Did you know that Ostriches don’t really bury their heads in the sand?
They lower their heads to the sand to scoop up sand and pebbles to help them digest. They also dig holes in the ground to bury their eggs.
But a little poetic license never hurt anyone. Facts notwithstanding, the Ostrich with its head in the sand remains a powerful metaphor in the English language, and an important cautionary tale.
We’re all different in the ways we respond to the probable but often overlooked, downplayed, or outright ignored problems that I call “gray rhinos.”
Take the Gray Rhino Quiz to find out how well you deal with the obvious dangers in your life, work and in the world around you.
Some of us are just the right amount of prepared, like Game Wardens. Some of us overreact to every little thing and end up not paying enough attention to what we should, like Chicken Little. An unfortunate few of us never see them coming in the first place and get flattened like the Pancake. Many of us are like Tourists on Safari: we want to see the big important things that might affect us, for better or for worse, but are still developing that skill.
If you’re an Ostrich, you at least see things coming even though you shy away. That’s a lot better than not seeing them at all.
Turning away from problems is a normal human psychological defense mechanism. If a problem seems overwhelming, avoiding it may be the only way you get through the other things you have to do.
But being an Ostrich will only set you up for more stress and make it even harder to cope.
Most likely, you feel powerless in face of whatever it is you’re facing: it seems too big compared to the emotional, physical, or financial resources you have on hand. So how do you find what you need to cope?
When you know your natural tendencies, you can make up for them. If you act like an Ostrich when you see a problem, try the following strategies:
- Start by telling yourself that you CAN get what you need. Write yourself a note to this effect and tape it to your desk or mirror.
- Ask yourself who can help you. Start among your friends, but also reach outside of your network for people who have gone through something similar, or have expertise in helping others to deal with it. Find a professional mentor; join a peer support group; or hire a coach or therapist.
- Break down a task into little steps. Starting with small, manageable goals will get you going in the right direction, and every success will build to a new one.
Pay attention to your progress and reward yourself. In fact, by taking the quiz and assessing your Gray Rhino type, you’ve already made a step forward. So, my Ostrich friend, pat yourself on the back!
Check back soon for more on the other Gray Rhino personalities.