Jigsaw puzzles

Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles.
551 – 479 B.C.

I suspect that most of you have worked on a jigsaw puzzle at one time or another; I still do them occasionally to keep my mind active and agile. Many people consider the jigsaw puzzle a childhood game, but there’s a valuable lesson we can learn from it.

Before I explain, I want to pose a question: how do you begin to solve a jigsaw puzzle?

It’s not a trick question and generally everyone gets it right. You start by separating the edge pieces and then putting them together to create a frame. Once the frame is in place, you begin filling in the inside pieces; you know everything else has to fit inside the frame.

So far, you’re probably thinking this is nothing new. It’s logical and straightforward, the way everyone does it and the way it should be done — all of which is correct.

But when it comes to life — which, when you think about it, can be a bit of a puzzle — most people fail to follow this simple but effective method. You need to fix the boundaries and then make sure everything fits within those boundaries.

So what are the edge pieces in life? They’re your guiding principles, those things which are non-negotiable: the ideas and practices you stand behind and the ones you oppose.

If we don’t set boundaries for our lives, we’ll constantly be changing direction. We’ll allow ourselves to be influenced by forces that send us down murky paths to places we shouldn’t go.

Without boundaries, we’re not grounded; we have no sense of purpose. We need boundaries in our lives to support us, to give us a sense of who we are and what we believe.

When something comes up in life that doesn’t fit inside your framework, what should you do? Ask yourself a very important question: will taking this action make me a better person? Will expanding my boundaries help me or hurt me? You shouldn’t be rigid just for the sake of maintaining your boundaries. If you gain new wisdom that helps you better fulfill your purpose in life, then expanding your boundaries makes sense.

On the other hand, if expanding your boundaries compromises your principles, why do it?

Our work should follow the same rules as our personal lives. Set the boundaries and only expand them if doing so allows you to provide more beneficial service to mankind.

It’s a simple but important concept for life: establish the frame, set the boundaries and make your life and business fit inside.

But if one should guide his life by true principles, man’s greatest riches is to live on a little with a contented mind; for a little is never lacking.
99 – 55 B.C.

Copyright © 2020 John Chancellor


Jigsaw puzzles — 2 Comments

  1. Roger,

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I feel it is only fair to say that I learned so much about developing guiding principles from you.