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Editors’ Note: This is the first column from our newest contributor, Shayla Owodunni. She’s the founder of Plant Penthouse, an online destination that focuses on nurturing a vibrantly styled life and offers interior styling insights, plant parenting support and more.

Just like that, it’s September. As I sit here intent on finishing the most peculiar 366-piece puzzle better known as 2020 (this is a leap year, if you can remember back to February), I’m proceeding with a renewed approach for assembling the remaining pieces, some 110, with passion and grace.

In a conscious effort to stop losing so many pieces of this puzzle, I’ve set out to be more intentional about how I complete this masterpiece before moving on to the next — hello, 2021. Challenging puzzles like this one are always easier to master as a team, so here are a few strategies for making the adventure less daunting. We’re going to tackle this one together!

Photography provided by Shayla Owodunni

Live for today.

Under normal circumstances, I would have waited until November to consciously embrace a season of thankfulness or until January to surf the waves of wellness. What a waste. On September 1, I purchased a calendar and apple stickers in back-to-school fashion and created my own rejuvenation challenge. It is composed of three intentions to focus on for 30 days in the categories of body, mind and soul. Those intentions range from sticking to a consistent fitness routine to cutting out refined sugars (send help) to studying the topics of faith and identity.

What’s on your self-improvement to-do list for the rest of the year? Now is as good a time as any to bring those goals into the present. We have enough puzzle pieces left to assemble something beautiful.

Cultivate a milestone mindset.

“Inch by inch, anything’s a cinch.” This loving reminder of my Grandma Lettie has become my grounding motto for 2020. Whether completing a puzzle or closing out a year, arranging the task at hand into manageable pieces can transform even the most trying situation into triumph. It is my nature to live life with a lead foot on the gas, fueling burnout and anxiety without fail. But by breaking my days, weeks and months into realistic milestones, I feel more empowered to climb the mountains that lie ahead with confidence — and even leave room for rest.

Embrace the ambiguous.

Isn’t she lovely? If you’re wondering what the scene looks like on this puzzle I’m so determined to finish, I’ll tell you this: Although I can’t make out the full picture just yet, I can see elements of joy, hope and purpose in the foreground. I’ve found it is the seemingly minute details that make this puzzle so captivating — and one worth completing with renewed fervor.

How about yours? What do you see? It’s OK if there are gaps in the design or if those last few pieces look more abstract than you’re used to. Admittedly, some years — I mean puzzles — are harder than others. But regardless of the pieces, there is something quite special to be said for finishing, which tells me that this picture you’re assembling will be one representative of reflection and accomplishment. What a sight to see.

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