Jigsaw puzzles remind me of my job (and maybe yours)

I bought myself a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle for Christmas and have been wrestling with it ever since. Not to put too fine a point on it, but it’s Pieter Breugel the Elder’s Netherlandish Proverbs. Try that in 1000 pieces! It’s been a blessing and a curse, much how some of you might feel from time to time about your vocation, whatever it may be. I’ve loved working at it and have been slowly compiling a list of ways that jigsaw puzzles remind me of my life’s work. Perhaps some of these resonate with you.

  1. It’s okay to start at the edges as long as you spend time everywhere else, too.
  2. It’s easier to work in the light than in the dark.
  3. If you’re honest with yourself, you can tell when there’s a perfect fit and when you’re forcing something that isn’t meant to be.
  4. The job is easier when you can see faces.
  5. It’s tempting to think there are missing pieces, but there generally aren’t. You just haven’t yet found what you’re seeking.
  6. Just when you think there’s a pattern, there’s a surprise.
  7. You get a lot done in one small area, but the work yet to be done looms large.
  8. It’s not cheating to look at the picture on the box, but be sure to adjust your expectations to match the real thing.
  9. Systems theory is helpful, but more often than not, you just need to do what’s in front of you.
  10. Most of the time, the work is satisfying and even joyful. When it’s not, it’s okay to take a break.
  11. Sometimes, there actually are missing pieces, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
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