My Grandad loved doing jigsaw puzzles, so does my Dad, and so do I. I have clear memories of building puzzles with each of them, each working side by side on our own puzzle when I was smaller and my puzzles were simpler, and then when I was a bit more accomplished, working with them on a big, complex puzzle, pieces spread all across the dining table.
One of the things that I re-call very clearly from those puzzle building days was a phrase that they both said over and over, “start with the edges.”
The trick was to find all the pieces with a straight side; the edge pieces, and you would start building with just those pieces. I can remember feeling frustrated each time they said that to me, the edge pieces never held the most striking colours and textures, they never contained the most interesting part of the design and I was just eager to see the whole picture.
Sometimes I would ignore their advice and start with a section of the puzzle that I was most drawn to, I would look at the picture on the box and choose where to start based on which part held my eye the longest. Whenever I chose this method of working I ended up with small sections of puzzle, sections that were often colourful or eye catching, but that did not flow together and seemed completely detached from each other.
Inevitably, for the sake of wholeness and completion, I would be forced to find the straight pieces and build the edges anyway, as I had been advised to do so at the very beginning.
You see when you start with the edge pieces, you create a frame, a type of border. It gives a specific and concrete outline which you then work inside of. Having that frame makes it much easier to see where the other pieces fit. The frame gives you a point of reference, some ‘spatial awareness’ if you will, for the other pieces. It helps you see where they should go and position them accordingly.
For me, I see my role as a Coach in a similar way. Clients come to me with a jigsaw puzzle. The pieces of their life are bright, diverse, complex puzzles of work, family, personal satisfaction, dreams, disappointments and a thousand other pieces and they are all lying in a jumbled pile in the middle of the box.
I help clients sort through these pieces of puzzle and we explore the different shapes, sizes and colours and help them find the framework within which they want to build the whole picture. And I always start with the edge pieces. The edge pieces in this context are what keep you on-task, keep you focused, keep you moving in the right direction, keep you true-to your goal. The edge pieces are the healthy boundaries you need to implement, the self-belief you need to grow and the changes that you need to make. These edge pieces are what you need to build first, in order to ensure that you create the final picture you are hoping for.
If you have been feeling like the pieces of your life aren’t quite coming together in the picture you had imagined – maybe it’s time to start looking for the edge pieces and start building from there.