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This Doesn’t Make Sense!


Sometimes, life just doesn’t make sense. This is true for everyone. Recently, whether I’m working with colleagues, chatting with friends, conversing with my family or just being in the vicinity of a conversation in a restaurant, at some point, some person, somewhere is bound to utter these words. 

“It just doesn’t make sense.” Or, the ever-popular, “I don’t get it.”

Why is that?  What is it that causes us to have these moments of utter confusion? Here’s my take.

Life is like a jigsaw puzzle (for my Forest Gump fans, the “box of chocolates” metaphor just doesn’t work in this case – sorry).  All of the people, events and scenarios that make up “life” are the pieces of the puzzle. In order for you to really get your head around this, imagine yourself working to complete a jigsaw puzzle (and to make it interesting, imagine it’s at least 500 pieces that you’re working with!). 

You lay out all the pieces.

You put them in whatever format you need in order to feel like you can work best.

Then you get to work, attempting various combinations until the picture looks the way it’s supposed to. 

Sometimes you can do it quickly; sometimes not.  Sometimes you need to take a break and come back to the puzzle to view it with fresh eyes. 

Regardless of the time involved, or the strategies you find helpful, if you persist at putting things together, eventually you will create the picture that’s meant to be.  It totally makes sense.

Unless, of course, you’re missing a piece or two.

The circumstances of life can be like this frustrating jigsaw puzzle.  When things don’t add up, it means that there’s a piece of the “puzzle” that is missing.  There’s something you don’t know, some information that you don’t have. 

So if a situation just doesn’t add up, you need to ask yourself what pivotal piece might you be overlooking?  What question aren’t you asking? What answer aren’t you hearing? Rest assured, there’s something.  And understanding that this is the case can be a liberating perspective-shifter.

I share this today because I see so many people –myself included from time to time – grappling and getting worked up over such challenges all too frequently.  Yes, it can be very frustrating to work with an incomplete puzzle.  There is very little that is worse than feeling like you just can’t put something together.  And yet, the minute you hear yourself saying some version of “this doesn’t make sense” it’s your cue to ask yourself what piece of the puzzle might be missing.  Even if the information never reveals itself – after all, sometimes there are things that others don’t want you to know – knowing that the problem isn’t about your inability to understand, but rather about information not being available to you, can help you to release yourself from the frustration and angst of something “not making sense.”

As leaders, we need to remember that not all of the puzzle pieces are available to us at all times. Leadership requires us to diligently work to unearth the pieces, and when we can’t find them, stand back graciously and allow things to unfold. When things don’t make sense in the moment, it’s because there’s more that you need to discover. Work to discover what’s missing and you’ll save yourself much frustration. Rest assured, in the end, the big picture will be revealed.

Tracy Harvie