture of why you want to pursue it and how it will benefit your path to success. Otherwise you'll struggle with measuring performance and won't know whether to put in more time, energy and resources, or cut your losses and bail. Once you have decided to pursue an opportunity, establish a list of clear milestones with dates to make sure the opportunity warrants continued engagement. If milestones are consistently missed, perhaps the opportunity wasn't really as promising as your original diligence suggested. Time to reassess, so revisit Tip 2, above.

5. Commit With Limits

A half-hearted effort on any opportunity will likely end up with half-hearted results. Once you have set aside the resources and put objectives in place, you need to push full speed ahead to give the opportunity its best chance of success--at least until it starts to fall apart. Even then, make sure you tweak and adjust to give it every possible chance to reach its potential within the limits of the resources you agreed to gamble. In the best case, you'll get it on track and see the reward. In the worst case, you'll have a great failure from which you can learn.

Like this post? If so, sign up here and never miss out on Kevin's thoughts and humor.