Metaphorically Speaking: Who Are you?
Who are you?
No, who are you, really?
We used to play a game when we were younger. We’d ask one another which animal we thought we were. Then we’d match our personalities with the qualities of the animal. For example, if someone selected a tiger, they’d be a strong, brooding loner that rules the jungle.
If they selected a parrot, they’d be a colourful, gregarious, clever, and socially exuberant person.
You catch the drift.
But this is totally different from the method I use in coaching. Let’s start by defining a metaphor.
Metaphors evoke images that stick with us. They convey a concept in a clearer way. They embellish the concept in a way that allows clients to grasp more easily what their current behaviour looks like and how it affects all aspects of their lives.
A large part of our lives and personalities are made up of what lies in our unconscious: the unconscious bias, our unconscious beliefs, and our unconscious behaviours.
That’s why metaphors are useful to explain and define our life situations when we consciously cannot do so.
As an Integral Coach ®, I use metaphors with my clients to help them look at themselves with a more objective mindset. I use a metaphor to define their current way of being and a metaphor to define a new way of being that will allow them to achieve their defined goals. Throughout the coaching process, there is a mindset shift that becomes embodied with the help of the imagery evoked by the metaphors.
Who are you? Can you define your life and personality in a metaphor?
See Yourself More Clearly
I once worked with a client who was incredibly successful at her career. She couldn’t define herself outside of her professional world. Her personal life had become devoid of joy and peace. She had reached a peak in her professional world and then asked herself “now what?” She found she couldn’t answer that question because she had lived for her professional goals at the expense of her personal life.
The metaphor that described her current way of being was that of a frenzied squirrel gathering nuts for the winter with no end in sight.
When you’ve identified your metaphor, you can sit with it for a while. Let it sink it. What does it mean to you being “in a boat out in sea?” How do you feel about being “stuck between a rock and a hard place?” Can you see the “light at the end of the tunnel?”
All of these are meant to give you a glimpse into the hidden factors affecting your behaviours. Once you’ve identified the metaphors, write them down on a piece of paper. This isn’t so you’re reminding yourself of them, but it’s more so you can bring them out into your conscious knowledge.
Writing something down is almost as if you’re giving the metaphor some life. Now that it’s in front of you, it’s time to unpack it and understand its meaning. Pay special attention to the emotions the metaphor invokes in you.
It’s important to remember that these metaphors don’t define you. They’re simply showing you where you are in life and what light you’re currently seeing yourself in.
A New Way of Being
Knowing where you are now can lead you to where you want to be tomorrow.
That’s exactly what your new metaphor will do for you. It will give you a glimpse of who you could be. It will show you the way to becoming bigger than you are today.
Ask yourself: What could life be like if you could be a larger version of your current reality?
This can be derived from the metaphor itself. Let’s say, you’re seeing no light at the end of the tunnel. What would you have to do to get to the end of the tunnel? Would you have to turn on a torch? Would you have to walk through the dark? Would you be able to back out?
Then ask what tools you have at your disposal, in terms of your personality and skills, to make these changes to your metaphor. As you begin to distance yourself from your old metaphor, start thinking about what your new metaphor will be.
Going back to the frenzied squirrel example. The client had a goal to slow down and find out who she was beyond a highly successful professional. She wanted to take time to smell the roses and tend to her own garden to bring peace and joy to her life. Her metaphor that defined the new way of being she envisioned was the zen master gardener. We worked on her mindset to shift it from one whose sole goal in life was to succeed to one who knew how to establish a mindset that made room for self care and a work/life balance.
It represents a world of new possibilities for you. As you slowly think about your new metaphor, you begin to embrace it and embody it. The emotions it invokes in you are that of excitement and exhilaration. It’s signaling the journey toward a new world and a new you.
For another example of my use of metaphors in my coaching you can watch this YouTube video .
How is Integral Coaching® Different?
The Integral Coach™ guides their clients to explore their topics or quest for development and change from several different perspectives and lines of human development based on Ken Wilber’s integral theory. The Integral Coach™ is trained to see the world through their client’s eyes and help their clients expand their current view of the topic and develop skills to live in a broader view of their topic in their personal and professional life. For more information see Integral Coaching® Canada. Here is an article with a simple explanation of integral theory.
This integrated method of human development from multiple perspectives allows clients to develop a lasting mindset change rather than simply providing the short-lived value of coaching conversations with a thinking partner.
The Integral Coaching® Model is about human development. It is not a series of weekly, never ending conversations. It is a process of cycles of development, which build on each other. It guides you through spirals of change and helps you build the skills to effectively integrate the change into your professional and personal life. The coach and client work together to define and clarify goals and develop specific practices.
We use a powerful metaphor to describe your current way of relating to your topic and another to describe a new way to relate to your topic. The current metaphor allows the client to clearly envision themself as they currently move about their world. The new way metaphor gives the client a clear vision of how they want to move about their world.
The practices are designed to help the client develop specific skills and ‘muscles’ to integrate the changes required to achieve goals and become able to live in the manner of their new way metaphor. The process takes 6 to 9 months on average to complete, depending on the goals and the effort you, the client, put into the assignments and the process.
Want to know more?
Send me a message at [email protected] to book a 30-minute complimentary call.