I had a great conversation today. Why did I consider it so good? Well, not only did I enjoy some rewarding coaching time with a colleague, but I was given a lovely moment of insight about myself that made me reflect on the power of metaphor. For some reason during the conversation I reflected upon a long standing fear that I have about my life; for most of my adult life I have pictured the choices I make as closing down the options I have ahead of me. The image is one of being in a hallway with many doors, and on choosing a door, the corridor and hallway beyond will reveal more doors, but many fewer of them. It is representative of choices in my mind like studying science, thus limiting my likelihood of entering or enjoying some other discipline such as music or business; I believe the metaphor probably formed in my mind round about the time that I studied physical sciences. The truth is though, that it is a little bit sad and limiting as a model of life, and as I described it, my colleague said in a matter of fact way, something like, “I see, and yet life is nothing like that really, quite the opposite”!
I was mildly stunned, I wasn’t actually the subject of the conversation, and yet here was my too-casually accepted life metaphor turned on its head. Should each subsequent corridor have more doors? Should the number of doors in my metaphor be the same after each corridor? Should I be travelling through my metaphorical building in the opposite direction? In practice does my metaphor influence how I feel? does it limit my choices in real life because I see fewer choices due to programming my own self-fulfilling-prophecy. If I re-imagine my metaphor for life, could I learn to be happier?
I suppose the learning here for me has been that putting my life metaphors out in the open and discussing them, has given me a chance to think them through. Metaphors seem to be the main way that humans build understanding (see link below), and so learning about our lives should benefit from exploring how we visualise our journey.
What are your metaphors for life?
Image thanks to https://www.flickr.com/photos/kaitlinshiner/ under CC