dare to be different

Puzzles

“Raise your hand if you’re a puzzle person,” I said, shaking a jigsaw puzzle box.

It’s a request I made at the beginning of a staff training I did a couple of years ago.  Maybe a third of the hands in the room shot up.  Everyone else either shook their heads “no way” or shrugged.

How do you become a puzzle person, I asked?  Those who shot their hands up said things like, we did them as a family growing up.  My friends and family told me I was good at them. Puzzles take time, sometimes collaboration, and persistence to achieve a goal.

For puzzle people, puzzles are associated with good feelings and success.  Those feel-good experiences can contribute to what we we are good at and who we are, or rather, who we think we are.  Most of the non-puzzle people simply didn’t grow up doing them or got frustrated a few times and decided (or were told) they weren’t good at them to begin with.

So it goes with many things.  From a young age, the things we spend time on and feel successful at (whether we learn that from experiences or what we are told) shape who we think we are and what we say we are good at.

As for me, I was told I was smart, good at school, and naturally skilled at test taking. These didn’t require too much effort from me.  I breezed through my early years and took in the accolades.

But, I wasn’t really a puzzle person.  I focused on the things that came easily for me, and whatever didn’t come easily I learned to avoid.  Unlike many puzzle people, who learn to try, try again, and even set things aside when they get frustrated or stuck and return to the puzzle later, I had little persistence or resilience in the face of adversity.

Well, as of this moment (at my not-so-young age) I am raising my hand and declaring myself a puzzle person.

I am embracing the problems I face as puzzles to be figured out instead.

I don’t have to have it all solved immediately.  It doesn’t even have to come easily.  As I make myself vulnerable more often and take on bigger, more complicated tasks, I know I have to remind my mind not to get frustrated or shut down.  I may have to be coached (which means – eek! – being coachable, which I am decidedly NOT when I am feeling overwhelmed, afraid, or out of my depth). Like riding a bicycle, then trying to do a trick or two, I may flop.  The world will not end and I can try again.

I’m shaking life’s box of problems as puzzles, dumping out the pieces, searching for the corners and the edges.  I don’t really have a full picture of what it will look like in the end for reference, but that’s all part of the process.  It will be beautiful, whatever it becomes.

 

 

 

perspective

Speed Reading

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The book was “Go Dog, Go.” It’s the stuff of family lore.  I pulled it off the shelf at age 2, plopped down on our orange linoleum kitchen floor and read it out loud cover to cover.

My parents loved to tell this story of what a precocious reader I was. (My brothers would spitefully say I just memorized it because they read it to me every day.)   Still, I was in the Redbird group in Ms. Levell’s first grade class, which everyone knew was the highest group.  I’m not sure I always loved to read, but I had a knack for it from a young age.

As if that wasn’t enough, when I was in late elementary school, my Dad thought I should learn to speed read.  I’m not really sure how I learned it, but at some point I started using techniques that caused me to try to read as fast as I could.  It’s about inhaling chunks of text instead of individual words.  Larger and larger units. Zooming through page after page.

You may not be surprised that this change of speed made my understanding of what I was reading plummet.  I would fly through pages and have no idea what I had just read.  Through high school, college, and my PhD, I spent untold hours reading and rereading to slow myself down.

Even all these years later, I think I’ve still got the mentality of “faster is better” inside my reading mind.  Once I made reading a priority during quarantine, I’ve been off to the races consuming books.

As I’ve said before, the books I am reading are about mindset change.  I’ve plowed quite a few of them in a row now, more like they are mindless romance novels than anything worth ruminating over.  There’s been a nagging voice in the back of my head that says “slow down and think about it…”  Or in a couple of them, the author asks questions at the end of each chapter.  Still, I’ve breezed through them, thinking I would come back to them at some point.  That hasn’t happened.

Right now I’m reading Chasing Cupcakes, recommended by many in the Stronger U Community.  I actually didn’t love the book at first. The author came at me from the very beginning, warning that I couldn’t just traipse through the chapters without doing any work.

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Today in my reading she talked about four stages of problem solving.  The first step is sensing, where you’ve identified an issue and are looking for information to remedy it. I’ve been in this stage for months now.  Reading mindset book after mindset book is interesting…I learn something different from each one.  But I haven’t really done anything concrete with it. Yes, I’ve changed my internal soundtrack, but I need to push forward in new directions. All this endless seeking makes little difference if it doesn’t change into doing.  At some point I have to move into solving, then I can circle back if things aren’t working out.

Time to stop piling on the information and pretending that is progress.  On to doing something.  I’m daring myself to get clear on what I’m chasing and move forward.

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