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Tip #22: Begin With the End in Mind.

The other day, I decided to put a puzzle together. I hadn't done a puzzle in a long time but I had a few hours to kill while working with the kids at school. I started with a basic 75-piece puzzle and finished it in about 25 minutes. I moved up to a 504-piece puzzle (a montage of parrots in a jungle) that seemed pretty difficult.

The last time I put a puzzle together, I don't remember having a strategy. I just tried each puzzle piece until it fit. This time, I had a strategy. As I worked my puzzle, I started with the edges and put them in a pile. Then I started separating the remaining pieces by color. It took a while but I finally got all of the pieces into a few different piles. Because I was trying to finish the puzzle before I left for the day, I asked for some help. An older kid worked on the individual parrots and I worked on piecing the outside edges together. A kindergarten girl wanted to help. She took all of the pieces she could grab and shoved them together in a pile. I tried my best not to scream. I said "sweetheart, please don't do that. Let's find a movie for you to watch". She didn't seem to understand the concept of putting a puzzle together. I was determined to get this puzzle completed so I put in the movie she asked for. I separated the puzzle pieces again (the ones that she had put back in a pile) and kept working. I had an adult help me with another part of the puzzle but I kept working on the edges. We kept referring to the box to make sure we were on the right track. I didn't finish the puzzle (as you can see in the pics below) but it definitely looked more like the parrots on the box instead of a pile of mismatched pieces.

Ok, enough about the puzzle. I used it to bring up a very important analogy that author Sean Covey illustrated in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. If you haven't read the book yet, you need to! It is phenomenal. In his book, Sean discussed Habit 2: Begin With the End in Mind. I love how he used the puzzle to represent life and goal setting. Life is like a puzzle with so many smaller pieces that come together to make a big picture. Some lives are more complex than others just as some puzzles are more complex than others but beginning with the end in mind or having a picture of what you want your life to be or mean helps you put the smaller pieces of life's puzzle together (and I'm not just talking about a career). I don't think Sean meant that every detail of your life has to be figured out now or that you have to know the complete plan for your life. No one does. But if you plan on being a doctor for example, you should probably start putting the good study habits and work ethic pieces together now.

As you piece your life's puzzle together, you will always have two types of people trying to help you; those that know what they are doing and can help and those that try to help but don't know what they're doing and make a big mess. Those that know what they are doing don't try to put the entire puzzle together by working every piece all at once. They patiently work section by section. Those that try to help but don't have a strategy take pieces that are obviously mismatched and force them together. Don't you just hate that?

To wrap this up, here is what I learned by putting the puzzle together:

1. My puzzle is much more complex than I thought it would be.

2. There is always a strategy to completing my puzzle.

3. My puzzle requires much more time to see results than I originally thought, so I have to be patient.

4. Some pieces of my puzzle fit together perfectly and some don't. Don't force pieces together!

5. There are always people that want to help me with my puzzle. Some can and some can't.

6. I continue to look at the "blueprint" of my puzzle to make sure I'm on the right track.

7. My puzzle is still a work in progress.

You're probably wondering why the word puzzle is bold and underlined, right? You're probably also wondering why I wrote everything in present tense. Well, go back and read those 7 points but this time replace the word puzzle with the word life. And make it personal to you (duh, I wrote this for you).

7/20/2013 by John Weaver

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