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03.21.2014 Sharon Spano, Ph.D.

Why Confusion is a Lousy Excuse

If you’re like most people, you've probably found yourself confused about one thing or another. I recently pushed myself into a state of confusion over a regularly scheduled meeting I’d committed to each month.

I’m very intentional about what I commit to, so the fact that I missed a few meetings due to confusion over dates surprised me. For some reason, I thought the meetings for this particular group were scheduled on the first Wednesday of the month. In actuality, the meetings are scheduled twice a month, the first and third Wednesdays of the month.

The fact that I was this far off from reality gave me something to think about. My first course of action was, quite naturally, to look for an escape clause.

It went something like this: “I don’t think I was ever informed that the meetings were twice a month.” At the time, I thought that was a plausible excuse, so I quickly patted myself on the back for coming up with a reason why this oversight wasn't my fault and moved on.

But, then, something gnawed at me. I gave my word to be at these meetings, and I broke my word. Isn't it, after all, my responsibility to fully understand what I’m committing to?

Darn. I hate when this happens. It seems, then, that I unwittingly opted for confusion, so confusion is what I got. The question is, why would I choose confusion over clarity?

What Exactly is Confusion Anyway?

The short definition of confusion is “lack of understanding or uncertainty.” In thinking through my actions more carefully, I came to realize that lack of understanding wasn't the issue at all. I find in working with leaders, it rarely is. In my experience, the root of confusion is often some level of uncertainty. Uncertainty in the sense that I’m not really sure that I want to commit.

Confusion is a diversion from some truth.

So, what was I pretending not to know? After some self-reflective thought, I came to realize the real reason for my confusion. The meetings start at 7:00 am. That’s my writing time. Did I really want to get up at 5:30 to drive across town for a meeting I wasn't even sure I belonged in? Can you begin to see how easily we divert our actions from that which we really don’t want to do?

Why Confusion is a Lousy Excuse.

Confusion is a lousy excuse because it’s just another version of an old story we play out in a variety of ways. It diverts us from things we may want and deserve. It separates us from opportunity, undermines our credibility, and frustrates the people around us.

Here’s how I see confusion showing up among leaders when we’re doing the really hard stuff they don’t want to do. For example, when I work with key leaders in the realm of leadership development processes that are designed to push them outside their comfort zone, a small percent-age will fail to do what is required. In an effort to mask their fear of moving in the direction of self-improvement, they will claim that they are confused by the process.

In short, if I don’t look in the mirror, I won’t have to make that necessary change. We are clever beings, are we not?

Note the Source of Your Confusion.

If you’re finding yourself confused now and again, it’s no big deal. But, if it’s happening quite often or if it’s happening around a specific scenario, pay attention. Get to the source of your confusion.

In the self-disclosing example I've just offered, it wasn't all that complicated. Nothing specific was being required of me other than to attend these meetings. In fact, I feel honored to be asked to participate.

My confusion, or shall we call it what it really is—my lack of commitment—didn't stem from a desire to avoid hard work. Rather, I flipped into this state of confusion for the very opposite reason. I didn't see much opportunity for much meaningful input in these meetings. The meetings are more about gathering information and listening rather than contributing. The source of my lack of commitment, then, was based on a deeper need to contribute and feel valued.

Change Your Mind.

I've made a decision not to be confused about these meeting times any more. I made a commitment, and I’m going to honor that commitment. But, in order to move to this place, I had to do two things.

One, I gained clarity on the dates and times of the meetings and placed them on my calendar.

Two, I decided that it’s okay for me to come to the meetings to listen and learn. My contribution will surface in other ways in that I will have vital information to pass on to others.

If you’re someone who finds yourself confused much of the time and excuses fall out of your mouth like dribble from an old dog’s mouth, stop the dribble and change your mind. When you get to the source of this habit, you can make better decisions and better choices. You’ll increase your credibility, and I can promise you that you’ll also experience different results.

Yesterday, I was up at 4:00 am instead of 5:30 eager to start my day and eager to get to that 7:00 am meeting. Surprise, surprise. I actually enjoyed it.

[reminder]

Published by Sharon Spano, Ph.D. March 21, 2014