How to overcome the ‘ostrich problem’

Did you know that ostriches don’t really bury their heads in the sand? That’s a myth. It’s something we humans do, though.

When it senses danger, an ostrich lies down flat, its head and neck blending in with the ground – and that’s how we’ve confused the idea behind what’s known as ‘the ostrich problem’. It arises because of the need to avoid negative feelings. We bury our heads in the sand because we feel guilty when confronted with reality.

The University of Sheffield’s Professor Thomas Webb conducted a study on the subject. “The ostrich problem is the idea that people would rather not know how they’re doing,” he said. “People might not want to know how much money they have spent. We call this motivated inattention.”

It’s normal to hide from the things we fear – we’re only human, right? But ‘motivated inattention’ doesn’t work as a long-term strategy. It can compound the problem and cause further stress and anxiety.

The difficult truth is that the longer we bury our heads in the sand, the more we stand to lose. Avoiding dealing with your finances? The Crystal customer survey found that 46% of respondents have not prepared for later life care, so the answer may be ‘yes’.

Getting your pension in shape and planning for later life care can help you feel more excited about the future – and peaceful and happy in the present!

Here are some tips for keeping your head out to the sand:

  • Put aside some time each week to check your finances – set a reminder on your phone.
  • Give yourself small, inexpensive rewards for sticking to this routine.
  • Try this:
    • Put two empty chairs in front of you. See your future self in three years’ time.
    • In one chair, there’s the you who hasn’t made any changes.
    • In the other, see the you that has.
    • Really see them both and the impact their choices have had.
    • Decide which you’d rather be – and take action!

It’s okay to ask for help – and you can ask us. We’re trusted financial experts at Crystal who can help you review and organise your finances for a sweeter, happier future. To speak to a specialist call us on 01270 446600.

https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/psychology/research/groups/theostrichproblem (Note, he was Dr Webb at the time of the research but is Professor Webb now.)

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2525602/Burying-head-sand-Youre-feeling-guilty.html

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