Monday Morning Coach - Betty Mahalik

Betty Mahalik
Coach, Speaker
& Trainer

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Life in 500 Pieces 

About a week ago, something possessed me to buy a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle.  500 pieces, I thought, would be easier than say, a 1200-piece puzzle; and it’s been many years since I put together a puzzle. Right?  Wrong-o!!  A week later I’m still trying to get all the pieces to fit.  It’s been on my kitchen table so long, I now need to dust it! 

It’s a stunning picture of a hummingbird sipping nectar from a beautiful pink flower, surrounded by more pink flowers, sunflowers and lots of green background….lots and lots of green background.  Did I mention there is lots of green background that looks pretty much the same?  To say it’s been challenging is an understatement! 

Nonetheless I press on and have made great progress on several parts with the full intention of successfully completing it this week.  And I can’t help but think how similar life can be to my 500-piece jigsaw puzzle.  Here, in no particular order are lessons I’ve learned about life from my hummingbird puzzle: 

Lesson 1:  It helps to have a finished picture to follow.  How true!  Time and time again I look back at the picture on the box, searching for clues about where to place a particular piece.  Stephen Covey says something about this in his mega-classic best-seller 7 Habits of Highly Effective People with Habit 1: Begin with the end in mind.  Do you have pictures in mind of what you want to experience or create in your life or business?  Do you know what success or completion looks like?  If not, take the time to create that vision—either by writing it out in detail or better yet, by creating a vision board.  That picture will be invaluable as you seek to find the pieces that fit for you along the way. 

Lesson 2: Sometimes you have to take a break.  When I first starting working the puzzle, I was like a dog with a bone.  I was going to stick with it until I got it done!  But solving puzzles, whether on a table or in real life, requires regular periods of focus followed by periods rest.  I can’t tell you how often I talk to coaching clients who are going to power through a challenge or project by pure grit and determination, staying up super-late, getting up super-early, skipping lunch and keeping their nose to the grindstone until their eyes pop out! 

There may be times for that kind of pedal to the metal approach (very rare), but I’ve discovered from my puzzle experience that if I get up, move around, do something different, look at something besides the puzzle, breathe, take the dogs for a walk or just get some rest, it’s amazing what falls into place when I return to the challenge.  I come back refreshed, with a new set of eyes and a different perspective.  

Are you building in regular periods of rest in your life?  Are you breaking the intensity of focus to come up for air?  Do you recognize when you’ve reached a fatigue point which is likely causing you to work against yourself?  There is an abundance of research out there to support the value of taking regular breaks and building in longer rest cycles to keep focus and productivity high.  

Lesson 3:  Many puzzle pieces look alike, but there is really only one that fits correctly.  Oh how many times I’ve grabbed a piece thinking Voila!  I’ve found it.  Yet when I place the piece into the spot where I simply know it belongs, it’s not a fit.  I want it to be a fit.  I think it should be a fit. It certainly looks close enough to be a fit.  But in the end, it simply does not fit, and no amount of twisting it around, telling myself it “should” fit ever results in a fit if it’s not there.  Life is similar:  We may take a job, start a hobby, begin reading a book that we simply “know” must be a fit for us and so we struggle, force and insist it just has to fit!  Finally, after admitting it isn’t a fit, we let it go to open up space for the right “thing” or person to come in.  And Voila! It does come, often quickly and sooner than we expect.  Truth is, the sooner we admit what isn’t true for us, the sooner what is true has room to show up.   

What’s not fitting for you right now?  Is there a “truth” you’ve refused to admit?  Are you still trying to fit a square peg into a round hole?  Let go and make room for the true fit to show up! 

Lesson 4:  There will be mistakes.  So what!  We try something, it doesn’t work.  We try something else it does work.  We step back, take a breath and remember that very few things in life are irreversible—including mistakes!  I don’t exactly know when I became so “mistake-averse” and fixed on doing things perfectly.  The fact is, rarely are things perfect on the first try.  Often not after the second or third try.  But after each attempt (aka “mistake”) we learn and if we pay attention to the feedback are that much closer to getting it right the next time. 

The great inventor Thomas Edison had over 1,000 “unsuccessful” experiments on his way to inventing the light bulb.  Yet he never viewed them as mistakes or errors, rather than as experiments that provided valuable feedback and eventually helped him complete an invention that literally changed life for millions of people.  Where might you begin “experimenting” and taking the risk of being wrong, rather than struggling with the battle of perfection?  You may be on the path to creating some extraordinary new service or at least a way of doing something that is simpler or easier.  And it may begin with your next mistake, so go ahead and make it! 

I know there are many more lessons I’ve learned from this recent experience with my puzzle.  But, if I don’t want this to turn into Wednesday Morning Coach, I’m going to call it a wrap.  Make this the week you see how one or more of these lessons shows up in your life.  We have everything we need to solve the puzzles that show up in our lives and businesses if we’re willing to regularly consult with the picture, schedule in breaks and rest, let go of what doesn’t fit and be willing to make mistakes.  Now, I’d like to get back to that puzzle.  I think I know exactly where that next piece fits!

Have a wonderful week!

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