The Golden Value of Confusion


Confusion can be a wonderful thing. It is a state of mind that most people don’t enjoy, and certainly don’t want to stay in for very long. Confusion can paralyse us from action. We can get lost in it, slowed down by it, depressed by it.

Yet it is also possible to be excited by it. Confusion can be a sign of change, that we have entered new territory, and, though that can mean new risks and dangers, it can also mean new possibilities and opportunities.

Confusion is an opportunity to explore, to approach something from another angle, to get another viewpoint, to acquire new skills and knowledge. What might be experienced as confusion in the short term can emerge as wisdom in the longer term. Confusion can be a sign that we are missing a piece of the puzzle or that the piece we have is from the wrong picture!

Confusion can be a sign that we should pause and reflect, that we need to ask new and different questions. Confusion is essential to solving difficult problems.

Confusion in one area might be a signal to do something entirely different for a while, or even for life.

But should we ever create it consciously? Confusion can be a place we need to go to get more creative. We are unsure what career we’d like in our lives. We head to the library and take out twenty books. We print off a hundred articles from the web and we dump them all in a big pile in front of us in our room. It looks daunting. It looks exciting. We dive in.

Confusion is about throwing things up in the air and seeing where they land differently. Confusion can be a place to play for a while. Often patterns appear in the confusion and they can be signposts to our future.

Many organisations and people attempt to prevent confusion and even design it out of their lives and systems altogether. They seek clarity and certainty all of the time. The danger of this is that, when confusion comes, it is unwelcome and traumatic – we are not ready for it nor geared up to deal with it. Building confusion in as part of a welcomed creative process tunes us into its golden value in seeing things from different points of view, in refreshing our thinking, and also in being patiently humble, realising and accepting that we are human and don’t always have all or the right pieces of the whole picture puzzle.

Confusion can tie us up in knots. It can also set us free.

“I used to go away for weeks in a state of confusion.”
Albert Einstein

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