“Never confuse motion with action.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
Have you watched a cat who is trying to catch something tasty for dinner? As a kid, I often used to watch our cat in the garden. She would find a spot on the ground where she could lie hidden under some foliage and would sit there, motionless, for a very long time. She was clearly very alert, however, and the slightest sound or movement would elicit a slight but sharp turn of the head. As soon as she saw something which she thought might make a tasty snack, she would lock onto it, wait until it came close enough, and then – at just the right moment – suddenly pounce. She usually got her prey, and I don’t think the bird or mouse ever saw what was coming.
We have been taught, for the most part, that we need to work hard to get anywhere in life. Nothing comes easy, right? Success comes from persistence, determination, blood, sweat and tears. Part of this may well be true – clarity about where we are heading and persistence are important. But I don’t believe that a great deal of effort is needed to get where we want to be. It’s more about the kind of action we take. Call it ‘working smart.’ Our cat knew all about it. I like the phrase ‘inspired action’ since this really gets to the heart of the matter. We need do something: it’s no use sitting around and expecting results to just happen. But we need to do the right thing. When we take just the right action at just the right time, amazing things can happen. We can learn a lot from the way our cat went about things.
Be clear about your intentions
It’s important to know what you want. I guess the cat knew she wanted to catch a mouse. It was her clear intention. You cannot watch for opportunities unless you know what to look for!
Become more observant
We tend to rush around, always doing stuff. But much of the time, it’s more helpful to be still, to be free from motion, to observe and wait until the right time. If our cat had just spent all her time running around the garden, I think she would have gone without her snack and ended up very tired. We have a choice: take effective action or be like a mouse in a wheel, always running, getting nowhere.
Be flexible about your intentions
Things change. We change. Sometimes we set out in one direction and then decide, for some reason, we want to change course. This is fine and even necessary. If the wind changes direction, why resist it? But we should be conscious about the process. So long as we know where we are heading, it’s OK to change direction. It’s also fine to just drift along, enjoying the ride, not worrying about the destination, so long as this is also a conscious process.
Trust your feelings
Sometimes opportunities come along that don’t seem to be the right fit. Things we have never thought about before, things that were never part of our plan, come up out of the blue. It may be the case that they are really not for us, but sometimes that unusual opportunity can be just the right thing.
It seems to me that if we have set clear intentions, things will happen to help us get to where we want to go, and they might not be obvious. Whether they are right or not, I think, can become clear if we pay attention to the way they make us feel. There may be several different feelings about something, so we may need to be still, stop thinking and let the feelings settle and become clearer. Developing this kind of sensitivity to feelings will provide an accurate compass to guide us through life.
Choose your opportunities
Our cat used to prey on young birds who were less experienced They were easier targets. With even less effort, she could be surer of success. So sometimes she left the bigger birds alone and waited for another chance.
Not every opportunity that comes along is the right one. Sometimes you can, and should, let things pass you by. Sometimes – perhaps more often than we might think – the right action is no action. Again, it is a matter of trusting our feelings or our intuition.
Come back another day
Sometimes, our cat didn’t get her meal. She did all the right things – sat quietly, observed, lay hidden, waited. And nothing came along. And sometimes, she pounced and missed, and the bird got away.
Sometimes this happens. Things don’t always work out. No matter. Tomorrow is another day and another opportunity will come along. Be ready for it.
“Luck is being ready for the chance.” – J. Frank Dobie