What I learned about goals from my cat

One of my cats, Callie, is a lap cat. Especially in cold weather, her favorite spot is in my lap when I’m sitting at my desk or sleeping on my back at night.

It is funny to watch her pursue her goal. She follows me around and “talks” to me, then the minute I sit down, she climbs up and into my lap. If I move her, she will come right back. She is determined to reach her goal of sitting in my lap.

I realize I need that single-minded focused on my goals like Callie has. I find myself getting caught up in busyness and distractions and suddenly weeks have gone by and I’ve done nothing to move ahead on goals and plans.

In fact, as the year winds down, I realize I have been so focused on just getting through the last few months of Christmas programming at the nonprofit where I work, I haven’t even thought about my specific goals for the first quarter of the new year. What about you?

As I set aside some time this week to define my goals, I will keep the following guidelines in mind to ensure success in reaching these goals:

  • Clearly define – make sure your goal is stated in terms that are plain and simple. I prefer to use SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-Bound) because it’s so easy to hold myself accountable when it is spelled out clearly. Click here for a great article by Michael Hyatt on SMART goals.
  • Be reasonable – don’t set so many goals for yourself that you sabotage your chances of accomplishing any of them. I like to focus on my 4×4 initiatives both personally and at work, (read more here) where I choose 4 areas of emphasis for the next 4 months. My time and focus are limited, so four is a practical number of objectives on which to move forward.
  • Specify time – I always have such good intentions. I start my day telling myself that I’m going to work on this goal or initiative, but then one thing after another happens and the day ends without me even starting to work on it. I have found it extremely helpful to block out time on my calendar for goals and initiatives. I keep appointments with other people, and if it’s on my calendar, then I keep appointments with myself to do that work. The other added bonus is that if other people can see your calendar, they also know you have an appointment and are more likely to wait to disturb you.
  • Eliminate distractions – one of the things I struggle most with is the “tyranny of the urgent.” Especially in nonprofit work, there so many interruptions and “emergencies,” that some days, my desk looks like a tornado blew through and I haven’t finished anything. It’s important to clear your desk of everything but the material you need to work on that goal, turn off email, social media or other “pings,” and close your door. I like to plug into music to help me tune out other noises or conversations. If you are interrupted, make a note and then get right back to the work you are doing.
  • Remove excuses – even if you are derailed temporarily, get back on track and refocus on those goals. Don’t use the excuse that you missed a deadline or got sidetracked to allow yourself to abandon that initiative. Evaluate where you are, renew your resolve, and get back to work.

You can be much more effective in your work and personal life when you stay focused on accomplishing your goals. In fact, Callie is back in my lap as I write this, having returned after I moved her to get more coffee. Determination is the name of the game!

What steps will you take to be resolute in pursuing your goals this year?



2 thoughts on “What I learned about goals from my cat

  1. I am sure 2013 will be one of your best years EVER. Great post. We lost our cat of 19 years this year. Although I will never admit to liking cats, your description of a lap cat sort of made me miss “Patches”. He was more of a ‘jump up behind you on the couch and swipe at your neck’ cat though! :-)…. have a great year.

    • Thanks Stan. I”m sorry about Patches – honestly I was never a cat person, but my dog (who died about 3 years ago) found these two cats as strays and brought them home! I’m looking forward to a great year. Thanks for commenting!

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