Life has been compared to many things. A book with chapters that close behind us as others open. A mountain: hard to climb, but worth the view. There’s even Forrest Gump and his well-known “life is like a box of chocolates” analogy.
For me though, life is like a puzzle.
One of those big puzzles with thousands of pieces of featureless forest or open sky. And to make things harder, you’ve lost the lid of the box and have no idea what you’re building.
THE EARLY YEARS
Unsure of what we’re building, we start off with the easiest part—the border—setting up the boundaries of this as-yet-unknown picture. School. Higher education. Our first job. Our first relationship. This is a time in our lives when the world has seemingly limitless opportunities, and we confidently slot in piece after piece, full of enthusiasm as we look forward to figuring out where we’re headed.
REALITY SETS IN
But what do we do once that border is complete and, faced with all those endless pieces of non-descript forest, our enthusiasm and progress begin to wane? When life becomes an endless cycle of rinse and repeat: get up, work all day, gym, come home, eat, TV, sleep…what then?
Maybe you choose to walk away from the puzzle, leaving it unfinished, and just accept that this is your life.
Or you start working on completing small sections within the bigger puzzle. Perhaps you get lucky and find a piece that unlocks a new section of the puzzle, when life serves up a new opportunity. The chance to move abroad. A new job offer. A new relationship.
And so you start building these sections, adding piece after piece until your progress dwindles again. That new opportunity that had seemed to hold such promise isn’t the puzzle-unlocking key you thought it was.
Like all experiences in life, it has a place in your puzzle, and is necessary to complete the whole picture of your life, but it’s in the wrong place. You’re left with a section that, while complete in itself, just won’t click into other sections to form a bigger picture.
At this point, we find ourselves at the proverbial fork in the road. If we want to make progress on our life puzzle, we have to choose one of two paths.
- We can force this section into the puzzle, wanting so badly for it to fit that we jam it in, ignoring the niggling feeling that it’s just not right. We’re so focused on keeping those ill-fitting pieces in place, that we ignore all the other pieces—the other aspects of our lives—that are waiting to be developed.
- Or we find the courage to go back and take another look at those pieces.
Change is never easy, especially when it requires us to revisit our past choices.
It takes courage to acknowledge that something is wrong in our lives.
It requires trust that we’ll be able to find the correct place to replace that wrongly positioned piece, giving it the correct importance in our lives.
It needs a willingness to go back and switch out the mismatched pieces, making changes where needed.
It also means dealing with the discomfort that comes from turning our attention to something new as we work on a new section of the puzzle.
While change isn’t easy, it’s often necessary, or you’ll be left with a mountain of unplaced pieces and the sinking feeling that maybe you’ll never be able to complete your life puzzle.
If that’s how you’re feeling, as if your life is a jumbled-up puzzle with no hope of ever being completed, then know that it doesn’t have to be like this. You can make a change.
All it takes is for you to be brave enough to take that first step.