Hard work is a huge component for success, but the other half arguably is just staying open-minded and scouting for opportunities that can grow you and your career. Embrace this mindset a little off kilter, though, and you might find yourself stuck in the mud as a Bomb Shelter Ben/Betty.

What's a Bomb Shelter Ben/Betty?

A Bomb Shelter Ben/Betty is simply someone who takes a bomb shelter approach to chances they encounter. They look at everything and say, "I might need that!" So they say yes and plug into all the opportunities they can, hoarding to be prepared. While they're good at locating and acquiring potential resources, they usually don't truly use them, instead just piling them on shelves. They might attend a conference the boss suggested or that's "too good to pass up", for example, but they won't really apply what they learn. Exhausted from the constant acquisition, they procrastinate and wait for the "perfect" time to move forward, reassuring themselves that they have a million aces stored up to turn to if needed.

There are three big issues wrapped up in this. The first is that they don't have a clear sense of what opportunities are good for them, because they haven't really taken the time to figure out what their goals are.

Secondly, because goals are fuzzy or not defined at all, the Bomb Shelter Ben/Betty can't establish a clear timeline for when to tackle each opportunity. They do not have a sense of what to prioritize and see everything as being equally important.

And lastly, Bomb Shelter Bens/Bettys typically have serious Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO). As they wander around without clear goals, they are afraid not to keep filing away opportunities because they don't know which ones will offer important, relevant experience.

How to stop the behavior

Looking back at these three pain points, if you want to avoid being a Bomb Shelter Ben/Betty or get out of the habit, go through this sequence.

1. Define your objective(s). This is by far the most critical step. To do this, ask yourself

  • What are my core beliefs, interests and preferences?
  • What influence do I want to have, based on those beliefs, interests and preferences?
  • Who do I want to affect with the influence I have?
  • What skills, knowledge, experience, traits or connections are necessary to engage that influence?

Remember, as you go through your life, objectives can change! The most important thing is that, when you feel called to pivot and take a new direction, you take the time to ask these questions of yourself again--don't proceed if the goal is still ambiguous in your head and heart.

2. Set priorities in order and schedule each one. Based on your answers from above, you should have a clearer concept of what it's going to take to get to the finish line. If a new opportunity doesn't connect to those elements, let it pass without regret. There usually are specific points that are foundational for you to work on first, but factors like training availability, cash flow or even where you are mentally or physically might shake up the order of the priorities list. Once you have an order that works for your circumstances, commit to each item by putting it on your calendar.

3. Shift and/or clarify your interactions. Part of the reason people become Bomb Shelter Bens/Bettys is that they fail to control the direction the opportunities come from. As an analogy, it's like they are online with a million browser tabs open, all of which are throwing pop-ups. So close all the tabs that aren't relevant to your objectives. That means being picky about the people and events you give your time to. If people try to pull you away to something off in left field, express appreciation but then emphatically explain what you're after. The more you tell others about it, the more natural and concrete it will feel to you. This is the perfect time to put in a good word for someone else if it makes sense to do so.

Having multiple opportunities available can be a great thing, and you do need to explore with the goal of understanding the big picture of the world. But each opportunity you take should have a distinct purpose and fuel you, driving you toward your main vision. If the best you can come back with is "just in case", move on.

Published on: Jun 21, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.