Life Living and Lessons: 10 Things We Can Learn From Canada Geese

Lessons from a goose - you are kidding right? No, not at all!  Having said that, I know that many consider Canada Geese nothing but a nuisance and at times, I might even agree with them.  After all, here in Winnipeg, the odds are that it will be a Canada Goose that will step out into oncoming traffic and not a child, which means that when driving, you have to be extra vigilant and always on the lookout for them.  And my all time favourite? When out for a walk once the geese have returned, you are more likely to walk into goose poop than dog poop!

On a positive note, they are fascinating and there is much that we can learn from our fine feathered friends. So, without further ado, here is my list of the lessons we can learn from Canada Geese:

  • Be persistent.  When out for a walk one evening, we came across a goose that appeared to be frozen in the ice on a nearby pond.  As we watched, it slowly began to push its way forward through the ice.  It was a slow process and it often appeared to be a struggle but;  it didn’t give up.  It eventually made it out of the water and on to land. Success!  To quote Ralph Bunche:  “To make our way, we must have firm resolve, persistence, tenacity.  We must gear ourselves to work hard all the way.  We can never let up.” 
  • Let it go.  Looking out the window one morning, we happened to notice three geese.  One appeared to be standing on the sidelines as the other two ‘duked’ it out as geese do.  We made the assumption that they were males, perhaps fighting for the female’s attention but; if truth be told, it really didn't matter because it was the outcome that stood out for us.  After a few minutes of wings flapping and feathers flying, there was a pause, and then they flew off together.  It was as if nothing had happened.  They simply moved on.  No grudges there!
  • Understand your role/place in any given moment. I am certainly not suggesting that you debase yourself in the eyes of others, rather it is important to know what your role is whether it is at work, at home or at play and what you are expected to contribute.  Think of the geese flying in the famous ‘v’ formation. The leader sets the pace and the direction while the rest of the flock follow and benefit from the draft created by those ahead thereby expending less energy.  When the time is right, positions and roles are adjusted. New leaders then emerge.
  • Know where home is.  Canada Geese are known for returning to the same place where their parents nested.  Call it home or comfort zone - it is just as important for us to know where that place is.  It’s not about staying or getting stuck there rather it’s simply a question of knowing where you can go to re-energize if and when needed. It can be anywhere - home, cottage, favourite vacation spot or maybe even the comfy chair on your porch! We all need to have that place. You have to admit that when there, it usually comes with a feeling of serenity.
  • Read your environment.  Our feathered friends don’t follow a calendar per se in order to determine when they begin their semi-annual migrations rather they read the weather and the world around them. They head south in autumn when the water and land begins to freeze and north in the spring as the temperature rises and the snow melts. How do you read the world around you?  Can you recognize the signs indicating that a career change or move is due?  Ready to step up for a new challenge? What are you gleaning when you look around that says, “Your turn is now. Go for it!
  • Use your voice. We have been given one for a reason.  For most of us, it is our primary method of communication and yet, we often hesitate to use it, to speak up.  Geese, on the other hand, show no such hesitation.  In as much as most of us likely know the ‘honk’, they actually have about 13 different calls they use depending on the situation. For you and I, that falls nicely in line with the old adage - ‘it’s not what you say but how you say it’ . That means knowing your voice and adjusting it to the situation and being clear about your message.
  • Stand your ground. Have you ever found yourself in a room where it feels like everyone else is clamouring to be heard and you can’t get a word in edgewise? Funny enough, that sounds a lot like the approach used by Canada Geese when feeling threatened.  They will spread their wings in an attempt to appear much larger and make noises in order to scare off any predators. If you have something of value to say and/or protect, do stand your ground.  There is bound to be an opening in the melee and you have to be ready for it.  “Opportunities are never lost; someone will always take the one you miss.”  Anonymous.
  • Prepare for the next step on your journey.  According to Hinterland Who’s Who, Canada Geese can spend more than 12 hours a day eating.  That’s right - eating!  They need the nourishment in order to prepare themselves for their next migration which typically covers hundreds of kms. With that in mind, what does your journey look like?  How do you prepare for it? How will you know that you are ready for it?  It’s likely not about eating but what does it entail?  Learning new skills? Gaining new knowledge? Perhaps trying new activities/tasks or simply stretching yourself.
  • Remember that you are not alone.  Think back to the flying ‘v’ formation.  Canada Geese depend on each other in order to be successful on their migration.  Who do you need and depend on?  Friends? Family?  Colleagues? Perhaps one of your contacts is a coach and/or mentor and if not; might there be an opportunity for you to expand your circle?
  • Seize the moment.  On a more light hearted note, I am reminded about the day we were driving down a busy boulevard and happened across a couple of very amorous geese.  They had obviously felt that the moment was theirs and they were going to take full advantage of it. I am not suggesting that you take the lesson literally rather think about it as being a lesson on readiness.  How do you know that you are ready to take hold of a situation? Is it your turn to lead a project or a team?  To head up a parent committee at your children’s school? What do you need to do to prepare yourself for that next opportunity?

So, the next time that you see a Canada Goose, do take a few minutes to observe them, the gifts they bring and the lessons that they can teach us.

If you are interested in learning  more about the Canada Goose - Hinterland Who’s Who is a great resource. 

Debbie Ristimaki believes in the power of being in the moment, enjoying the journey and embracing the lessons along the way. Debbie is a freelance writer and coach, currently living in Winnipeg. Her mantra: “We have but one life and live it we must.”