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Putting the Pieces Together: 12 Ways to Find Solutions in Challenging Times

It All Begins with a Pile of Pieces
A few weeks ago, I noticed my daughter dumping puzzle pieces onto a little table near our kitchen. It’s the place where the birthday and anniversary flowers stand in their vases until the leaves wilt and the petals fall off. It's also the place where we do puzzles.

I love puzzles. That’s why I ended up putting most of that one together a few weeks ago. Other members of our family, including my daughter, helped from time to time, but I did most of it alone. 

It was challenging at times, but it was also rewarding. From the time we put the first two pieces together until my daughter pressed the last one into place, the exercise repeatedly reminded me of ways that we can all find solutions to life’s most difficult challenges. 

How It All Comes Together

Have you ever asked yourself, “How am I ever going to get through this?” or something like that. Maybe you lost your job and couldn’t pay your bills. Maybe someone you love struggled with an addiction. Maybe you were so depressed that you couldn’t get out of bed. In fact, you may be facing similar challenges right now. Here are twelve ways you can find solutions:

1. Start with the edge pieces. Know your boundaries before you begin.
2. Put it together in patches. Divide big challenges into smaller ones and solve them one at a time.
3. Refer to the picture on the box. Keep a clear vision of what your life can become.
4. Take each piece one at a time. Pay attention to the details in front of you right now.
5. If it doesn’t fit, move on. Let go of beliefs, expectations and behaviors that don’t work.
6. If it works, stick with it. Keep doing what actually works, even when it’s hard.
7. Take a break once in a while. Step away when you're not at your best.
8. Come back fresh. Get back to it as soon as you’re ready.
9. Enjoy the process. Learn to smile at both your setbacks and successes.
10. Celebrate your progress. Recognize how far you’ve already come.
11. Let others help you. Include others in the process, even when you're confident that you can do it alone.
12. Be willing to work alone. Find solutions on your own if you have to, even when you're worried that you can't.

The pieces of our puzzle eventually combined to create the image of a tropical forest beneath a bright sky and beside a peaceful sea. Looking at the finished work, I could hear the sounds of the ocean, feel the breeze blowing over me and sense the soft, white sand beneath my feet. It was a very nice daydream. When we learn to find solutions to whatever challenges may come, that’s how beautiful our real lives can be too.

Is there something on this list that has helped you find solutions in the past?
Is there something on this list that can help you find solutions right now? 


John Brailsford studies the lives and teachings of happy people and shares what he learns with others. He's a licensed marriage and family therapist, certified family life educator, and transition coach with Homeward Bound.  He also holds a Ph.D. in Family and Child Sciences from Florida State University. John has been married to an amazing woman for over two decades, and they're the parents of four wonderful people. You can learn more about him and his approach to finding fulfillment at

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