Monday, May 26, 2008

The Bigger Picture

by Karen D. Swim

"I have seen the bigger picture and I can't do everything and have everything. "-- Dr. Miranda Bailey, Grey's Anatomy

The Bigger Picture does not always come into focus all at once. Very often we only see fragments at at time. The pieces do not fall into focus until we take a step back and examine them with our attention on the whole rather than the detail that makes up the whole.

We can become so enmeshed in the detail that we no longer notice each piece until we are so worn out and worn down they shatter around us. The pieces were never meant to be the focus, yet we become obsessed with the minutiae and lose sight.

To focus on the bigger picture we sometimes have to let individual pieces go. The process can be painful, as we realize that sometimes we must let go of things we love for things we love more.

So what is the bigger picture? Although your picture may vary, we all share five common traits.

  1. Time is finite. All of us are given the same 24 hours each day. No one can bargain, pay, or earn more time.
  2. We are mortal. Our time on earth will one day end.  We do not have forever but we do have today. 
  3. We are human. We cannot do everything and have everything. We try but something will always suffer.
  4. We don't need all the pieces to see the bigger picture. The pieces may change over time.  Some may move to the far end of the board as others take center stage. The big picture dictates the pieces you bring into focus not the other way around.
  5. There's always a bigger picture. Always.

After losing my husband, I struggled with my bigger picture.  Marriage made it easier to stay focused, balanced. It was an anchor of sorts that kept me from drifting too far. As a widow, I took on every piece that came my way without any focus on the bigger picture. 

Life changes - children growing older, job changes or just the process of aging and wanting something different - may shift our bigger picture. Those same changes can also serve to remind us of the bigger picture.

As for my own journey, I learned that my purpose in life really did not change. The core of who I was created to be, do and give to the world is not dependent on a single piece.  With the death of my husband, my pieces shifted but the bigger picture remained intact.

How about you? Do you ever lose site of the bigger picture or purpose? Tell us about it in the comments and anything else that's on your mind.


jamiegrove said...

I lost my hold on the big picture the day I stepped back into the corporate world 10 years ago.

I think that holding onto the big picture is difficult because it means work. It's so easy to get lost in the details. The same thing happens when we stop exercising or eating well. We lose focus and slip bit by bit into the shadows of oblivion.

On the bright side, there are always wonderful people out there looking to light the way back out again. :)

Words For Hire said...

*clicks on industrial strength flashlight* "Jamie, the exit is over here, just follow the light." :-) We all do it and it's why that line in Grey's Anatomy resonated with me. We start doing things and then our days are filled with tasks rather than goals and one day we look up we have neglected our purpose, health, family, fill in the blank. As you said though thankfully there are those around us who shine the light and remind us to step back and look up. :-)

Joanna said...

Karen, what a thought provoking post. Thank you.

I think for me the bigger picture is learning what it's all about, and where I fit in. Some days I have absolutely no idea. Other days I get snapshots of a picture that makes sense, kind of, or at least enough sense to make me want to keep exploring and learning where it's taking me.

I have no idea where it's taking me which is why I struggle with goals - beyond the goal of keeping on learning. But I wouldn't swap the journey, the enquiry, for anything.


Words For Hire said...

Joanna, isn't it amazing how we all have those struggles? I think that's why I like to talk about it just to know I'm not alone. Last week I had that "who am I? why am I" contemplation and I felt utterly lost! Like you though I would not trade the journey for anything. I wonder if creativity requires us to constantly examine the bigger question?

Brad Shorr said...

Sometimes we can find the big picture in the smallest things. I recently started meditating again, because a few big picture issues were overwhelming me. (Maybe I have the opposite problem.) Meditation makes me feel more focused and connected. Living in the moment, getting everything I can out every little thing, gives me a much healthier outlook.

Words For Hire said...

@Brad, that is an interesting insight! Your comment is a good reminder for us all that there still has to be a balance of larger focus and detail. Perhaps you can contribute a post on that, I'm sure we could all benefit from your experiences. ;-)

Brett Legree said...


I lose the bigger picture from time to time. I lost it somewhat over the last few weeks (not in relation to our project, can and will Wonder Woman!)

Just all of those things you listed, I needed to refresh them in my head.

I have a mission statement. I have a list of goals. A list of tasks.

I stopped reviewing them daily. Then a friend, a few friends, out here actually - woke me up.

(This will make sense in my blog post tomorrow, trust me.)

Anyway - thanks for a seriously great blog post today. You made me think, you reinforced what I've already been feeling.

We need to get going on our project!


Words For Hire said...

@Brett, my kilted wonder friend, so often in the short time we've known each other we find ourselves in synch. We can and we will!! I can't wait to read tomorrow's post. I will definitely be over to chat. I'm refreshed, rested and I see the bigger picture. :-) Niebu, my friend!

Brett Legree said...


I agree, we are moving on the same path, aren't we?

I hope that you will like it, I just uploaded the photo from my camera and I'll be putting the finishing touch on the text tonight.

This one will keep me thinking and focused for a long time (it will make sense tomorrow!)

Anonymous said...


I think going through a life-altering event helps you see the big picture better.

Breakup of a marriage, death of a loved one, loss of a job, major health problems, etc...

Sooner or later, we'll all experience at least one of these.

These are all terrible things to go through, but the one good thing is that once we've overcome these obstacles, we're stronger and we see things more clearly.

Sorry about your husband.

- Friar.

sexy said...