Skip to main content

Do as Woodpeckers Do to Achieve Your Goals

Nature and wildlife know exactly what to do to survive and thrive. Shauna believes we can learn valuable life lessons by observing nature.

Female Pileated Woodpecker in Live Oak

Female Pileated Woodpecker in Live Oak

Have you ever wondered where the hell you’re going in life? Do you sometimes find yourself questioning the decisions you make or second-guessing the goals you’ve set for yourself? Come on, be honest. You know you have and probably more times than you care to admit. It happens to all of us. We’re human. We’re fallible. We get overwhelmed with responsibilities. We experience brain overload. We lose clarity and go into melt-down mode. Our minds get cluttered and it sometimes feels as if we’ve got cobwebs snatching up our forward thinking. We fall prey to spiraling circles of uncertainty.

Then, just as we’re about to lose faith in ourselves, something happens to clear the cobwebs and we’re once again able to focus.

This happened to me not too long ago. I was sitting on my front porch feeling kinda sorry for myself and having an all-out pity party when a Pileated Woodpecker caught my attention. He flew from behind my house and made a beeline for a dead tree in the lot across the street from me. Over the course of the next few days, I watched his activity and the cobwebs started to clear.

He changed my mindset as I watched his determination. He taught me – rather, he reminded me – of the fundamentals of setting and achieving our goals in life.

Here’s what I learned:

Define your goals

Define your goals

Define Your Goals

It became apparent to me that the woodpecker was on a mission far greater than foraging for carpenter ants. Apparently, he’d spotted just the right tree to create a protective home for his lady and forthcoming offspring. He’d pound the tree a few times, then step back and assess the situation.

We need to do the same, no matter what our goals are. Whether we aim to build a business, balance work with home life, create a garden, or set aside time for ourselves, it’s important to periodically step back from the situation and see it from the outside looking in. Re-access and gain a clear perspective of where you want to go and what it’ll take to get there.

Can you relate to this article?

Take it One Step at a Time

Everything we endeavor in life has a rhyme and reason. There are logical steps to take in order to make the journey and achieve the end result.

My mind became clear on the steps to take on my own journey as I watched the woodpecker slowly and methodically chip away at the tree that was to become a safe haven for his offspring. He worked diligently for days until the hole became large enough for him to step inside and finish his work. I watched in amazement as he threw large chunks of wood chips outside of the hole. He was on a mission and knew exactly what it would take to achieve the end to the means.

It was then that I realized I’ve been going about working towards my goal in the wrong way. I took on too much too soon. I spent too much time learning and not applying. The more I learned the more there seemed to be learned. The Internet can be an awful thing, folks. Sign up for one newsletter and before you know it you have too many people telling you you don’t know shit from shinola. You have so much more to learn before you can step off the plank and swim. Or so the ‘experts’ would like you to believe.

Take one step at a time. Don’t get sidetracked. It’ll only muddle and befuddle your mind and before you know it, you feel as if you haven’t learned a thing. You may find yourself questioning your ability and even the goal itself.

Don’t let that happen. Take baby steps. Learn to walk before you run, but please don’t ever be afraid to run!

You must walk before you can run (or fly)!

You must walk before you can run (or fly)!


My fine-feathered mentor kept at it for days. Hell, it may have been weeks, but he showed up every day and worked for hours. He knew what he needed to do in order to accomplish what he’d set out to do. He never gave up. As you can see by the photo below, he now has a cozy little home for mama woodpecker to incubate her eggs. I was tickled that he let me come close enough to take a photo of him sticking his head out of the apartment. Perhaps he knew how grateful I was to him and his mate for allowing me to learn vital life lessons from them.

I was almost ready to give up on my dream – my goal. In fact, I’d put it on the back burner (ever so temporarily). Mr. and Mrs. P. Woodpecker sent me a message: persevere and you will achieve! Take the right steps and you will cross the finish line. That finish line is the beginning of living. It’s the beginning of living your dream. After all, isn’t that what goals are all about?

Don’t give up. When life gets in the way, push it back or find a way to blend it in with your goals.

Male Pileated Woodpecker testing out his handiwork

Male Pileated Woodpecker testing out his handiwork


I think patience may be one of the hardest traits to grasp. At least it has been for me all of my life. Patience is a virtue and one that must be learned if you ever expect to get anywhere in life. Once you set your mind to something, know that you have to take the necessary steps to get there. Rush them and you risk disappointment, frustration, depression, and loss of focus.

Imagine pounding your head against a tree for three to six weeks in order to clear a safe, protective spot for your lady and kids-to-be. I’ve often wondered if woodpeckers get headaches. Maybe they do, who knows? The point is they know they can’t just fold their wings, blink, and poof! have their vision suddenly appear.

It’s the same with us impatient I-want-it-now humans. If that were the case, we’d have come out of the womb running. And, honestly, wouldn’t that have been a drag? How would we know the joy of accomplishment if we didn’t have steps to take along the way?

Male baby woodpecker peeking out of his doorway. Patience and persistence paid off!

Male baby woodpecker peeking out of his doorway. Patience and persistence paid off!


Believe in yourself. Believe in your dreams. Make them happen. Without (achievable) dreams, what is life worth? Set your goals. Determine the steps you need to take. Be diligent. Weed out the crap that muddles your mind and clouds your thinking. Strive. Persist. And above all, be patient.

When life gets in the way, take a deep breath, walk away, and observe nature. Breathe deeply of the beauty of life outside your four walls. Observe. Document. Take heed. Our wildlife has so much to teach us about living. They’ve been doing it right for eons. Are you ready?

Dream on and fly big.



Shauna L Bowling

All Rights Reserved

Daddy woodpecker feeding babies. Mission accomplished!

Daddy woodpecker feeding babies. Mission accomplished!

Motivational song by Miley Cyrus

© 2016 Shauna L Bowling

Related Articles