It’s Okay to be Confused

Coffee mug

You’ve had those moments. I’m sure of it. When your brain seems a bit foggy and you’re not thinking clearly. Perhaps you stayed up past your bedtime to watch the big game and only got a couple hours of sleep. Or you woke up to change a diaper and never got back to sleep. Or you ate something that didn’t agree with your system and now everything, including your brain, seems out of whack. Maybe you drank too much coffee and your brain is experiencing a wild caffeine rush. I’m sure you can think about moments when your brain wasn’t functioning at its best and you seemed a bit, well, confused.

The last 6 months have been a time of change for me. I moved from Connecticut to Nebraska. I started a new job. I left behind 32 years of large, public, corporate experience to join a private, start-up. And my father passed away. Those are just the “big” changes I’ve experienced. Have you ever noticed that during times of major change you can, at times, experience confusion? You have new markers, new surroundings and new relationships. Your brain is working overtime. It’s okay to be confused at times (just don’t stay there).

If you’re a data-based decision-maker, you don’t always have all the data you need. If you’re a feelings-based decision-maker, your feelings can vacillate. In these situations, it’s normal to feel a bit confused. Perhaps even overwhelmed. It’s okay. It happens to all of us. Executives. Parents. Newlyweds. Students. Politicians. Everyone. It’s okay.

Recently I was wrestling with a decision over a cup of coffee. I was confused. The data wasn’t clear. My feelings weren’t clear. And my decision certainly wasn’t clear. The more I thought about it, the more frustrated I became. Ugh! I’m better than this I thought. I’m more skilled than this, more intelligent, more “fill-in-the blank.” So I took my coffee and moved to a new spot. I relaxed and breathed deeply. I said a short prayer. I breathed deeply. S.l.o.w.l.y. I thought about my decision. I mentally reviewed the data. I asked myself who else in my network might be able to help me. I reviewed the deadline for making the decision. I even asked myself, “Does a decision need to be made? Or can I delay it?” I put my coffee aside, grabbed a glass of water, and took a nice slow drink. I breathed deeply. And said another prayer.

In the end, I was able to delay my decision a few days until I had a chance to reach out to a couple subject matter experts in my network. Ultimately, I made the decision and moved on. Was it a good decision? I believe so, though it’s too early to tell. But when I made it, I wasn’t confused. I was confident in my choice. My mind was clear. And I felt good about my process.

As I look back, I was reminded that it’s okay to be confused. And I was reminded of a few tips that will help in clarifying the decisions you have to make, even when experiencing a bout of confusion.

  1. Recognize it’s okay to be confused. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, unintelligent, or indecisive.
  2. Ask others for help. Leverage your network. Ask colleagues, friends, family. Search the internet. Go to the library.
  3. Do nothing. If you don’t have to make a decision, delay it until you have more data or feel less confused. Avoid making decisions in a state of confusion or emotional stress (e.g. anger).
  4. Take a break. Change your environment. Go someplace new. Visit a park. Exercise. Watch a movie. Get away for a couple days.
  5. Bonus: Break the decision down into small pieces and make the smallest decision you have to. This results in less risk and can create a small, mental “win.” It often brings clarity to the decision as well.

Whether or not you are experiencing a lot of change at the moment, my guess is that, if you’re honest, you’ve experienced confusion over a decision recently. Relax. It happens to the best of use. Take a deep breath. Realize you’re okay. Ask others for help. Do nothing (if possible). Take a break. And break the decision down into small pieces. You’ll be glad you did.

Have a great week and remember it’s okay to be confused (just don’t stay there).

is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.

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One thought on “It’s Okay to be Confused

  1. Great article! I appreciate that you shared your experience with dealing with confusion times. And I’m so sorry about your loss.

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