February 22, 2018

The power of metaphor

Man thinking, looking upwardHe visibly changed in front of our eyes… From a barely there, fidgeting, rather evasive character, he became a solid, three-dimensional, distinctly present person with solid eye contact and a strong voice to match.

What made the difference?

Thinking of a metaphor for the resourceful state he wants—one in which others’ slings and arrows simply bounce off. In his resourceful state, he is a steel sphere, rather a large one in fact. Much, much bigger than any steel sphere I’ve ever seen. That’s the great thing: The metaphor allows you to turn up the volume.


To strengthen a resourceful state for yourself for handling a challenging situation, think of a metaphor for it—could be anything really—and work up the detail. Develop a rich description for it, and be greedy. After all, no one will know. And you’ll have the resource you need.

Here’s a process…

1. Think of the quality you want in want in real world terms. Make sure it’s expressed as the presence of something you want rather than the absence of something you don’t. (In the example, the desire was first expressed as “not let things get to him”. That’s not a good starting point, so we turned it into “things bouncing off”.

2. Once you’re clear about the state you want, ask yourself “That’s like what?” to get a metaphor.

3. Work up the detail of the metaphor and notice how it strengthens your state.

4. Remember the metaphor when you want the state.

So simple and remarkably powerful.