I have been working in the environmental area for almost 15 years now. As such, I often wonder if my work is making any difference at all towards a more just and sustainable world.
With the increase in frequency and intensity of climate-related events, such as the snow we witnessed this spring across the UK, at times it can be difficult keep a positive mindset. When I look at the progress of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), I enter a state of depression; there are just so many issues that whatever I do will make no difference whatsoever. I learned recently from Chris Taylor that this looming state is actually quite common, and it is even a characteristic of the 5 stages of grief defined by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.
There are different ways to bounce back to positive mode. One of my coping strategies is to build relationships with people that share the same principles and values as I do. I used to look for people with similar passion to sustainability unconsciously, until I heard a talk on diversity and leadership by Gita Patel. She highlighted five simple lessons we can take from nature by observing how geese fly:
1. By flying in a V formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone: People who share a common direction and a sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are travelling on the thrust of one and other.
2. When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it: If we had as much sense as a goose, we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others.
3. When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership. As with geese, people are interdependent on each other’s skills, capabilities and unique arrangements of gifts, talents or resources.
4. The geese flying in formation honk to encourage those upfront to keep up their speed: We need to make sure our honking is encouraging. In groups where there is encouragement, the production is much greater. The power of encouragement – to stand by one’s heart or core values and encourage the heart and core values in others.
5. When a goose gets sick, wounded, or shot down, two geese drop out of the formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again. Then, they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock: If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.
Since hearing about how and why geese fly in flocks, I now consciously keep an eye open for opportunities where I can spot other flocks that I can be a part of. This was the case when I came across the Oasis whole person learning approach about five years ago. Since then I have been having one-to-one development sessions with Nick Ellerby. Last year, I embarked on a personal journey with Janice Gowing and the Where Do I Go From Here? course. This has helped me with my life choices at the time. I certainly feel that I am on the right track. I am privileged to be able to work with such wonderful people.
Co-facilitating the People, Planet and Purpose programme with Chris was another blissful opportunity, where I was able to re-connect with Oasis and to find yet another flock with Bettys and Taylors people. I left the workshop re-energized by the bond I have made with the group. I am looking forward to work with Chris again, and also to deepen my engagement with Oasis.
*Note: This Blog was originally published at Oasis.