Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Metaphors for Life - Azara Feroz Sayed

We use Metaphors to understand new or complex things in relation to the things we already know…once we pick a metaphor it helps us guide our thinking.

Metaphors allow us to understand something as complex as “life” by thinking of it in terms of something we already know like “a gift.” When we see life as a gift, we see that it is to be appreciated, unwrapped, shared, opened, cared for, and celebrated. A gift brings delight, opportunity, privilege, and a responsibility to use it thoughtfully.

Our metaphors help us make sense of the world. They inspire us to be a better spouse, parent, friend, leader, open up career possibilities etc. We often have metaphors for our lives that either help us or hinder us. Some people see life as a battle. Every encounter is a struggle, and if they don't win, they feel like they have lost. Others view life as an adventure, A new day brings new opportunities to explore, If something goes badly today, there's always tomorrow.

As we begin to understand and organize the world, we label things in our mind based on our experiences. We start shoving new experiences in our mind using these labels. The best part is we can change the labels, the metaphors, If the one metaphor we have been using is not helping us live our our best possible life.

A few examples:
A dance - Thinking of life as a dance - brings pictures of graceness - of pleaseure - of sexuality. I remember the song "Life is a dance you learn as you go - sometimes you lead sometimes you follow - don't worry about what you don't know - you learn as you go". This is one of my favourite country song - http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/Life's-A-Dance-lyrics-John-Michael-Montgomery/632685EA1F9991EE4825694C0010D710
A Grinding Stone - The stuff you are made of will determine whether it grinds you down or polishes you up
A Bagel - Its delicious when it's fresh and warm, but often its just hard. The whole in the middle is its great mystery, and yet it wouldn't be a bagel without it. This is from the book, 'Whack on the side of the Head', one more of Feroz's recommendation of books to read apart from Bono on creativity. Thought about writing this post as I read it.
A Puzzle - But you don't have the picture on the front of the box to know what it's supposed to look like. Sometimes, you're not even sure if you have all the pieces.
A Battery - Every encounter seems to drain energy. We need the weekends to recharge.
A Game of Cards - You have to play the hand you are dealt
A Prison - Feeling like we don't have choices, like others have all the power.
A Classroom - There are always new lessons to learn.
A Poker Game - You deal or are dealt to. It includes skill and luck. You bet, check, bluff and raise. You learm from those you play with. Sometimes, you win with a pair or lose with a full house. But whatever happens, it's best to keep on shuffling along.
A Maze - Life is like a maze: just when you think you have found the way out, another interesting path opens up before you.
Cooking - It all depends on what you add and how you mix it. Sometimes you follow the recipe and other times, you're creative.
Stepping Stones - We barely get comfortable where we are before we are looking for better job or a bigger house.
School - Life is school and we are here to learn, pass all our tests. Problems are simply part of the curiculum that appear and fade away like algebra class but lesson you learn will last a lifetime.
Fragile - Life is fragile, handle with care
A Race - always finding the fastest route
A Courtroom - Everything in life should be fair.
A Battle - Everything is a competition or a struggle. We are always either winning or losing.
A Garden - Relationships are cultivated like flowers or vegetables - growing, flowering, producing.
A Mission - We believe that we have the truth and we need to convince others that our point-of-view is right.
A Journey or an adventure - We travel from place to place meeting new people and exploring.
A Building - Starting with a solid foundation, then adding floors and rooms.
A Roller Coaster - Life consists of ups and downs, and we are along for the ride.
A Stained-glass window - full of light and colors.
A Mountain Climb - Life consists of hierarchies. We are always climbing the corporate ladder.
A Carousel - Sometimes you’re up, Sometimes you’re down, and Sometimes you just go round and round.
A Test - Donald Trump considers life as a test - you either win or lose and you have to do all you can to win - you can't lose - and offcourse you have to study or be prepared for it
A Game - We need to play a lot. We need skill. Also there may be losers
Asset - For businessmen, Life is an asset - family is part of the unified team.
life is a stage - We are performing all the time and nothing is real - this could be very disempowering

Below are some thoughts from Anthony Robbins - Lessons in Mastery
We don't experience reality, what we feel or picture is what defines reality. How we feel is based on the pictures we have in mind. We use metaphors frequently to learn or teach. Metaphors affect the way we feel. Metaphors are the filters which affect our beliefs and decision. We can use a different metaphor to change our state e.g. 'I am at the end of the rope' metaphor can be distorted by simply asking a question "what will happen if we drop the rope?" This will also distort the pattern in our head and if the pattern in our head is repeatedly distorted than it can be easily replace with something more powerful to change our state - something that will help us breathe freely. From burntout switch to charging! From mountainful of work to stack(it keeps going down)! We have to chose our metaphors carefully. If we consider family as business than we have a problem as we cannot fire family. If whatever we are doing isn't working, changing the metaphor would help. For e.g. Lawyers use the metaphor of examining evidence, argument - they come home and start doing the same - examing evidence and argument and that causes trouble - we need to have different set of metaphors for different environment - one for home and one for work in this case. If we don't create metaphors, the environment will create one for us - which may be disempowering.

When we are in good mood we use a different metaphor for life than when we are in bad mood. The metaphors we use provide us a reference to focus on. If we hold the belief that 'people are rotten and they will take advantage of you if you give them a chance', this will have an impact on what we focus on and will be different from if we believe that 'people are god'. We create references based on experience e.g. belief that we are intelligent is based on some previous experience. The reason people behave differently that we do - it is because they have different reference than us based on their experience. e.g. eating dog is fine in some asian countries imagining it would make american nausiatic at the same time eating cow makes Indian nausiatic. Everyone has different references. The metaphors that we use, references that we use to focus on, shape our life and destiny. A baby picks up a cigarette butt from ashtray and chews it as they don't have a reference about the cigarette butt. 'Ship at harbour is safe' but that is not what Ship is meant for, choosing right metaphors is important. We can create references for future - metaphors for future - using imagination. Using memories of past pictures we can create pictures for actions in future. Past is a place to learn from and not live. Past is a place to spring forward from.

We can borrow references from other people by reading about their life. By reading great books, we can learn to imagine like they did. Faith is the ultimate reference. References are not real, they are what we focus on. Loss is imaginary. Everything changes form. Willingness to trust is most important. God's delays are not denials. The worst thing happening in your life drives you towards development eventually. Walk on fire is a reference that if I can do this I can do everything else that I want in life. To help live life consciously.

William Edwards Dening an american consultant taught quality to Japanese by changing the view the workers had about themselves - he told them they were craftsmen!

T.S. Eliot in 'Little Gidding', the last poem in his 'Four Quartets':
"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time."

Compares life with a voyage of discovery. T.S. Eliot alludes to a spiraling-inwards and deepening of the inner eye of wisdom, as we recognize new truths, discovering ourselves again in the place where we started the voyage.

What is your metaphor for life?

The post at http://usadeepsouth.ms11.net/snorkeling.html is about snorkeling as metaphor for life.

I saved the best for the last. http://ezinearticles.com/?The-Truman-Show---A-Metaphorical-Analysis&id=646248 is analysis of the metaphors of life in the movie "Trueman Show".


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