Life is Like a Jigsaw Puzzle

Posted by on June 28, 2012 in Belief systems, Ken's Blogs

Life is Like a Jigsaw Puzzle

Have you ever thought of your life in terms of a metaphor?

Forrest Gump eloquently told us that “life is like a box of chocolates” and that is a metaphor that many of us are familiar with. Are there other metaphors that work to describe life?

I was reading Martha Beck’s book “Finding Your Way in a Wild New World” last night and she talked about finding a metaphor for everything. For some reason, I started to think about a jigsaw puzzle as a metaphor of life.

In the beginning there are so many pieces and it can be hard to figure out where to start. But you create a plan and start the journey. Many people start a puzzle by doing the outside pieces first. Some will sort the pieces into colours, others may sort them into shapes. But no matter how many pieces there are, it all starts when the first piece is in place and the puzzle gets put together one piece at a time. The journey of solving a puzzle sounds a bit like a life journey in that way, doesn’t it?

Sometimes you’re working on a section and can’t find the piece to complete that particular section. It can be very frustrating. You shuffle and shuffle the pieces but you just can’t find that special piece. Come on, it’s got to be in here somewhere. I find it funny that just when I’ve pretty much given up, the piece seems to reveal itself. But why did I work so hard to find that single piece? Why did I let it cause frustration? The truth is that the piece was there all along, and if I had just been patient, I could have had the same result without the frustration. That sounds a bit like life, doesn’t it? Sometimes we push and push and push for a desired result. We’re attached to an outcome. We can’t wait. We get frustrated at the lack of results … and then “it just happens”.  The answer was there all along, but until we let go, until we surrender, the answer just doesn’t seem to come. Until it does.

Another thing about a jigsaw puzzle is that it takes time to put it all together. You usually know what the final product is going to look like, but you have to go through the effort of placing each piece into its rightful position. There are no short cuts.  One piece at a time, it’s always a work in progress right up to the last piece.

Well that sounds a bit like life too, doesn’t it? Every step of the way you’re making progress. Sometimes a piece is just a piece and it falls into place effortlessly. Other times a particular piece brings great satisfaction. You can’t help but tap down on the piece a few times, sort of like patting yourself on the back for a job well done. Yup, there are a few special pieces along the way of every jigsaw puzzle journey. Is that starting to sound familiar? Is that how your life is occurring? Some pieces are hard to find, others seem to just fall in to place, and a few others provide great satisfaction.

Sometimes people jump in to help with the jigsaw puzzle. As much as I enjoy working on my puzzles and don’t mind doing them alone, something special seems to happen when people jump in to help. It’s almost like a type of bonding that takes place. There’s no competition, and everyone feels the satisfaction of a few pieces joined together regardless of who gets the piece. Smiles, winks and high fives have been seen to happen when a team of fellow puzzle solvers comes together. The helpers often approach puzzle solving a bit differently than you do, but it really doesn’t matter. Like a true community, the help is always appreciated. Hhmmm, that sounds a lot like life should happen, doesn’t it?

After what may seem like an eternity, the pieces start to fall in to place rapidly. The last few pieces are quite simple, even in the most difficult puzzles. I have found that to be the case in many life projects as well. It’s a lot of planning and hard work in the beginning, but at the end of the project things seem to fall into place quite effortlessly.

I have worked on a few puzzles in the presence of pets, children, and sticky body parts. You know where this is going, don’t you? Sometimes the last piece seems to go missing for a while. Are you kidding? I’ve spent all this time and effort on this puzzle and I don’t get to see the finished product. Disappointment doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling. You look everywhere, and to no avail. It’s not to be found. Your project has been a failure.

Ahhhhh, found it. I can get rid of all those negative thoughts now, the project wasn’t a failure after all. Success, completion, satisfaction are the emotions that show themselves now.

But let’s look at that from a slightly different perspective. Should you look at an entire project as a failure simply because one piece is missing? Does that imply that the rest of the exercise was a waste of time? Is the part where your friends jumped in to help nothing but a distant memory? Have the feelings that went with those other satisfying moments simply swept away by the final disappointment? Or was the journey itself something that should be remembered and embraced even more than the final outcome?

Some puzzles I’ve worked on don’t come with a picture. There’s no way of knowing what the puzzle is until it’s completed. I’ve worked on a few murder mystery puzzles that are like this. The puzzles don’t tend to be that hard, but there’s no initial idea of what the finished product is going to look like. Life is like this, isn’t it? We have to make up our own picture and put the pieces together one at a time.

