Filling the Gap When a Puzzle Piece is Lost

Nov 21, 2021

When something we care about is lost, cancelled, or put on hold (like so much of life in the past two years), we don’t simply miss that activity; we miss the underlying energy and value that the activity brought to our lives.

Consider in-person team meetings, coaching or playing a sport, travel, being able to attend a concert, play or worship service with others. These examples aren’t just “events” -- they are sources of joy, connection, entertainment, creativity, and adventure.

The loss of any one of those individually may not constitute real hardship. But collectively, they’ve left a hole.

Too often, that gap fills with loneliness, isolation, boredom, or numbing. But often, in the absence of what was lost, we can find alternate means of fulfillment. And a good place to start is by looking at our own talents, passions, and hopes. They will help us carve a path.

For example, I had a client who loved managing others. When he started a job where he didn’t have direct reports, he ended up coaching Little League baseball. He saw that his day job was only part of his life -- that he could direct his natural talent elsewhere to derive joy.

His innate passions and talents led him to another method of filling in the puzzle piece that was missing.

Here’s another example: During the Covid-19 lockdowns, I missed my team facilitation and public speaking, which of course came to an abrupt halt in the spring of 2020. But I worked on transforming my desire to communicate into writing rather than speaking. This was an entirely new mode of connecting with others, and my creativity ran free again.

In the land between surviving and thriving, it is easy to fall into restless doubts. Are things getting better? Have I lost a core part of who I am? Am I foolish to want more?

That unsettled feeling may not be a sign of anxiety or worry. It could be the bubbling up of talent itching for a new outlet.

If parts of life that bring you fulfillment have been put on hold or diverted during a period of crisis, find another outlet for that passion to soar. Your gifts are needed now more than

ever. Whatever your strengths may be (e.g., being a creator, educator, problem-solver, manager, or caregiver), find a track where your talents can still run free, even if not in the ways you’re used to.

Necessity is the mother of invention. Crisis can be the mother of new parts of your story when one part of life is disrupted.

Who you are has not changed, although how you do your work may have. Stay focused, lean forward, and grab the reins. You may have to find a new piece to fit, but that doesn't mean the puzzle is broken.

This is a modified re-telling of a few pages from Chapter 14 of my book Never Waste a Crisis. The other parts of that chapter describe how we can lean on each other in times of loss, and how to embrace living with joy and sadness simultaneously.

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