Life as a Metaphor

“Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here […]”

– “Lost” by David Wagoner

This blog post is about metaphors. Metaphors are used in coaching to illustrate a point figuratively, by creating a verbal picture. In simple words, when we portray an action, a situation or a person as being something else than what it actually is, we create metaphors.

I’ve worked with metaphors with many clients. Men and women alike seem to be able to express themselves and their ideas easily in metaphors – even though, I know, not all of us can think in images equally. I also find metaphors the best way to breakthrough in coaching, to access client’s intuition and to have them explain what they mean. Clients love to add colors to their metaphors and then some motion, too.

Even scientists use metaphors; in fact I kind of doubt that recent science discoveries could be explained other than metaphorically. Remember the Higgs boson last year?

For coaching, life metaphors are important ways to access the client’s beliefs and behaviours.

Shakespeare wrote that “all the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players”. We play our roles on the scene of life and then, sometimes, at times, something amazing happens and we recognize who we truly are. We see how beautiful and fascinating we are. This is the story of a metaphor that one of my amazing clients created.

It encompasses my client’s courage to discover herself, to explore new possibilities and to wait patiently for the others to see her and to understand who she has (chosen to) become personally and professionally. Truly, it encompasses her intention to be her best-self.

Please allow me to share it. Dear client, thank you for your permission.

“I have decided to transfer from a ship out there fighting all the time to travel the rough and unchartered seas to one that slides through calm waters, only occasionally flustered by Earth’s creation. I am now the owner of a ship that arrives unhindered to her port of destination. Its lively crew steps blissfully on each shore they reach.

Meet her Captain and the crew:

  • The captain represents my wisdom and, truly, my best personal traits, best for me and best for the others
  • The Chief officer and second-in-command is a more unpretentious character, yet he is very efficient in crisis management and with contingency plans. He reacts quickly because he knows he can rely on my intuition.
  • In this metaphor, the sails are my patience.
  • The boatswain, responsible for the sails, is my playfulness and my spirit of adventure into one
  • In times when the wind doesn’t help us, we use coal. My tacit knowledge, what I know and what I can do, this is the coal on my ship
  • The flowers we carry on the ship to cheer us…That’s my aliveness and the joy to live life fully
  • The salt water filtering system is my capacity to analyze and to choose the bright side of things
  • The cook is a good chap, but…far from perfect. Well, who’s perfect?
  • The nurse is my compassion
  • The deck cadet, looking out for the next shore is my hope
  • … And of course, we brought on the ship a little monkey, quite well-educated, I must say. She certainly is my sense of humor and I love her.

Thank you for having helped me to build my ship.”

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