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Forrest Gump said that “Life is like a Box of Chocolates” and although I can see his point, I am not sure I totally agree with him. To me, Gump’s analogy points more toward luck/chance rather than on a life built with concrete effort.

I have recently adopted a worldview that my life is more like a giant slide puzzle. You know the one I am talking about right?  The 9 square puzzle with one empty space in the corner.  The puzzle game, where you slide the other blocks into that empty space, trying to get the picture to magically appear.

9 Square Slide Puzzle

This idea is very appealing to me for three reasons. One, the puzzle analogy helps me break the massive challenge of achieving my life goals into nice neat, manageable chunks. Two, it reminds me that I can effect change on my world by moving one of the pieces.   And three, it stands to reason that if I continue to push and slide these pieces around on the board, eventually my ideal life will materialize.

 

How to solve a Slide Puzzle?

Step One:  First, figure out what the picture is supposed to look like or at least decide what is should be.

Step Two:  Is the art of observation.  Look for patterns. Notice what lines up and what seems to naturally flow into the surrounding blocks.

Step Three:  Move one block to where it is supposed to go.

Step four:  Be willing to adjust the pieces.  The Slide puzzle is a tricky thing.  In order to get all the pieces to fit into their correct positions, you must be willing to slide pieces to an incorrect location in order for another piece to fall into the correct spot.  And Finally…

Step Six: Keep sliding pieces until the picture looks right.

Smile Face Slide puzzle

Creating Your Ideal Life

  • First decided what your ideal life picture is supposed to look like! You have to see it first before you can begin to create it.  For some of us this is the hardest part, deciding what our ideal picture should look like.
  • Observation is key! Notice what gets you juiced to roll out of the bed in the morning. What interests you? What things you feel passionately about? Notice which of those things seem to naturally flow together. Then follow that!
  • Move one block to where it is supposed to go. In other words “Take action to affect change” You can sit and stare at the pretty pieces of your life and analyze them forever; but the beautiful picture you are trying to create will not come together until you are willing to move something. Do yourself a favor and move at least one block that interests you. It may not be the perfect place to start but at least you have a chance to see where it leads you.
  • Be willing to Adjust! Just like with the slide puzzle you have to be willing to move the pieces of your life picture around in order to help another piece fall into place. This is another hard thing for most people to do.  We have a tendency to believe that if we don’t have control over every moment or piece of our lives that we are somehow failing at life. Instead, allow yourself to discover a new path.  Don’t be so ridged in your approach that you lose sight of the fact that some of life’s best discoveries come from the biggest detours.
  • And finally, keep sliding things around until you get it right! There is a certain amount of mystery contained within a puzzle as there is in life. Often we don’t know where to begin, nor which of the 1000 pieces are meant to connect together in order to complete our beautiful masterpiece.  But the key is to never give up!  Commit to trying every combination you can, until your picture slides into view and remember things take time to come together

It takes time for the pieces to fall into place

I am currently struggling with #4 – “be willing to adjust.”  I am stuck between creating a new path for myself and hanging onto what I know works. I find myself wishing the new path would start to show dividends so that it would be easy to let go of the old one.  Logically know that I am my own worst enemy.  Just like you, I constantly grapple with the little voice in my head that likes to remind me that life is NOT a tiny board game, and who the hell do I think I am for deciding to go after something else?  Don’t you know how hard we have worked to get to this point? Blah, blah blah …  Every day, I work towards changing the negative talk inside my head. Some days I win that battle and other days I lose.  But I constantly remind myself that it takes just as much energy to focus on the problem as it does to look for a solution, and just because I am not where I want to be Right NOW, does not mean that I am not getting close.

I recently read a great LinkedIn article by Tom Hood where he talks about the 95% Rule.  According to Tom this simple rule says that 95% of the pain and troubles you are experiencing right now are caused by your own stupidity!  His article not only made me smile, but he is absolute right!  It is about what we focus on.  Sometimes we want a particular piece of our lives to fall into place so badly that we actually get tunnel vision.  This is where you usually get bogged down by the little voice in your head that says “But I have tried everything and nothing is working!”  If that statement were true, you would already have the masterpiece you are trying to create.    A narrow vision halts your ability to be a creative problem solver.  Give yourself permission to Stop and search for new paths.  Take a step back so that you may see the “Bigger Picture” and commit to moving the pieces around until your ideal image finally emerges.

slide puzzle girl

 

Fun Facts!

  • The first sliding puzzle was invented by a New York postmaster named Noyes Chapman.
  • The slide puzzle made its debut in the early months of 1880. This puzzle game became wildly popular and grabbed the world’s attention much like the Rubik’s Cube craze in the 1980s
  • September of the same year a lady by the name of Sarah Knauss was born. She became the longest-lived American to ever live (d. 1999). Knauss lived through seven wars involving the U.S. and the administrations of 23 presidents. At her death, she was one of seven living generations of her family. Sarah lived long enough to see the invention of the Airplane, Coca-Cola, the paper clip, the Polaroid Camera, Band-Aids, Windshield Wipers, Microwave Ovens, Cell phones and of course the World Wide Web. Image how many times she would have had to shift the picture of her perfect life.   She attributed her long life to not sweating the small stuff!

 

To me, there is a beautiful correlation between the creation of our ideal lives and the fluidity of the slide puzzle.  Just as we get one piece anchored, we realize we need to adjust in order to allow the next piece to flow into place.  I guess the saying is true, “Change is inevitable.”

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