Though I know that it is a myth that ostriches bury their heads in the sand when afraid, I can certainly understand the desire to want to believe it. When things feel tough and unknown, it may seem far easier to avoid the issue rather than facing it head-on.
I suspect we are all guilty of avoidance. But why do we do it?
Avoidance is a defense mechanism (it may be conscious or subconscious) by which someone is trying to escape from something undesirable. At its core, avoidance is a fear response. We are afraid of the unknown, so we are trying, in a way, to avoid the ‘unknown future’; trying to avoid a situation or consequence or action. It is actually quite a common behaviour.
In animals, it is possible to create avoidance by continued negative stimuli. In training, when trying to correct an undesirable behaviour, a pattern of circumstances is used to dissuade the animal, through the animal’s intention to avoid an undesirable action
Humans react similarly, though because our patterns are much more complicated and layered, we are often unaware of triggers that create specific avoidance. Fear is a natural response, and a protective instinct. We also make excuses to ourselves about avoidance, and even give it other names: procrastination; ‘treading water’, ‘hoping for the best’, even ‘keeping a positive attitude’.
We do the same in dealing with our brands. We hope that next month’s figures will be better. We try to delay decisions in the hopes that things will ‘turn around’ or will change course. Sometimes we actively fool ourselves that the truth isn’t really true. We avoid the warning signs to be able to keep optimistic views and a positive attitude. If we can live in a positive feeling for as long as possible, we then can somehow convince ourselves into a sense of well-being and solid foundation. In reality, it doesn’t actually help to avoid the truth, but we somehow convince ourselves it does. Many brands live longer than they ought to, because of avoiding the inevitable.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t be optimistic, and that everything naysayers offer is true. Nothing could be further from the truth. By NOT putting our heads in the sand, we can more accurately appraise the situation, and be better discerners of the real truth. And then we can act accordingly.
Though guilty of it from time-to-time, the deepest truth (and worry) about putting our heads in the sand, is that we will miss the opportunity to solve the real problems. And too often we will then be forced to try to deal with things when it is too late. We must know deep-down that the earlier we can address a problem, the more likely we are to be successful in resolving it. Heads in the sand, then, create a false and temporary sense of security, often leading to a situation that is worse than had we dealt with it at the time.
There is a business lesson in this, but (in my own life) a personal lesson as well.