Perception is demonstrably an active rather than a passive process.
--Michael Milchalko, creativity expert
If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
--Wayne Dyer, author
Have you ever shared a story about yourself and noticed that somehow it doesn’t fit anymore?
Ever noticed how a seemingly insignificant experience opens up a whole new insight into who you are?
A provocative set of questions I like to ask clients is: “What taken-for-granted beliefs do you hold about yourself? Which are helpful, and which might be outmoded and no longer support your aims in life?”
This is how I begin working with a client.
Because I believe metaphors matter—they can significantly change our behavior and outcomes. I pay special attention to the kind of metaphors clients use to describe their lives. This helps me understand clients’ deeply held assumptions, or cognitive maps, about what they believe to be true about themselves and others. This also helps me bring new metaphors into their speech to help them grow and embrace their gifts.
As Joseph Campbell, the late mythologist and writer, said, “Change the metaphor, change the world.”
By thickening newly selected metaphors with personal stories, memories and insights, we can build alternative narratives that spring from the best moments of our lives.
Let’s say you are carrying self-limiting narratives that focus on a fear of not having enough time to finish a project. How might you shift the metaphor of time scarcity? So many of our metaphors about time involve its loss, such as in the sand through an hourglass. That kind of phrasing can create a sense of anxiety about time. But what if you built a new metaphor based on abundance that sees time as an endless river that provides flow and ease in your life? This new metaphor can come from an actual experience you had of spending time on or visiting a river, in which you felt the sense of timeless movement.
Try it! You’ll be amazed at how many metaphors have snuck into your language that may be limiting your ability to act in ways that are helpful to your aims.