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Head-In-the-Sand-Itis: the New Epidemic

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Here's a conversation I've had many times in the course of my work.

"Okay Mrs Smith, jump on the scales and let's see what you weigh."

(A look of terror appears on her face).

"Aaah… do I have to?"

"Well, I need to collect some baseline data before we start your program and this is part of that process."

(Mrs Smith, deep in thought, mind racing)

"Hmm, er, okay… but don't tell me what they say."

"What who says?"

"The scales!"

"But you weigh what you weigh — not knowing your weight doesn't make you lighter or healthier."

"Yeah, but it will depress me if I know."

"But maybe that knowledge (truth) will jolt you into reality and change."

"No, thanks."

Some of us have a gift for ignoring the facts. Ignoring reality. For not dealing with the truth. Things which are impacting our life in some way (like it or not), only we haven't really acknowledged the fact yet.

"Sorry. Can't see or hear anything; my head's covered in sand."

And while there's no (global) absolutes on this stuff, and I know that we could cite many instances where people might be better off to not know certain things, like kids not knowing certain stuff for example (although I will say I was kinda pissed when I learned the truth about that whole 'Santa' thing… last year), and I guess we could get all philosophical and esoteric and say "there is no absolute truth, only the reality we create" (while wearing our tie-dye T-shirt and eating our tofu), but, nah. I think we should avoid the mumbo-jumbo, what's-real-and-what's-not debate and talk about our undeniable tendency to ignore the obvious, to conveniently overlook the truth, to live in denial and to not make decisions or take action when we should.

We are very skilled at not dealing with things (issues, habits, challenges, situations) which should or could have been addressed (and rectified) long ago. Things which will absolutely impact on our life in the future (if they're not already).

We have an amazing capacity to sit on our hands when we're not using those hands to point blame at someone else. If I had a picture of an eight-year-old with her fingers in her ears saying, "La, la, la… can't hear you.. can't heeeeeeaar you" (very loudly), I'd insert it here. I don't, so help me out and use your imagination. Thanks.

When (for example) do many people (okay, mainly men) make any kind of significant decision about their health? Yep, usually when they have their first heart attack. If they live. So educated — and so stupid all at the same time. Such alpha male warriors — and such big babies.

As long as we're making heaps of money, right, lads? And as long as we're livin' the dream, 'cause we're here for a good time. Not a long time, hey? Personally, I don't believe that 'a good time' and 'a long time' need to be mutually exclusive. I want both. Call me greedy. Interesting thought, though.

"Right now I'm too busy to get to the gym, but I'm lucky because I've always been naturally fit and healthy anyway."

And naturally stupid. And naturally helping yourself to heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, bowel cancer and a bunch of other obesity-related possibilities with your macho, ignorant, arrogant, head-in-the-sand approach to your health. Good luck with that, Dumbo.

I'm calling this condition "head-in-the-sand-itis" (H.I.T.S.) and many of us have it.

By the way, you just need to put 'itis' on the end of any word or phrase and bingo! You have yourself a new condition.

In a hundred years you'll read about it in the medical texts and they'll say something like, "Way back in 2007 a bloke named Craig Harper published the first known work on the condition now known commonly as H.I.T.S. on his blog (apparently some kind of historical electronic journal)."

You guys heard it here first. You're part of history. Thank me later. Sorry, I'm waffling. Again. Back to work…

So, when it comes to the truth, the truth is many of us don't wanna know it. Especially if it's gonna make us uncomfortable. Or if it means that we might need to change or alter our behaviour in some way. Or perhaps acknowledge something simple — like we've been w..w… wr.. wr…ong (terror of terrors). Ouch.

They say that ignorance (not knowing the truth) is bliss. But I dunno about that. It's my experience that ignorance is more likely to equate to pain than it is to bliss (eventually). Especially when we're talking about ignorance in relation to things like health, relationships, finances and business. Might be living in nirvana for a while but ultimately that truth is gonna slap you in the head.

Just like the fat bloke who hasn't seen his doctor for twenty years, ignores the regular pains in his chest and tells himself it's only indigestion will discover. Very soon. And the parents who ignore the tell-tale signs of drug use because 'their daughter' is an angel and 'not like the other kids'.

"Hey Mum (Mom) and dad, are you sure you're not smoking a little somethin' yourselves?"

Are you kiddin' me? Open your eyes! Step out of your delusional little bubble and into the real world — there's plenty goin' on out here that you might wanna know about. Ignoring the facts doesn't change the facts; it just means you have less time to turn that situation around. Unless of course you wait too long. Then you have no time.

Like the bloke who's being ripped off by his business partner. "Yeah, Darryl takes care of all the financial stuff; he's much better with figures than me…"

Hey Champ! Hope you look good in stripes, because you're on your way to the big house — your 'buddy' Darryl has been committing corporate fraud through your company!

I think we often know (sense it, suspect it, feel it) before we really know (have it confirmed). Don't ignore those feelings (at the same time, don't get all paranoid and weird on me).

And because we don't want it to be real, we delude ourselves, which is okay if we live in Disneyland or Pleasantville (hi there, neighbour), but down here on earth, the truth has consequences — and whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, that reality is going to come crashing into our life at some stage and then we will desperately wish we had opened our eyes and taken action sooner.

Taken our head out of the sand.

Now I know that some of you will be thinking that we don't need to know everything about everything, and I agree with you. I don't think it really matters if I don't know that the lady three doors down doesn't like my dress sense or that my third grade teacher, Mr. Jacobs is now Miss Jacobs.

But I'm talking about the stuff which will have a direct (probably detrimental) effect on our life or the lives of those we care about, if we don't stop waiting, pretending and ignoring the truth. Very possibly there's something in your mind right now (an issue, situation) that you know you should deal with, but even as you read this you're rationalising why now isn't the time.

Pity. Maybe it is. Maybe today is the day for you to open your eyes to a few truths. And to address 'that' thing, despite the anxiety — and the fear — and the discomfort.

You still wanna be amazing? Well maybe today is your chance to do amazing.

Okay eight-year-olds — take your fingers out of your ears, stop pretending (you're only fooling you) and step into reality in all areas of your life. Endure a little short term pain for some long term gain; you'll thank me one day.

Trust me.

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About Craig Harper

  • Nancy

    A lot of the time people try to ignore ‘the facts’ not because they prefer to go on the way they are, but because a) they’re scared of change, b) they don’t know how to deal with the situation, either by making a change or ending it, or c) there is no viable alternative. What’s that saying? Better the devil you know that the angel you don’t? Fear of the unknown or unfamiliar is awfully pervasive in every living species. It’s a big hurdle to overcome, whether it pertains to diet & exercise, or any other aspect of living. It’s not always the outcome of laziness.