The six rules of confusion
When you set yourself a big new goal in an area you’re unfamiliar with, you’re going to go through an initial phase of complete and utter confusion. There’s nothing wrong with this. In fact, you should be delighted. It means you’re doing things right. But it’s not always comfortable. Which is why you need to remember the following 6 Rules of Confusion.
1. Put up with temporary disorganisation.
If you want to know whether you’re in a state of confused goal-building, there’s one way to tell: take a look at your desk. It’ll be an absolute mess. The confusion of this stage is always reflected in the confusion of your work space. Because you’re trying out different ideas and gathering lots of information, you’ll have odds and ends of notes, scraps of paper with ideas on, half-started plans, bullet lists of things to do. Don’t worry. This is totally normal. Just make sure you have a clear out frequently and don’t lose some of the great seedling ideas hidden in there.
2. Learn to live with frustration.
Along with confusion, the early stage of goal-building is also accompanied with frustration. Well, why are you surprised? If you want something and don’t see a quick and easy way to get it, you’re bound to feel frustrated. That’s OK. It’s just your inner child – who always got what it wanted when it wanted it – having a tantrum. The grown-up version has to be a little more restrained. Like Thomas Edison who calmly, patiently and without frustration, carried out over 1000 failed experiments before he discovered the right way to build a light bulb.
3. Grow roots.
I know you may not believe me, but the state of confusion is the most important stage of goal-building. This is the stage that determines whether you’re going to succeed or not. You may not believe that. In fact, you may long for a bit of clear daylight where everything is routine, not chaos, orderly not muddled, and plain sailing instead of hitting your head against endless brick walls. But, listen. Think of yourself as a plant that’s just been sown. How magnificent a specimen you’re going to be isn’t determined by above-ground growth, but by below-ground roots.
4. Keep asking.
“What’s The Lesson Here?”. Many people who go through the early stages of goal-building measure their progress by how much they’re advancing towards their goal. Don’t do that. After all, if you’re putting down roots, you’re probably advancing in all directions except the ones you’ll be finally moving in. Instead, measure your progress by what you’re learning. When you can learn from every day’s confusion and frustration, you’re making huge leaps forward. Not just in your knowledge and skills, but in your personal strength. That’s why writer Trevor Bentley describes the stage of confusion as “the height of wisdom”.
5. Keep your morale high.
If this all sounds too easy, take heart. Having been through many states of confusion and frustration on the route to my goals, I know exactly how it feels. Some days it feels like treading treacle. The rest of the world seems to be getting on with their lives while you’re stuck in no man’s land. All you want to do is give up and settle for something easier. Well, that’s OK… for a brief spell. But don’t give up. If you feel down – and it’s almost certain you will from time to time – give your morale a boost. Slow down. Chill out. Find some successes. And know with absolute certainty that one day soon you’ll come out of the state of confusion and be within reach of your goal.
6. Let the creative process work.
Getting through confusion is inevitable if you stick with it. Why? Because your creative brain will work it out for you. Imagine that your brain is an exact replica of the mess on your desk. Lots of bits of information all unconnected. While your desk won’t do anything about it, your brain will. It will try to find connections between all the dead ends. That’s why sooner or later, and often in an unguarded moment when you’re not expecting it, things will suddenly fall into place. That’s when you’ll get a eureka moment, an “ah-ah” insight, and a shaft of clear light that means you’re coming out of confusion.
Someone once said that trying to reach a big big goal – like making a million pounds (dollars, rupees…) – was no different from learning how to drive a car or play a musical instrument. It’s about learning to do something you couldn’t do before. The goal may be different in each case but the process is the same. 99 out of 100 people who start the process give up when confusion clouds their way. Why not be the 1 who doesn’t?