"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude." – Maya Angelou

Going on a Wild Goose Chase

5 Life lessons I learned from following a pair of Canada geese

It caught everybody by surprise: the snow.

Even the birds were caught off guard on April 1st. And they always know—the Canada geese. When you hear their first honk-honk in late winter, even with snow on the ground, and never mind what the groundhog had to say, it means one thing: spring is on its way. I encountered this pair of geese a few days ago, and followed them down a little path, wondering whether I was wasting my time.

For the past eighteen winters, living in Winnipeg, I have seen the geese getting it right, for the most part. They don’t need the weather bureau. I have little difficulty believing the weather channel actually studies the skies every morning and once they spot the first returning geese, announces warmer weather.

Four days ago, the birds got it wrong.

(They probably didn’t get the memo.) The snow was already all gone, save for in the cool shady spots. Then, early Friday evening, it started snowing. I grabbed my camera and drove to the nearby forest, to the side of our neighborhood, hoping to capture something worthwhile. I pursued the birds while it continued snowing.

I took this image of a goose (it must be the cousin to the pair above), on the river at sunset, barely 23 hours earlier. That was before winter returned (yet again.)

We know going on a wild goose chase implies being on a hopeless quest, to busy oneself with a fruitless endeavor.

It means wasting time.

Time is something few of us have an abundance of. (Even if you don’t agree with or don’t get Albert Einstein’s take on time.)

The only way you get anywhere today is by managing your time. By:

    • Becoming a master of effectiveness
    • Prioritizing
    • Sticking to a list (never too long)
    • Learning to be more productive: set a realistic time for each task, complete each task
    • Remaining focused
    • Working smarter, using time and resources better
    • Because: time is money and in short supply.
    • If you manage your time (Michael Hyatt’s take on the matter) you can and will become more successful and effective
    • Protect your time: it’s non-negotiable. Time set aside to spend with a child or spouse can be as important as a business meeting
    • Don’t panic, be realistic. If you can “create” 30 minutes each day after a month of practicing–it’s a big deal, you’ve made progress!

I pulled my cap lower to keep the drifting snow out of my eyes and tried to shoo the two geese. They refused to waddle any faster. Once we reached the clearing I wanted to spook them so they would take flight, enabling me to get better pictures. They had a different take on things. They stuck together, unruffled, the fresh powder clinging to their backs and legs, in spite.

As I photographed them, I realized a few things:

1. Loyalty is what friends do.

The birds stuck together, no matter what. For better of for worse. According to researchers, goose pairs remain faithfully united until death, or until circumstances outside their control intervene and separate them. Like dogs, geese demonstrate human feelings: they will quite literally hang their heads, lose appetite and become indifferent due to stimuli from their environment.

How loyal are we? Toward:

    • Our spouse
    • Our children
    • Our parents
    • Our siblings
    • Our friends
    • Our colleagues
    • Our readers/audience/our followers/our fans?

What does our relationship (any and all of the above) cost us? Is it one of convenience, a one-way street, with us only on the receiving end?

Is there any growth in the relationship? Is it maturing?

Stagnation is a dangerous place to be. Things fade, things shrivel, things die.

Regular interaction is essential. To nurture a relationship requires time, effort and being honest. It often requires being vulnerable. Spice it up. Be original. Be surprising. It’s about giving. You receive, but you have to give first, without holding back.

Friends let friends dream big dreams. (Jer Monson wrote this post about friends on Jeff Goins' blog.)

If you’re loyal, you will help the other grow. You will enable them, empower them.

It’s not meant to be 50:50, with both holding back, but 100:100, both going full out.

2. Acknowledge the presence of fear, but stand your ground

It was not the first time I had pursued geese on foot, armed with a camera. Often they will take flight if you come too close. These two were more bothered by the white flakes than by me stepping closer, clicking away. They didn’t even blow at me as they always do when their goslings are around. They stoically watched me, and only when I could almost touch them, did they turn around and shuffled down the path.

Any challenge we face has an element of fear

    • Be it in our everyday life, in our relationships, at work, or in sport when we compete
    • The presence of fear doesn’t equal failure–only when you surrender
    • By learning to control your fear and using that surge of stress hormones and adrenaline, can you ride the crisis more effectively
    • You can learn to persist, even if you’re scared (especially when you’re afraid!)
    • Don’t simply roll over and give up
    • Being brave and doing the right thing, never means the absence of fear
    • Every time you stand up for what you believe in and act, it becomes a little easier

3. Accept what you cannot change and make a different plan

The geese definitely didn’t ask for it to snow, neither for me to show up, adding to their discomfort. They took it in their stride. As the following pictures depict, they even found some enjoyment in the sudden change of circumstances.

It’s often a reality check: some things ARE beyond you and me

    • Don’t waste your energy. Don’t waste too much time
    • Confirm your finding (There’s no way out.)
    • Then move on.
    • Don’t allow the problem to rob you of your cool (your joy) –easier said than done
    • Having said that, I’m a big one for standing for what is right
    • It can be hard to make peace with it in the moment
    • But activate your new plan.
    • Activate your better and different plan.
    • Even in the most unlikely situation, even with sudden hardship, can one find sense and not lose ones equilibrium
    • Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls it FLOW. This ability to find sources of strength under extreme adversity. A skill that can be perfected through training and discipline. Individuals learn to analyze their surroundings objectively, discovering new opportunities for action, enabling them to survive harrowing circumstances.

4. Grasp opportunities

I was convinced the gander looked at me with a touch of disdain, if not contempt. He must have wondered why I totally lacked empathy. Then, as I followed them into the clearing, beyond the path and the trees, he literally took a belly-flop in the snow, reminding me of a child with a toboggan, and shoved his beak deep into the soft powder.

Often circumstances are less than ideal

    • It may even force you to abort your plan(s)
    • That is the time to keep your eyes open
    • One door closes
    • And no, another door does not open automatically!
    • But if you snooze, you lose: and it’s still true
    • Although, sometimes you have to CUT out a new door
    • Sometimes a pocket knife suffices, sometimes only a chainsaw will do
    • Sometimes a phone call or an email or a word of mouth can also do the trick
    • It ties in closely with # 3: make a new and a better/ a smarter plan
    • And this circles back to # 1: don’t neglect your relationships!

5. Find joy, find beauty, in the unexpected

As I watched the geese frolicking in the snow, my own gloomy feelings about yet another snowfall and a driveway that had to be shoveled disappeared. I felt a little ashamed. The geese didn’t make a sound as they moved about in the powder. It had become quiet, the din of traffic had faded. I could hear the actual flakes sifting down on my cap and shoulders.

So often do we get dragged down by what life deals us. When real hardships hit home: serious illness, financial hardship, loss of a friendship, loss of a loved one, or the break-up of a relationship we can lose our footing. It can become overwhelming.

    • It can crush us.
    • But, beauty is still to be found
    • Joy is still available.
    • Hope can be found again.
    • Faith can sustain you.
    • Don’t forsake your friends.
    • We can rise again
    • The sun sets and rises. Again.
    • Giving us a new day.
    • Filled with endless (new) possibilities.
    • It is possible to see the beauty around us
    • It is possible to rediscover the beauty in people.

Look. Around. You. There’s beauty to be found.

But you have to open your mind!

If you enjoyed this piece, please comment in the section below and feel free to share. I love feedback!

    1. Do Canada geese mate for life? 
    2. The hidden life of ducks and geese.
    4. Flow. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. 

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