Puzzle or Mystery?

Rubic's cube - curious

Is this a puzzle or is it a mystery? Don’t decide too soon!

A puzzle is something solvable. It has one right answer. I love this definition of the verb “puzzle”: to “solve or understand something by thinking hard.” This makes me laugh. Hard thinking seems to be what we do when we don’t understand something. We humans seem to be uncomfortable with not knowing. We want to solve, figure out, and fast!

A mystery is “something not fully understood or understandable.” (Webster’s Dictionary)

Finding Possibility

My question today relates to finding possibility in your world – your work, your relationships, anything you want to change or improve. Possibility is key! What do you do with something (someone) you don’t understand? What happens for you when you encounter new things?

Do you recognize and admit that you do not really know what is before you?

Do you decide that you do know what is before you, even when you don’t?

Puzzle piecesFor example, humans. Humans are who we work with in coaching. Humans are who we relate to all day, every day, at home and at work. Humans are the most deep and unknowable creatures there are and yet, we treat them as a puzzle – something to figure out. Psychologists agree that we make many decisions about people within the first 7 seconds of meeting them.

This month we are talking a lot about curiosity and how it works to allow us to see possibility; how it works to support clear communication; how it works to support compassion and relationships.

I believe step one is to recognize how many things we truly do not “know” though we decide we do know. For example,

“He was scowling; he is angry at me.”

“She was late; she doesn’t respect my time.”

“They did not text me back; they do not like me.”

Two Step Process

The first step is to BE curious more often – especially with humans. If you decide the thing (or person) before you is a puzzle, you will only be curious as long as it takes you to “solve it (them!)”.

The second step is to stay in curiosity. To stay in curiosity is to stay in that uncomfortable place of not knowing. Don’t try to resolve it too soon. This is where mystery thinking may support you. Notice when you are trying to solve things. Stop and ask what would happen if I stayed here in the wondering a bit longer?

Because here is how the human brain works. Once we decide we understand something/know the answer/figure it out, we stop looking. This is a very important point. Once you say you know, any other answers that may exist will become invisible to you! As I have said, in the area of coaching and change, seeing possibility is key. And possibility is closed to you once you decide you know the answer.

Wise Words from Rilke

So take these Rilke words to heart:

Man with magnifying glass“I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

My challenge to you this week – begin to distinguish which of your challenges are puzzles and which are mysteries.  If you are like me, the mysteries may take you outside your comfort zone as you learn to ask more and more questions and sit with not knowing the answer, but the reward is immeasurable if you keep your eyes open and “live the questions….”

About the Author

Picture of Cami McLaren

Cami McLaren

is the owner of McLaren Coaching. She has been coaching professionals and leaders since early 2008. She runs Transformative Coaching Essentials, a coach training program that produces first rate Professional Coaches and "Coach-Style Leaders." She coaches individually and works with organizations to improve communication, time management, productivity and ultimately bring greater results.

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