What Can Confusion Tell Us?

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Recently I worked with a leader who said that he was confused about an important decision he needed to make. We discussed ways he could figure out an answer, but when I saw him next, he said he was still uncertain, and listed for me some of the pros and cons of making one choice or another. I thought he was getting somewhere with a decision, but in the end he postponed yet again. “I just don’t know what I want to do,” he said. 

He was far from the first person I’d worked with who was stuck in confusion, which can feel like being trapped in clingy mud. I also knew that, deep down, he had an answer about what he should do. 

I like to say that confusion is the camouflage of what we already know. Behind that camouflage we are wise about ourselves.

We know whether or not we would like a different job.

We know whether or not we want a person on our team.  

We know our dreams and what makes us happy. We’ve usually known those things since we were young. 

We may need to take a little while to make a decision, but if we become mired in confusion, we usually do so because we are avoiding a choice. Maybe the decision requires a hard conversation with someone, and we don’t want to have that. Or perhaps we don’t want to go for what we really want, because we may fail. Or maybe we’re afraid of success. 

When I worked with my confused leader, I asked him if he really wanted to make a decision. He said he did, so I began to ask him a series of questions with the understanding that even if he found clarity, he didn’t have to immediately act on what he decided. That took away some of the anxiety, and it only took two questions before he laughed and nodded, saying that he did know what he wanted to do but, yes, he didn’t want to have the difficult conversation required. 

This is a normal human reaction to anticipated conflict, and most of us have it. But when we remain in confusion too long we sap our energy and are unable to move forward. If you’re confused, take some time to look inside yourself and ask the questions you know need asking. What are you drawn to? What are you really wanting in this moment? What is in the way? 

Peel away the camouflage, and you’ll find the answers. 

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