Puzzles & Life Lessons
When in Arizona visiting my sister, she turned me on to a fun puzzle app. We sit together in the very early morning hours, drinking coffee together, and watch the sun slowly rise. There is nothing like an Arizona sunrise. Absolutely stunning!
When I’m back home I sometimes get too busy to work on these puzzles and almost forget about them. One morning while drinking my coffee the app caught my eye. I have been working on a new puzzle almost every day now. I have come to realize that I am learning some amazing life lessons while working the puzzles.
When something looks overwhelming at first, take the time to focus on just a small portion of it. Work that portion for a bit and then branch out to tackle the rest. Just like in life. Sometimes looking at a big project can seem exceedingly overwhelming, but if you break it down into pieces, focus on individual portions, then your mind isn’t so overwhelmed. Slowly, bit-by-bit the individual pieces will come together and you can fit the final puzzle together into a masterpiece.
Look at the big picture. While above I said it is less overwhelming to tackle small bits of the puzzle at a time, it is also wise to step back and reevaluate the big picture. If the group of pieces you are working on belongs on the left side of the picture, but you are working them on the right side of the picture then they will never fit. You must look at the completed picture to see where the grouping belongs, you can then readjust them to the correct side and boom, the pieces click right into the outer parameter pieces. Anyone who has developed a business plan or life plan understands what I mean. The goal is to develop this plan, break it down so that it’s doable, work away at the different pieces then you MUST go back to it often and look at the overall business/life plan and make sure that you are still on track.
I personally have always started with the outer perimeter pieces first. Scott and I work on a puzzle every New Year’s Eve. It’s become a tradition and friends gather at out house, coming and going to visit and help with the puzzle. When we start, we separate the flat perimeter pieces from the rest and then begin our framework. Framework is important! It’s like building a house; you must have a good foundation and framework if you want a strong well built home. Your business/life plan is your framework and foundation that holds strong while you work towards your final goals.
You really need to step away for a bit sometimes. This one is very hard for me! I want to finish! Now! Lol. But I am finding that when I am stuck and cannot seem to move forward then I need to shut the iPad and walk away. Focus on something else for a while. When I come back to the puzzle, it is miraculous how I can start moving pieces into place with renewed vision. Just like in life. I have a tendency to hyper focus on something and that can lead to frustration when things aren’t going the way I think they should. I keep trying and trying to fix it and it’s not working. I am learning in my old age to walk away for a bit, let my mind go somewhere else completely and then go back to it later. I cannot tell you how much this helps me and opens my eyes to renewed ideas.
Be tenacious. Puzzles are not meant to be something done quickly. You must linger, ponder and focus. You learn not to give up easily. As mentioned above, you my need to step away for a bit, but puzzles have a way of calling you back over to hover above the pieces and ponder. It is a way to work on tenacity and your ability to finish the job in a slow methodical manner. Most of the time in life, things don’t come quickly or easily. You must be tenacious and focus on the end goal. Don’t let the fact that you are struggling a bit to find the right spot for that piece get you down, keep looking and the opening will appear at some point in the puzzle. Be tenacious; keep trying.
If a puzzle piece doesn’t fit, then maybe it wasn’t meant to be there. When you JUST KNOW that a particular pieces goes into that spot, but it is not fitting!! What. The. Heck! This happens to me a ton. I look at the big picture, I look at the puzzle piece, it goes into that spot, I just know it does. I do this over and over sometimes. Looking back and forth. Trying to shove the piece into position and make it work. We have actually done this on our “real” puzzles and in the end it only screws us up when we get to the last piece; which doesn’t fit anywhere because we shoved the wrong piece into its spot earlier in the evening. Simply because WE thought that it belongs there. Definite life lesson here. Just because you WANT something or someone to fit into your plan, it does not mean that they belong there. I am learning to pay attention to the signs that while I though something might have been a great idea, it’s not so great after all. Just because it is on your business/life plan, it doesn’t mean that in the end it was supposed to “fit.” Another way to look at it is that maybe it wasn’t supposed to fit at the time and place that you wanted it too, but rather it is supposed to come later in the plan. As my dad, Wayne always said, “don’t force things into place!”
Readjust your thinking. So your piece doesn’t fit where you thought it should. Set. It. Aside.... Wait. Take a breath...See how the other pieces fall into place and then try again later. If your plan was to go to college, get married and then have two children then that’s great! BUT, what happens if you suck at college, all of the guys you have dated are creeps and you feel like your ovaries are going to dry up before children are even possible. Then stop...breath..and readjust your thinking. What are you good at? Are you better at a trade and would rather go to trade school? Where are you meeting guys? Should you readjust your hangout locations? You’re still young, your ovaries are fine. If you readjust your focus, after setting aside the piece(s) that aren’t fitting, then maybe the puzzle will truly fall into place. The real puzzle, the one you may not have known you were working on.