I think there are some other interesting aspects of working with jigsaw puzzles that represent life as well. Once a puzzle is completed we often start another puzzle. We might take that puzzle apart and put it back in a box to do again another day. In life, there are often parts of the puzzle that we’d like to take apart and start over too. This is like a life change or transformation. The puzzle may go back in the box, but the lessons we learned from doing that particular puzzle will help us complete the next puzzle a wee bit more efficiently.

In our life puzzle, we don’t even know how many pieces there are. But we start with an inkling of an idea of what our life will look like and we start putting the pieces together. In life, there are no corner pieces and there are no edge pieces. We have no boundaries like that. We simply keep putting pieces together and the puzzle keeps growing. Sometimes we finish off a section, take time to appreciate that part, and then move on to another section. … And the puzzle keeps growing, piece by piece, section by section.

I like to think of my jigsaw puzzle as a masterpiece and I hope all of you think of yours the same way. Mine may not seem like a masterpiece to others, but I don’t care. All that matters is that it seems like a masterpiece to me. I like when people help me put my puzzle together, and I hope they appreciate it when I help others put theirs together or find that missing piece.

Mine has a couple missing pieces at the moment, and somehow I know that someone is going to jump in to help real soon to help me find the missing piece or pieces. And there are a couple of new sections that have been started and the pieces are really starting to fall into place now. Yup, for me, I’m enjoying my jigsaw puzzle journey called life.

Are you enjoying yours?

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Namaste, Ken

Written by Ken

Ken Jaques describes himself as a Health Care Evolutionary, Community Builder, and Speaker. True healing begins when we treat root causes instead of just masking symptoms. Diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in 2008, Ken has experienced many facets of the health care system. As “the only patient who ever lost their hair on this low of a dosage of chemotherapy” – as spoken by his rheumatologist – Ken has been on an amazing journal of self-discovery, a journey of true healing. In his blog, Ken shares stories of how his beliefs have changed over the past few years, and how they are still changing. Is it possible that our bodies can heal themselves? Do we really have to live without hope after we receive a chronic illness diagnosis? These are the types of questions that Ken encourages people to ask themselves as they embark on their own physical or emotional healing journey.

Ken is creating a platform to connect People, Patients, Practitioners, Partners and Promoters, enabling a collaborative effort to help shift the focus on health from I-llness to We-llness. Check out the pilot at

“When ‘I’ is replaced with ‘we’, even I-llness becomes WE-llness” ~ Malcolm X


  1. I do alot of puzzles and love your thoughts. I’ve watched thru the years how I’ve changed my approach to doing puzzles. I used to be more do the outsides first, and the keep trying to find sections to complete, and now I just go with whatever seems to be the right thing at the time, and if I don’t find the piece I’m looking for, I just move on to the next piece. I see my life as a puzzle too, as more pieces fall into place, and as you get older, you can see the picture more clearly and realize that life is just what it was suppose to be.

  2. I find that I don’t want to know how my puzzle is going to end up looking. It takes all the mystery out of life and the mystery is where the real fun is. Don’t you think?

    • I agree wholeheartedly Monica. If we knew exactly where we were going, where would the adventure be? I still really enjoy the working together part though, I think the puzzle takes on even more beauty when we let it expand to ALL that it could be.

  3. Ken,

    Wonderful article! Finding a metaphor for all aspects of life sure makes things clearer and this puzzle example is lovely.

    How about if the people around you are getting frustrated with your efforts in finishing your puzzle? They think you are dragging it out, taking too long and some don’t even believe you’ll finish. Though this is very hurtful when uttered by loved ones who supposedly claim they love you (do we really choose our family members), it’s important to be respectful of everyone’s puzzle. Time is also relative, according to Einstein. Besides, we are all working with what we’ve got. It is best if people contributed instead of making negative comments which they think will supposedly help you.

    As such, Ken, is a puzzle over if you can’t finish it? When is it time to move on? It’s not even relevant if just a couple of pieces are missing. What matters is how we feel about it and if we believe things will fall into place, which I personally do!


  4. What a perfect analogy for life.

    The whole thing fits perfectly and sounds like words of wisdom.

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  6. Jeez, I love this post. I came to the same awareness over the holiday working on puzzles with my family. Thank you for your articulation.

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