The definition we have today for the word opportunity is considerably different from its etymological origin. It lacks the existential depth and transformational power of its original version.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, opportunity has the following two meanings: “1) a favorable juncture of circumstances; 2) a good chance for advancement or progress.” These definitions guide today’s use of this word in colloquial, literary, and business settings. Yet its etymology provides a broader meaning.
The word opportunity comes from the Latin term opportunitas, which is composed of two other terms: ob, meaning “toward”, and portus, meaning “port”. This word came about in the realm of navigation, where sailors used the phrase ob portus to denote the best combination of wind, current, and tide to sail to port. However, the only way to seize such weather conditions was if the vessel’s captain had already sighted the port of destination. Knowing the weather conditions without knowing the destination was useless. Therefore, a ship was in a state of opportunitas when its captain had decided where to go and knew how to get there. Later, however, the word evolved in a different direction to denote only external conditions while excluding the individual who would seize them.
If we rescue the original meaning of the word opportunity, we will realize that we are the opportunity we were waiting for. Thus, we can assume full responsibility for our actions and start building the future we really want. Sure the unexpected will happen; but, if we are responsible, we will seize it when it favors our purposes and turn it around when it does not.
The etymology of the word opportunity helps us realize that our best shot at success is to become the best thing that ever happened to us. We become our best opportunity by deciding who we want to be and what we want to achieve.