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Using Metaphors To Unlock Your Potential

Using Metaphors To Unlock Your Potential

Mark Twain’s metaphor for forgiveness shows the power of the metaphor.

    Metaphors can help get us unstuck from deeply ingrained patterns and habits of thinking. We use metaphors all the time and often do not even realize them as they have become so much of a part of our language. Case in point, they can “open doors” and provide “the keys” to insight!

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    So next time you think you are “at the end of your rope” — think metaphors!

    Since creative people think in abstract terms, unleashing the power of the metaphor can truly be powerful and attitude altering. Metaphors can open up “mountains” of possibilities! Besides, thinking in metaphors can be fun also! Commonly understood terms from everyday life take on new meanings that can “stretch” your mind, like a rubber band!  

    For example, when I go by the dairy case at my local grocery store, I don’t look at Swiss Cheese like all the other cheeses. Why? My self-help book is based on the metaphor of Swiss Cheese representing life with all its “holes.” After all, life is not smooth and predictable like Cream Cheese or American! Life has holes, and its how we get through them that counts!  Would you really want your life to be bland and predictable?  What fun would it be to go to a baseball game and already know how it will end up?

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    One of the chapters in the book, “Fondue Can Never Turn Back Into A Block of Cheese” uses the metaphor of fondue to help others get past their past. What’s done is done, and people who get  stuck in their past never can get past it and move in in their lives.  We learned this lesson early on in life with the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme. No matter how hard they tried, all the kings horses and all the kings men could not put Humpty Dumpty back together again.  The analogy helps plant the seed even in children that we need to “use the past as a guidepost rather than a hitching post.”

    One part of Dale Carnegie’s enormous influence was his use of metaphors, such as his simply put  “you can’t saw sawdust.”

    The image of the butterfly is a common metaphor which represents transformation and change. It also is the subject of my very favorite proverb, “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly…”  I would imagine that countless people going through difficult transitions have found much solace in this proverb.

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    The image of the sunflower is another commonly used metaphor, as it represents how you can stand upright and beautiful with strength and confidence if you positively orient yourself towards the light represented by the sun.

    Even more mundane analogies can be quite meaningful as we learn life lessons, such as the image of a flat tire.  It has been suggested in various quote postings that a bad attitude is like a flat tire. To move forward you need to change it! 

    Speaking of changing your attitude, if you don’t like the way your life is going, why don’t you “change the channel?”  

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    By the way – are you the type of person that focuses on the “hole” – what’s missing – or the “whole?”  That will determine if you are an optimist or a pessimist!

    Have you ever considered how life is like a book? The story unfolds as you turn the page, and we can write our own “happy ending.” As we read on, things start to come together at the end, just like in our lives we can connect the dots of our life with the benefit of hindsight.

    So the next time you feel like your life is falling apart, why not make it into a beautiful mosaic using the power of metaphors?

    What is your favorite metaphor?  I would love to see yours in the comments below.

    (Photo credit: Safelock via Shutterstock)

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    Judy Belmont

    Mental health author, motivational speaker and psychotherapist

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    Last Updated on December 10, 2019

    5 Smart Reasons to Start Journal Writing Today

    5 Smart Reasons to Start Journal Writing Today

    Here’s the truth: your effectiveness at life is not what it could be. You’re missing out.

    Each day passes by and you have nothing to prove that it even happened. Did you achieve something? Go on a date? Have an emotional breakthrough? Who knows?

    But what you do know is that you don’t want to make the same mistakes that you’ve made in the past.

    Our lives are full of hidden gems of knowledge and insight, and the most recent events in our lives contain the most useful gems of all. Do you know why? It’s simple, those hidden lessons are the most up to date, meaning they have the largest impact on what we’re doing right now.

    But the question is, how do you get those lessons? There’s a simple way to do it, and it doesn’t involve time machines:

    Journal writing.

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    Improved mental clarity, the ability to see our lives in the big picture, as well as serving as a piece of evidence cataloguing every success we’ve ever had; we are provided all of the above and more by doing some journal writing.

