Life is Puzzling

Recently, during lockdown, I’ve started doing jigsaw puzzles; something I’ve not done for years.  I’ve found it very enjoyable, but also frustrating at times.

The latest is a beautiful photograph of Norwich Cathedral.  It’s a 1000-piece puzzle, and fiendishly difficult!  The cathedral part was challenging, but manageable.  However, the rest is sky, which is mainly blue, with wispy clouds; the pieces all look remarkably similar.  It is taking me ages to complete.

It struck me that in many ways a jigsaw puzzle is a lot like life’s challenges.  At times it can seem overwhelming.  You know all of the pieces do fit together somehow; the challenge is in working out how.

It can be difficult to know where to start and everyone has their own way of tackling a jigsaw.  How do you do it?  Do you find the edge pieces first and make the frame?  Do you try to sort and match pieces by colour or shape?  Do you look for pieces or parts of the picture that you recognise?  Do you work systematically or by instinct?  Do you do it by yourself or with someone else?

Some jigsaws are easier than others, the pieces are distinctive, more recognisable.  Others, like mine, have large areas that are all one colour, where the only way to solve it is to try each piece in turn, until you find one that fits.  Even then, sometimes you find a piece is in the wrong place after all, so you have to take it out again and keep trying until you find the right one.

You know all of the pieces do fit together somehow; the challenge is in working out how.

Sometimes looking at the bigger picture helps you find where each piece goes.

Sometimes you need good light to distinguish subtleties of colour and shape to find the piece you need.

Sometimes all the pieces slot easily into place, one after another, but sometimes you sit for hours and find only one piece.

Sometimes, when you take a break for a while, you straight away find the piece you’d been looking for all that time; it was there all along.

Sometimes you worry you might have lost some pieces, but when you get to the end, they are all there; they always were.

Sometimes, the piece that you were convinced must fit in one place, turns out to go somewhere entirely different, and you’d never have guessed it.

Whatever your approach, be it to jigsaw puzzles or life in general, you will experience different challenges at various stages along the way.  Challenges are exciting but can also be overwhelming and frustrating at times.  It’s not unusual to feel discouraged when, despite all efforts, you don’t feel as if you are making any progress.  The trick is to recognise your feelings and have strategies to get you through.

Focussing on the end goal and visualising success can often help boost your motivation.  You could also take a break, reapply yourself when you’re feeling refreshed.  Sometimes, it might be that you need to analyse what you’re doing and rethink your strategy.

Sometimes, the piece that you were convinced must fit in one place, turns out to go somewhere entirely different, and you’d never have guessed it.

Jigsaw puzzles aside, with the world in such a state of flux thanks to Coronavirus, many of us are in a position of needing to re-evaluate what we are doing.  Whether it’s having to adapt to different ways of working, or needing to reinvent yourself and your career entirely, you will have had to make changes and find new coping strategies.

With so much uncertainty about the ‘new normal’ and what the future holds, it’s the people with the most flexibility who will succeed.  That flexibility comes, I believe, from letting go of rigid categories that define who you are and what you do.  Instead, taking a holistic view of your skills, knowledge and experience.  Are you a problem solver?  A leader?  A skilled communicator?  What transferable skills and unique qualities can you bring to your work?  Where are those skills needed?

Remember, all of the pieces do fit together; it’s a question of working out how.  You absolutely have valuable resources that are needed somewhere.  You are not defined by your current job title, and you don’t have to always work in the same sector.  A different role and sector might feel unfamiliar, but it could just be where your skills fit, no matter how unlikely it might seem on first glance.

If you’re reaching that the point where no matter how long you stare at the pieces, you simply can’t find where they belong, I can help you discover strategies that really work.  Personal and professional development is at the heart of everything I do, and I specialise in facilitating reinvention, changing direction in life.  If you’re getting frustrated with the pieces that don’t seem to fit together, give me a call, let’s talk about how I can help shed some light.



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