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  • Amina Aitsi-Selmi

How to make the most of career confusion

It’s such a joyful moment when someone calls you and says: “Thank you for helping me find my dream job – I’ve just been offered the post”; especially when the person calling is so dedicated to the care of her patients.

Dr D hired me as her coach to create more meaningful relationships and take her NHS Consultant career to the next level. Fast-forward eight months and she’s exceeded all expectations. Now, she has the opportunity to lead the transformation of a health service at Cambridge University Hospitals into a global leader in alignment with her own vision. I have no doubt she’ll make a huge impact in her field.

Her outer success is apparent to all but people don’t often see the commitment and dedication to personal development that’s behind it; the emotional and psychological work required. Doubt and confusion are part of the journey and can often be the starting point.

In fact, confusion is good news. Tony Robbins always congratulates anyone who admits to being confused when he’s coaching. Confusion is part of learning and growth. It invites us to surrender to our humanity and open up to deeper intelligence. It usually precedes a breakthrough…and if handled well sets us on the path to a better job or relationship!

Confusion can be used as an indicator that we’re missing a piece of the jigsaw, and that this piece will help us to understand the full situation we find ourselves in. It may be that we’re not paying attention to information that is available to us, or we’re ignoring an opportunity that is presenting itself because we’re using an old set of standards to judge its value.

Personally, I’ve been through the cycle several times and felt the sense of confusion when it was time to move on. In terms of my career, I work as a “healer” and this has taken many forms (doctor in the UK, humanitarian doctor, public health specialist, coach, etc). The original dream morphs every now and again and confusion begins when something has to change…

But what triggers the confusion in the first place? A few common scenarios include:

An achievement-aspiration gap – we realise that we may not make it, perhaps we’ve been passed up for a promotion; not got a job we wanted; or received negative feedback.

A forgotten dream resurfacing – a younger ideal of how we or our lives should be reemerges after having been suppressed for work or family responsibilities. This can happen when children grow up.

Realising our mortality – as we enter the second half of life in our late thirties and forties, our health may change, people around us may die and we begin to see that the time to realise our aspirations is limited.

Normal human maturation – as we become older and wiser, we outgrow ego-based aspirations shaped by our cultural conditioning, and start to yearn for something deeper and more authentic to our unique way of seeing the world. Our intuition will start to nudge us because it’s time to move on to the next phase...

It’s important to time change just right. A risk exists that panic sets in when confusion is triggered and that we over-react to it by making a fast turn in a destructive direction (harming our relationships and wellbeing). Before making practical decisions, this reactive state needs to be addressed. Check in to see if you are operating from a chronically reactive mindset (see video). Similarly, it’s easy to stagnate out of analysis paralysis – trying to model every eventuality in our heads without taking any action.

Ultimately, the period of confusion can be very fruitful if we see it as a signal. Heeding the signal, we can take time to turn inward and understand what is going on underneath the surface. More often that not, this leads to profound realisations that give us a new, bigger perspective that enables us to increase our quality of life.

If you’re lucky enough to be in confusion, rejoice! Your breakthrough is coming. In the meantime:

  1. Don’t panic!

  2. Take time to slow down (cut down on unecessary activity and avoid distractions/shiny new objects; manage any negativity)

  3. Accept the current life situation and enjoy the good things about it

  4. Start to uncover the gems of your life (the deep desires and aspirations underneath the surface desires and aspirations) – (your breakthrough out of confusion will happen somewhere here)

  5. Work to integrate them into your current situation

  6. Be brave and take risks where you need to

  7. Hey presto: a better world comes into existence!

It’s not always that linear and clearcut but going through this process will increase your quality of life one way or another – guaranteed!

Video: Two signs that you are operating from a reactive place


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