One of the things that Susanne and I have taken up in our early retirement days is putting jigsaw puzzles together. Before retiring, the last time I worked on a puzzle was in my pre-school days. I had no interest whatsoever in putting a puzzle together. Susanne, likewise, was a puzzle assembly novice. When we spent a few weeks last summer in the Chicago area, we decided to ‘do a puzzle’ It was challenging. Through perseverance and grit, we did finish the project. Somewhere along the line, it has become one of our favorite hobbies. Not the most favored, pickleball, reading, travel, and exercise are at the top of my list. But puzzling is rapidly rising in the ranks of things I enjoy doing. While working on a puzzle, I considered how it relates to many life skills. So here is my thinking on life skills reinforced by putting a puzzle together:
- Everything looks easy when it is still in the box! The beautiful pictures on the box draw you in. ‘Hey, I went to college. I can do that!’ Pictures can lull you into thinking the assembling of this will be simple and easy. This is true of most things in life. There is a difference between the pretty picture on the box and the finished product.
- Where did all the pieces come from? Going by the picture on the box, what seemed like it would be easy can quickly become a nightmare of hundreds of pieces of varying sizes and shapes spilling out over the table. The realization follows: ‘I will be working on this for the rest of my life!’
- You must have a plan! Okay, you knew this was coming. I like methods and procedures. The puzzle is not going to assemble itself, so I must get started, and to get started, I must have a plan.
- Start with the border. You have to have boundaries in life. You must understand the scale and size. You cannot just dive in. You must set the parameters. The border is first! They are like guardrails, containing your project and allowing you to finish. First, select the boundaries. I know that I have been a lifelong rule follower, yet in most things, there are rules. I have discovered some for life, and I recently found the same is true for puzzles.
- Develop a system to organize the remaining parts of the puzzle. Some do by shape, and some separate the colors, writing, and other distinguishing marks. You are trying to identify things by patterns.
- Start Small. You will not finish the project immediately. To keep making progress, work on a small section at a time.
- Take breaks. Sometimes while working on every puzzle, I will exclaim: “they left some of the pieces out!” I have looked and looked and I know the piece I am looking for is not there! Just as I took a small time-out from writing this blog post, I walked by our half-done puzzle, and the piece I was so sure was not there I saw immediately as I walked by the table. I had spent some time looking for it and could not find it until I had taken a break. Our minds can only concentrate for so long, take a walk, do something different, and you will be pretty surprised how you will see the piece you were looking for on your return to the table.
- Enjoy the journey as well as the completed task! It took me time to realize this in puzzling and life.
Why I am enjoying puzzles:
- It keeps my mind active
- There is a sense of accomplishment.
- Susanne and I can work on them together.
Jigsaw puzzles are a lot like golf. You either love it, or you don’t. If you are looking for a relatively inexpensive hobby that keeps your mind active. Give it a try. See what life lessons you will discover.