Thursday, March 27, 2008

Solving Puzzles

I am obsessed with jigsaw puzzles. They are one of the few things that give me pure pleasure in life. I just love them. There is something satisfying about clicking in a piece that I've hunted down over a long stretch of time. It is also a great feeling when I pick up a piece and plug it in with seemingly magical divine intervention.

I have definite strategies when I start a puzzle. There is a method to my madness. First, I turn over all the pieces, right side up, on a surface separate from the puzzle construction surface. As I do this process, I search for border pieces and place them in the puzzle construction zone. Once all the pieces are upright and all the border pieces are collected, I put together the border.

I am pretty diligent about making sure I completely construct the border, but I'm not compulsive about it. If I can't find a piece or two after a concerted effort, I move on to the next phase.

I generally start with distinct, easily identifiable color areas. I'll decide on an area, and I'll collect all the pieces that go with that particular area, and put it together.

Chunking down the larger 'problem' into small, manageable pieces makes the task of constructing the puzzle less overwhelming.

I don't like to clutter the puzzle construction area with too many pieces. I like to focus on one part of the puzzle at a time.

Sometimes I'll take a break on one area when I hit a wall, and work on something else for a while.

The bottom line is that I break the problem down into manageable pieces, collect all the necessary parts to work on a particular section and get down to business.

I am methodical, but I allow for inspiration. I mix up my approaches. Sometimes I work on an area, as described above, and other times I will search for a particular piece that I feel motivated to find. Filling 'holes,' where a particular piece is missing from a section, is particularly satisfying.

The actual design of the puzzle can dictate the complexity and difficulty of putting it together. The image on the puzzle, the size and shape of the pieces are all factors that influence the level of challenge. I like to do really easy puzzles, and I like to do more challenging puzzles. I like a lot of variety. It keeps it fresh and exciting.

Doing puzzles has taught me a lot about my personality and my approach to life and solving it's problems.

I approach puzzles in much the same way that I approach life. When faced with a seemingly overwhelming project or problem, I start by organizing all the components so I know where everything is and everything is accessible to me.

Then I create a framework to hold the project. In much the same way as putting together the border of the puzzle creates a container, I like to spec out the project and understand the boundaries and parameters of the endeavor.

Then, I move to work on the parts that make the most sense to do first. I like to get some momentum going and get some success under my belt. Also, the more pieces I get put into place, the less 'confusion' there is in what remains to be done. The more pieces I get put into place, the faster the progress seems to go.

I used to feel that working on puzzles was kind of wasting time. Now, I actually view it as 'training' for how to approach life's problems, challenges and projects. I truly enjoy the fact that I have a leisure activity that teaches me how to be more effective in life.

Life really is like a puzzle. We have all sorts of situations in which we need to figure out how to put the pieces together to make something worthwhile. The problems are always solvable, just like a jigsaw puzzle. Sometimes pieces look like they will fit, and they don't. We keep looking for the 'click.' Sometimes we go at life with the pace of a tortoise. Other times, living is easy and the pieces click in quickly and easily. It's all part of the puzzle of life.

I invite you to adopt my metaphor. You don't even have to enjoy doing jigsaw puzzles to enjoy the metaphor!

The pieces lying on the floor look like nothing. When we use our intelligence, our will and our energy to put them together properly, we achieve a meaningful and pleasing end result!

Put a few pieces into place today!!

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