Ah, jigsaw puzzles.  I had a love-hate relationship with them as a kid…I just loved being done, but I hated getting stuck and frustrated while working through the puzzle itself – sound familiar?

Financial planning can be a lot like working on a jigsaw puzzle. We love to be done, but we often hate the work required to get there. Why?

Well to start off, there are lots of parts to take into account.  Each tiny piece demands attention at some point, and they all need to fit together to create a cohesive whole.  You can’t ignore anything.  That’s a lot of coordination.  It takes patience.  It takes time.  It sometimes takes creativity.  Did I mention it can be frustrating?

But there was one thing that always helped me to get through even the most daunting puzzle, and that was: the image on the box.

That was the goal.  That beautiful image – whether it was of a beach, or a village, or a cat riding a unicorn, it didn’t matter – that completed image was the reason I had picked up the box in the first place, and had voluntarily subjected myself to this odd form of torture.

There’s a lesson we can taketo our financial planning.

If you can remember the image on the box – the completed image, the end game, the goal – that gives meaning and purpose to the hard work that’s required.

When you are frustrated by your puzzle, here are a few steps you can take:

Breathe.  What helps you to focus and regain calm?  Step away from your puzzle and do that calming activity, even for a few minutes.  You may find that when you return, you see the project differently.

-Look again.  Is there something you may have overlooked?  Are you overly focused on one particular aspect/piece?  What if you turn your attention to a different piece of the puzzle? Perhaps there is an opportunity somewhere else, in a different place you weren’t looking.

-Recall.  What tough situation in your past have you overcome?  It doesn’t have to be big.  Even a small triumph can hold a helpful memory.  How did you do it?  What skills did you learn that you can bring to this current situation?

-Dream.  What motived you in the first place?  Look back at that completed picture on the box.  Spend some time with it.  Savor every detail and get re-inspired.

-Ask.  Seek advice from a friend, mentor, or expert if you’re stumped.  No one said puzzle solving had to be a solitary activity.  Sometimes it’s more fun and productive to invite someone else to the game.  You don’t have to do this alone.

Only by working piece by piece can you enjoy the accomplishment of solving a puzzle. If you hang in there and work past your frustration, it’s worth it in the end.

So go ahead.  Pick up a piece.  And sooner than you think, you’ll be looking that unicorn in the eye and thinking, “YEA! I can’t believe I did that!”


Shadowridge Asset Management, LLC does not offer tax planning or legal services, but may provide references to accounting, tax services or legal providers. They may also work with your attorney or independent tax or legal advisor.