We all wish market conditions were perfect prior to enacting our next great legal marketing strategy. But, the truth is, as noted coach and strategic planner Gary Ryan Blair highlights, perfection is not reality.

"You cannot afford to wait for perfect conditions. Goal setting is often a matter of balancing timing against available resources. Opportunities are easily lost while waiting for perfect conditions."-- Gary Ryan Blair

What determines your success is how you cultivate the skills to work through the usual obstacles and setbacks, and how you can be aware of the opportunities that unfold in order to take full advantage of them. It's a lesson I was reminded of this past Christmas.

As the holiday approached, while departing a busy Costco, my eye caught a 6-foot-tall nutcracker that was placed out of the way in a corner. I collect nutcrackers, and this one was absolutely gorgeous, with beautiful coloring and a slight metallic finish. But, as the sign that read "sold" indicated, it was already claimed.

While loading our purchases in the car, my husband encouraged me to see if another was for sale. I dashed back into the store and ran through the aisles, but I had no luck. I took pictures of the sold one to capture the SKU number with hopes of finding one at a different Costco nearby. As I walked to the info desk to make my inquiry, an employee – having noticed my interest – walked toward me.

"Did you want that nutcracker?" he asked. "The woman who purchased it is here right now returning it."

Excuse me, but did I hear him correctly? I took no time in staking my claim on the nutcracker.

I know such moments of serendipitous alignment are rare, and we as lawyers and legal marketers only have so much control we can exert to alter our conditions to achieve our goals. However, at the same time, my luck wasn't completely left to fate. Had I not spotted the nutcracker in the first place, had I not shown persistence by running back into the store, had I not made my interest known to the salesperson, I might not have my new favorite find.

Position Yourself for Success

As the new year rolls out, consider what you can control – your skills, your goals and your work ethic – and take steps to change behaviors that could lead to new opportunities.  I offer below three recommendations you can incorporate into your professional life today to help you achieve success this year.

Identify goals: How can you find success if you don't know what it looks like? Take the time to review your 2014 goals, both personally and professionally. Did you launch that blog yet? Upgrade your firm's website for improved mobility use? Secure enough media interviews for key partners?  If not, why, and what changes can you make in 2015 to help you reach your goals this year? Set new goals for the year, and work with focus toward fulfillment.

Avoid procrastination: Aren't we always in a big fight against time? And isn't it often our own fault? And sure, your brief, report or project will get done, but at what cost to your personal life and well-being? Working too hard, too late or over the weekend can increase your stress and wear you down. One of the best ways to position yourself for success when opportunity knocks is to work toward balance in your approach to time management.  

Analyze your productivity: We have entered the age of data. Nearly everything can be quantified numerically, benchmarked and adjusted accordingly. Why not apply these same principles of analysis to your daily productivity? Take a look at the amount of time you spend doing various tasks throughout your day. Conduct a cost-benefit analysis to better understand whether the amount of time you are investing is worth the ROI you are achieving. For example, will your daily 30 minutes of scanning Twitter feeds generate enough new leads or business ideas to justify the time spent? After all, that amounts to at least 10 hours expended a month. Could that time be of more value if you were to shift it toward another activity instead?

When Opportunity Knocks, Answer

That nutcracker is now the standout showpiece of my collection. I might not have been first to purchase it, but because of my awareness and persistence, I am the customer who gets to keep it. It reminds me of another quote, one from country legend Willie Nelson, "The early bird gets the worm, but second mouse gets the cheese."   

Conditions are rarely perfect, but that's why success doesn't often come easy. It takes an ability to reflect on what you can do to self-improve so that when the door to opportunity does open, you're ready to walk through it.

In my case, my persistence helped me seize the opportunity to get the king of all nutcrackers. What do you want this year? And what will you do to get it?

This article originally appeared on the National Law Review website on January 9, 2015.