Life is like a mosaic.
I was with my best friend Mike the other night and we got into one of our favorite conversation topics - solving all of the world’s problems. I can’t say that we were successful at our main goal that night, but we had an incredible back-and-forth about life, our passions, and the struggles parents face raising children in 2017.
Mike is in the private sector but his true passion is education, specifically early childhood education. He was once an excellent 5th grade teacher and the impact he made on his students in a short period of time still resonates. He’s the father of two beautiful little girls, the youngest being my Goddaughter (No, she does not have to refer to me as “Don”). I’m not yet a parent, but I’m blessed to get such incredible insight from Mike on raising children in our modern world.
We began speaking about choices, failure, and the ups and downs life will surely bring. He shared with me a great metaphor he used with his 5th graders about the importance of the choices they make in life.
“Life is like a mosaic. It’s an image comprised of thousands of smaller colored tiles that make up your life. Every choice you make is a little tile in the mosaic.
You won’t be perfect, you will make mistakes. But the more bad choices you make - the more little tiles you mess up - the more distorted the picture gets.
If you mess up enough tiles, you won’t be able to see the image.
If you choose to watch TV instead of working on your math. If you choose to skip practice to hang out with you friends. If you choose to stay up late when you have to wake up early the next morning. By themselves, each one of these decisions won’t make too much of an impact on your life. But the more often you make decisions like these, the more you will distort your mosaic, your life image. Eventually, you won’t be able to make out the image at all. So what do you want your image to look like?”
Talk about a powerful lesson for a ten-year old. I’d never thought about it that way, but once I heard it, it made complete sense to me.
I often talk about how there is no such thing as an overnight success or an overnight failure. It’s the little decisions you make every single day that compound over time and lead to success or failure. In the moment, it’s easy to believe that a little choice here or there won’t hurt because we do not see the immediate effect of that choice. Big decisions are much easier to recognize as important because we can immediately see how they impact our lives. But little, gradual choices can go unnoticed. In psychology, this is called the Gradual Slip Effect or Change Blindness (See if you can spot the change!). We are often unaware of changes that happen gradually or slowly because our brains want to perceive things as smooth, uninterrupted experiences.
Aging, weight gain/loss, growing grass, graying hair (I’m starting to find this one out). We don’t wake up one day and notice these things - the changes are not obvious.
The changes are subtle. As are the little choices we make each day.
So, what do you want to be more successful at? What are your goals and dreams?
When it’s all said and done, what do you want your mosaic to look like?
You can’t fix the image overnight. And making a beautiful picture won’t always be easy. But start adding pretty colored tiles in just the right places - start making the right choices more often - and eventually you will see the magnificent image you are creating.