    Journal writing is a useful and flexible tool to help shed light on achieving your goals.

    Here’s 5 smart reasons why you should do journal writing:

    1. Journals Help You Have a Better Connection with Your Values, Emotions, and Goals

    By journaling about what you believe in, why you believe it, how you feel, and what your goals are, you understand your relationships with these things better. This is because you must sort through the mental clutter and provide details on why you do what you do and feel what you feel.

    Consider this:

    Perhaps you’ve spent the last year or so working at a job you don’t like. It would be easy to just suck it up and keep working with your head down, going on as if it’s supposed to be normal to not like your job. Nobody else is complaining, so why should you, right?

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    But a little journal writing will set things straight for you. You don’t like your job. You feel like it’s robbing you of happiness and satisfaction, and you don’t see yourself better there in the future.

    The other workers? Maybe they don’t know, maybe they don’t care. But you do, you know and care enough to do something about it. And you’re capable of fixing this problem because your journal writing allows you to finally be honest with yourself about it.

    2. Journals Improve Mental Clarity and Help Improve Your Focus

    If there’s one thing journal writing is good for, it’s clearing the mental clutter.

    How does it work? Simply, whenever you have a problem and write about it in a journal, you transfer the problem from your head to the paper. This empties the mind, allowing allocation of precious resources to problem-solving rather than problem-storing.

    Let’s say you’ve been juggling several tasks at work. You’ve got data entry, testing, e-mails, problems with the boss, and so on—enough to overwhelm you—but as you start journal writing, things become clearer and easier to understand: Data entry can actually wait till Thursday; Bill kindly offered earlier to do my testing; For e-mails, I can check them now; the boss is just upset because Becky called in sick, etc.

    You become better able to focus and reason your tasks out, and this is an indispensable and useful skill to have.

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    3. Journals Improve Insight and Understanding

    As a positive consequence of improving your mental clarity, you become more open to insights you may have missed before. As you write your notes out, you’re essentially having a dialogue with yourself. This draws out insights that you would have missed otherwise; it’s almost as if two people are working together to better understand each other. This kind of insight is only available to the person who has taken the time to connect with and understand themselves in the form of writing.

    Once you’ve gotten a few entries written down, new insights can be gleaned from reading over them. What themes do you see in your life? Do you keep switching goals halfway through? Are you constantly dating the same type of people who aren’t good for you? Have you slowly but surely pushed people out of your life for fear of being hurt?

    All of these questions can be answered by simply self-reflecting, but you can only discover the answers if you’ve captured them in writing. These questions are going to be tough to answer without a journal of your actions and experiences.

    4. Journals Track Your Overall Development

    Life happens, and it can happen fast. Sometimes we don’t take the time to stop and look around at what’s happening to us at each moment. We don’t get to see the step-by-step progress that we’re making in our own lives. So what happens? One day it’s the future, and you have no idea how you’ve gotten there.

    Journal writing allows you to see how you’ve changed over time, so you can see where you did things right, and you can see where you took a misstep and fell.

    The great thing about journals is that you’ll know what that misstep was, and you can make sure it doesn’t happen again—all because you made sure to log it, allowing yourself to learn from your mistakes.

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    5. Journals Facilitate Personal Growth

    The best thing about journal writing is that no matter what you end up writing about, it’s hard to not grow from it. You can’t just look at a past entry in which you acted shamefully and say “that was dumb, anyway!” No, we say “I will never make a dumb choice like that again!”

    It’s impossible not to grow when it comes to journal writing. That’s what makes journal writing such a powerful tool, whether it’s about achieving goals, becoming a better person, or just general personal-development. No matter what you use it for, you’ll eventually see yourself growing as a person.

    Kickstart Journaling

    How can journaling best be of use to you? To vent your emotions? To help achieve your goals? To help clear your mind? What do you think makes journaling such a useful life skill?

    Know the answer? Then it’s about time you reap the benefits of journal writing and start putting pen to paper.

    Here’s what you can do to start journaling:

    Featured photo credit: Jealous Weekends via unsplash.com

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