It’s ok to change the plan. Sooooo, the puzzle absolutely sucks and you hate it. You keep going back to it, trying to convince yourself that it is a puzzle you want to do. But honestly you would rather gouge your eyes out then finish the thing. THAN DON’T FINISH THE PUZZLE. Yes, it’s ok. No, you are not a failure. Sometimes things are just not worth your energy and effort. If it initially the puzzle looked fun and you took the time to build the framework, but then everything went downhill from there, then it’s time to let go. Your business/life plan looked so promising. You spent months developing a plan and the necessary steps. You have begun working on tackling the first few steps on your journey and you hate it. It was supposed to be fun, enjoyable and energizing. Instead it is maddening, frustrating, and sucks the energy right out of you by 8am. You keep trying to make it work and refuse to give up. Only to realize the stress is ruining your life. Then you know, that maybe it’s ok to just stop, break up the pieces that you have put together and mix them with the unfinished pile. Dump them into a box and wipe your hands of it and reevaluate which puzzle you would rather be working on. It’s ok. You did not fail. You are learning which puzzles you need to be looking for in the future and which puzzles to avoid.
I’m here to tell you that failure should not be a word; it should simply be replaced with the word learning. But since it is a word that many people find as a roadblock, we will accept it and instead call it a learning experience through failure. Now, like I said, you have not failed if you stop mid-puzzle and put everything back into the box. It was your decision and choice. But what if you simply could not finish the puzzle. You didn’t choose to give up, but rather you could not figure it out. EVER! Like, that damn thing has been on the dining room table for 2 years! No one can figure it out! You could blame the puzzle maker, you could blame the cat for taking a piece or you could just consider it a failure and learn. Choose to learn here folks and get the puzzle off the dining room table and sit with your family over beautiful meals instead of a dusty old puzzle that frustrates the hell out of you all. Failure is your friend. Learn. Grow and move on! But, I suggest that you go out and get a different puzzle, a fold up table and set it up for the family to try again. Cuz puzzles are fun! Until their not. Lol.
The missing piece. Speaking of the cat. Where is that missing piece? You have looked EVERYWHERE! It is THE LAST PIECE to the puzzle and it is nowhere to be found. Stop looking for the missing piece. Do not drive yourself nuts destroying your house over a missing piece of puzzle! Sometimes, that piece was not meant to be found. As in life, you expect things to fall into place like you had mapped it out in your mind. But somehow you have lost a piece, a piece that you know is supposed to be there to complete your puzzle. It isn’t finished until that piece is in its perfect place. You have created a piece in your mind that, in actuality, should never have been there. Sometimes that piece just simply disappears or is ejected from your life and it throws your world into a crazy mess trying to find it, get it back or create it. I have learned that if I spend a bit of time crawling around on the floor looking under tables, cabinets and in the cat box, and I still can’t find the piece; I let it go. Yep, I tear that 99% finished puzzle apart and put it in the box. I throw it away so that I don’t accidently give it to a friend and I go to the store and find a new puzzle to start.
Let. it. go. Did you have fun? Was your journey joyous until you got to that missing last piece? Did you have amazing conversations with friends and family while working on the puzzle? Did the kids help and learn? When the family takes a trip and in your mind you have the itinerary all worked out in your mind. You visualize that the day will finish with a lovely drive home and then stop for ice cream along the way. It will be the final piece to your perfect family outing. Here’s the problem, it isn’t meant to be. The overall trip was amazing, but the kids are getting tired. They had a blast but are now sunburned, starting to fight and little Jimmy lost his favorite toy in the sand somewhere. You still are determined to have that amazing ice cream event that you mapped out in your mind. Ummmmmm, this is the time to let.it.go... But no, you are not going to give up and force the situation. Let’s just say that tears ensue with sticky ice cream all over your car and children. Avoid this next time and be happy that 99% of your puzzle came together and let that last piece of the puzzle fly away in the wind.
Ask for help! There is nothing more fun then having friends and family over a puzzle. Ok, maybe there might be a few more fun things, but that’s not the point. Music blasting, drinks flowing and crumbs of food being brushed off the puzzle. Friends bring new eyes to the puzzle. They look at it from a different angle then you do. Some people think outside of the box, some are meticulous in their approach, some look at colors, while others look at shapes. Everyone brings something to the table to assist in the creation you have laid out onto the table. We could NEVER have started this lavender farm without the help from family and friends. Some have been product testers, farm helpers, mental supporter and so so much more. Never be afraid to ask for help. People (most people) want to help and you just need to let them know what you need help with. It is always nice to create something and say you did it all on your own, but I can guarantee that you will have way more fun if you include others in the process. Multiple ideas are welcome in our world.
Be patient and kind with yourself. On a final note, because at this point I suspect you are chomping at the bit to run out and get a new puzzle! Give yourself a break. Puzzles and life are meant to be fun. You will run into complications and frustrations while finding the right spot for a piece. Don’t let it get you down. Put on your comfiest yoga pants, warm up your favorite tea and put on a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie. Enjoy the journey. Puzzles, like life, are meant to be enjoyed, so relax and have a blast!