Goal: What a doing puzzle taught my son about life

January 17, 2016/Coaching


Ryan likes puzzles, but he especially likes doing puzzles with someone. He’s extremely social and I’ve noticed solo activities aren’t his forte. There are many reasons for this (mostly developmental) and, as his mom, I’m trying to teach him how to be more independent. To that end, I recently suggested he do a puzzle while I was cooking dinner.  His sisters were outside playing and it was just he and me in the room.

He immediately balked at the idea of doing a puzzle by himself, and not just for the social aspect. Much bigger than his typical puzzles, I could see he was overwhelmed with approaching the project on his own.  I decided to coach him through it and see how far he could get. As I chopped vegetables and measured out rice, I threw out ideas on how he could accomplish the task at hand. It dawned on me that in addition to gaining self-confidence, he was learning some valuable life lessons in the process.


  • When the task appears too big, break it into smaller pieces. 

No pun intended, but when a project is overwhelming, it’s easier to break it down into bite-sized pieces. Looking at it as a group of small projects makes it seem more doable.

  • When you don’t know where to start, start with the action step closest to you. 

Ryan was having a hard time knowing which piece to start with. I suggested he pick up the one closest to him and see if he could work it into the puzzle. Maybe you’ve identified a goal, but aren’t quite sure where to start. Brainstorm some things you can do to take action and then do one. It may not be the perfect one to start with, but at least you started and you addressed it and can re-prioritize it as things becomes more clear. By eliminating it, or reorganizing it in your mind, you will get more clarity on which step you should address next.


  • Accomplishing little tasks makes you feel confident in doing the larger tasks. 

Looking at all 50 pieces, the first thing Ryan said was, “I cannot do all this by myself.” I challenged him to find one piece that fit with another. When he’d accomplished that, I asked him to find one more. Then, I challenged him to find two pieces before calling out to me again. When he called out again, I reminded him of his past success before challenging him again…. “You mean you found four whole pieces that go together? I thought you said you couldn’t do that puzzle on your own… but look what you just did! You found where four pieces go. I bet you can find another four pieces. Why don’t you try?”   Because he was able to see he’d just done the same as I was asking, he didn’t complain about trying.  He felt confident he could do four more and excitedly got down to business.

  • Don’t let others deter you from your goal.

At some point during the project, Piper came back in from playing with her older sisters and decided she wanted to be involved in the puzzle action. As a newly-turned-two-year old, I’m sure you can imagine she wasn’t a big help. First she took some of his pieces and ran off to the side giggling at his dismay. Then she literally stood on top of the puzzle listening to him scream at her to move. She did pretty much anything she could to get his goat and his cries of frustration grew. From my spot in the kitchen I refereed the situation until it was clear I was going to have to take action. As I was removing her, I praised Ryan for continuing to work on the puzzle even though he had a two-foot terror trying to deter him.


People who succeed don’t let others distract them from their goal.  {tweet that}

  • Understand what you’re willing to put up with to get the job done. 

On that note, I also noticed how much Ryan was willing to put up with from his little sister to get the job done. From having his supplies hijacked to her literally standing in his path, he objected, but didn’t stop. He was willing to push on through difficult circumstances.

  • Identify what you’re tolerating by not finishing the task. 

The flip side of that is to ask what you’re willing to tolerate by not finishing the task. Are you staying in a dead end job that zaps your energy? Are you staying in a relationship that tears you down on a regular basis? Are you so distracted by the every-day urgent that you forget to accomplish the important? By giving up on our goals (or not making them in the first place) we are tolerating emotional, physical, or spiritual consequences. Sometimes identifying what these are can motivate us into action.


  • When you’re stuck, a helping hand can get you moving again. 

People underestimate the power of a helping hand. Ryan didn’t feel he could complete the puzzle on his own; however, what he failed to understand in the beginning is that really he just needed morale support. He had all the mental and physical skills necessary. He benefited from having someone in his corner, cheering him on, asking him tough questions, and challenging him to reach for the next goal. I truly believe that we discount how important it is to have someone on our team. We don’t give ourselves permission to either ask for the help or hire an expert to help us fill in the gaps. However, once we do, we find we can achieve far more than we ever thought possible.

What puzzle are you trying to put together right now that you need help with?

Was this helpful to you? If so, please share with a friend or with the social media buttons below.

Comments (6)

  • Linda Hogeland / January 17, 2016 / Reply

    This is good Leighann….Really good!

    • (Author) Leighann / January 20, 2016 / Reply

      You’re always so sweet!

  • Becky / January 18, 2016 / Reply

    well put for business or personal. Wish I had your wisdom at your age

    • (Author) Leighann / January 20, 2016 / Reply

      Thanks, Becky! ?

  • Katie / January 20, 2016 / Reply

    Love how practical this is!! And you got to spend that time with him.. So sweet!

    • (Author) Leighann / January 20, 2016 / Reply

      Thanks, Katie!

Add comment

(c) 2016 Leighann Marquiss