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The puzzle

What is the goal of life? In general, what is it for which we search? Some search endlessly for more money, while others search for the love of their life. No matter what “it” is that we search for, one thing holds true; it is human nature to be in search of something. There are numerous theories that attempt to explain this search. After researching it in college, I became a fan of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory. If you’re not familiar with Maslow’s theory, I suggest you look it up and read it. He believed that each person has differing levels of needs, not being able to move on to the next level until they feel the first need is satisfied. For instance, his theory states the most basic human need is physiological (air, water, food etc), once met people crave the next need level in his theory, which is safety.

This concept was on my mind while I was driving this morning. Those of us who write can attest to the fact that an idea, or subject to write about, pops up at the oddest of times. I can’t count how many times I’ve mentally written a poem at 2am while trying to sleep. Sadly, those poems never made it to paper. How about the thousands of million dollar ideas you have while in the shower? I’m sure that’s something we’ve all experienced. While I was driving and listening to music, suddenly my mind went from the music to asking myself what people search for in life and how that affects us. While having this one person debate I decided my simple answer is to be a better person. I think everyone, in one way or another, strives to be a better person. The changing variable from person to person is the “what”. What is it that you are striving for, which would make you better? Those who know me understand that I rarely think about these kinds of things on basic levels. I am not having these thoughts to simply answer that question for myself, I sit thinking “what is it we are missing?” The “we” is in reference to people, the human race in general. In this process I came to the conclusion that I believe what I search for is the same as what everyone else is searching for: to be better.

So what is missing? The answer to that, in my opinion, is personal development. Sounds simple enough right? But, I knew this can’t be the answer. It can’t be that simple. I kept driving and kept having my self-debate. What is personal development? The answer to that too is different for each person. Some people will look at education as personal development. Education is a development process. It is applying yourself to something to make yourself better, but I do not think education is personal. While I chose my degree program and major based on something I thought would interest me on a personal level, as I am sure most people do, my rationale for saying it is not “personal” development is based on the fact that there were classes I had to take, which were of no interest to me at all. In turn, there were classes I loved and although I wanted to be fed more of that information, it was time to move on based on class schedule. I always hated it when we would have a class debate on something and it was very interesting to hear other people’s ideas and thoughts and suddenly, debate over, turn to the next chapter. Personal development implies that I personally have control over that development and in a university setting I do not.

The above example serves to emphasize the word “personal” in personal development. I also had to ask myself “is it just about educating yourself?” Is personal development nothing more than reading or possibly watching some YouTube videos of your favorite speaker? No! Absolutely not. I began thinking about people in really good relationships and asking, is there personal development there? I think there is. I actually had to laugh a little at this point of my driving self-debate because at this point the famous line from Jerry McGuire came to mind. No, not “show me the money.” The other line…”you complete me.” I laughed because I thought to myself how ridiculous that is. I know it came off as a very romantic moment in that movie and I know some will say they feel that way about their significant other, but I just don’t feel as if another person can complete you. They can fill a void, there’s no doubt about that, but to say they complete you says more about your insecurities then it is a flattering to them. If time and history have taught us nothing else, it’s that we are never complete. Using a word such as “complete” implies “finished,” but if we strive for personal development we are never truly finished.

I could go on and on with analogies and examples and they, just like other more educated people’s theories, would be nothing more than opinion. That’s what I love about studying a theory. You can agree or disagree and either way, you’re not wrong, so long as you’re able to back up your opinion.

Back to my driving self-debate: there I was driving along, using up my gas, my music nothing more than a muffled noise compared to my thoughts. All of these theories and ideas floating around and I was thinking; how can I possibly explain this in the simplest way possible. That was what I wanted to gain from this. I wanted to have one analogy, one simple way I can explain a life in search of continuous personal development. So here it is –

Look at life as one huge jigsaw puzzle. That’s all it is, one humongous, never ending, impossible to complete jigsaw puzzle. If you’ve ever attempted to complete a large jigsaw puzzle you can attest to how difficult it is to find the pieces you need. You dump the box and have this big, messy, pile of pieces and have no idea where they go. Some people start with the corners, others sort all straight edges while another goes recklessly forward by starting with whatever pieces they find that fit together. All the while, there’s still that big pile of pieces to sort through. As you start to complete sections you see the picture coming together. That’s a chapter in your life but, there’s still that big pile of pieces. You can complete sections and you can see the pictures forming but this puzzle is never ending. There is always that big pile of pieces and those pieces represent personal development. As you grow as a person, you find the next piece that fits. You meet someone and there’s a piece. You read a book, there’s a piece. You fall in love, add a piece. Pieces are added and pictures come together but this puzzle will never be complete. Even in death it is not complete because we have passed our puzzle pieces (through knowledge and love and memories) to someone else. So far, I am thoroughly enjoying my puzzle and look forward to adding the next piece. I added one today during a simple drive from which sparked a self-debate. Life is personal development, day in and day out. Make yourself better today and enjoy your puzzle.

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