Without a doubt, my favorite people to spend time with are those who are tuned in to opportunity. My friend Chris was such a person.

Not only was she constantly seeing new opportunities for her own business, she saw great ideas everywhere just waiting for a champion.

When I’d visit her rural Connecticut home, we’d spend time studying the wonderful small businesses that surrounded her. We soon had our favorite entrepreneurs that we’d call on including an innkeeper, an antiquarian bookseller, a gardening book and ornamentation shop and an antique dealer.

Chris wasn’t shy about passing along ideas she had for these entrepreneurs and delighted in seeing how many of her suggestions were implemented.

Developing opportunity awareness, it seems to me, is the best way to build entrepreneurial muscle.  It’s also important to realize that as you become more conscious of opportunity, you’ll see it all over the place—whether it has anything to do with your business or not.

Let’s just consider the two forms of opportunity that directly impact your business.

Summoned opportunities come after we have set a goal or made a decision to do something. For instance, you decide to set up a practice as a personal trainer and get busy finding clients.

As you look for ways to grow your business, you essentially are inviting opportunity to take up residence with you. Everyone who hires you becomes a new opportunity to expand your business, as does every new avenue you pursue to market yourself.

By taking action you’ve drawn opportunity to you.

Serendipitous opportunities appear to be unplanned.

Let’s say you have a client for your personal training business who happens to be a filmmaker and thinks you’d be perfect for a series of exercise videos he wants to produce.

That’s a possibility you’d never considered, but once it’s proposed to you, it is an exciting idea and you start working on the production, planning the marketing and thinking of new ways to share your expertise.

Either sort of opportunity requires that you have opened your heart and mind to the possibility of favorable events occurring in your life and business.

The reason why so many people remain blind to opportunity is that frequently they come disguised as problems to be solved.

“Most successful new businesspeople do not start out in life thinking this is what they want to do,” writes Paul Hawken. “Spurred by something missing in the world, the entrepreneur begins to think about and envision a product or service, or a change in an existing product or service.”

Hawken knows from personal experience that responding to something missing can be the path to success. As a young man, Hawken discovered he could correct his health problems by controlling his diet.

He figured that others were ready to embrace natural foods as a healthy alternative and opened one of America’s first health food stores to provide products not found elsewhere.

Several years later, Hawken repeated this winning formula when he decided to market the gardening tools he had come to love while living in Scotland.

Is there a product or service you want but can’t easily find? Do you ever think, “I wonder why no one has ever…”?

If so, you may be staring at a wonderful opportunity. Chances are if you have identified a need that is not being met, there are plenty of others who share your feelings.

Of course, if you’re a real opportunity spotter, you’ll see far more possibilities than you could ever tackle yourself. As long as you’re acting on the most exciting opportunities, it’s okay to have a surplus. This is partly, after all, an on-going exercise in keeping your creative spirit engaged.

Psychologist William James thought acting on opportunities was critical to personal growth.

“No matter how full a reservoir of maxims one may possess,” James wrote, “and no matter how good one’s sentiments may be, if one has not taken advantage of every concrete opportunity to act, one’s character may remain entirely unaffected for the better.”