Use Metaphors to Find Your Motivation (Day 16 of 30 Days of Getting Results)



“To different minds, the same world is a hell, and a heaven.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Your Outcome:   Find the metaphors that empower your for your best results in work and life.   Use inspiring metaphors to make meaning and enjoy the journey and your destination.  This is your way to get “on your path” or “back on your horse” or “get up to bat” and make the most of what you’ve got.

Welcome to day 16 of 30 Days of Getting Results.   In day 15, we learned how to achieve a peaceful calm state of mind.    Today, we learn how to use metaphors to find our motivation and drive.  Metaphors are a simple way to add juice to your life.  By using metaphors, you can empower yourself more effectively, and create more meaningful and compelling situations and circumstances.  When you use metaphors that connect to your values, you find ways to turn ordinary situations into extraordinary situations.  For example, I don’t drive a project, I “lead an epic adventure.”   Adventure is one of my values, so I try and connect to it wherever I can.

In your life, it’s your story and you are the director.  You choose what to point your camera at and the meaning you’ll make.  Metaphors help you shape your story.

Why Metaphors
It’s about language and the pictures we hold in our minds. Creating a vision and holding it in our heads will tend to steer us towards the emotions and feelings that we associate with such a picture. Whether or not the picture is an accurate representation of what we are relating it to, we tend to create that picture anyway – and the emotions that go along with it. It therefore has a tendency to become reality, at least on an emotional level. The bottom line is, metaphors shape your overall experience, filter what you perceive, and influence how you make meaning. You are the most important meaning maker (and perhaps not always the best, especially if it’s by default and not by design). Choose your metaphors thoughtfully; here’s why:

  1. They shape your experience.
  2. They empower you to change how you think and feel (and your thinking and feeling impact your doing).
  3. They help you make meaning.

Example Metaphors
Here are some common metaphors:

Positive Metaphors Negative Metaphors
  • Chipping away at the stone
  • Expedition
  • Eye of the tiger
  • Grab the bull by the horns
  • Mission
  • Your ship has come in
  • Your ship is sailing and you’re on it
  • Hitting a wall
  • Life sucks then you die
  • Swimming upstream
  • That ship has sailed
  • Up the stream without a paddle
  • Uphill battle
  • You’re on your own

Whether a metaphor is positive or negative is up to you. For example, most people would probably think of an uphill battle as negative. Then again, some people might like the challenge. Ultimately, it’s your context and how you think about a particular metaphor that decides whether it’s positive or negative.

You can use metaphors for yourself and for life.

Metaphors for You
You can use metaphors for who you are or what you do, as a simple way to shape your experience, or to help others make sense of what you do.  Here are some examples:

  • I’m a survivor
  • I’m a lover
  • I’m a fighter
  • I’m a healer
  • I’m a teddy bear
  • I’m a lion
  • I’m a bull
  • I’m a peaceful warrior
  • I’m a truth seeker
  • I’m a mentor

Contrast that some of some disempowering or negative metaphors.  You can use metaphors to more purposefully shape the experiences you want to create.  For example … Are you an “old dog” or a “lifelong learner” or “forever young” or “young at heart” or do you “age like a fine wine” and get better with age?  The choice is yours.

Metaphors for Life
Your metaphor for life has a big impact on your day to day experience.   Your metaphor for life shapes your day-to-day experience in simple but profound ways.  Consider some examples:

  • Life’s a game
  • Life’s a dance
  • Life’s magic
  • Life’s a tragedy
  • Life’s an adventure
  • Life’s a comedy

If you see life as a tragedy, it becomes one.  If you see life as a game, you might try and find out how to win. If life is a comedy, then maybe everyday is like your favorite sitcom.  If life is a dance, maybe you find ways to see grace or beauty in yourself and others.  If life is magic, then you find the wonder in the world and you enjoy seeking out mystery and possibility.

Key Take Aways
Here are key take aways to help you use metaphors to find your motivation:

  1. Metaphors shape your experience.
  2. Metaphors can be a simple way to empower yourself.
  3. Choose the metaphors that work for you.
  4. You can find a metaphor for yourself and for life.

Today’s Assignment

  1. Find an empowering metaphor for your situation or circumstance.
  2. Find an empowering metaphor for yourself or what you do.
  3. Find an empowering metaphor for life.

Remember that the key to a successful metaphor is that it motivates you and helps you respond to any challenge that comes your way or succeed at whatever you do.  It’s not whether it makes sense, it’s how it makes you feel and the results you get.  Measure and test your metaphors against personal effectiveness as your ultimate yardstick.

My Related Posts

Photo by alexindigo.


  1. Language is key and I love the way you have outlined it here. If we can use metaphors, even if it is just with self talk, we can change some of the internal conversation that holds us back.

  2. Hi J.D. I Love metaphors… I have an editor that calls me the “metaphor king”… this was not complimentary at the time because I had a bad habit of mixing my metaphors :). But, using metaphors is very empowering because it gives our mind a vivid image. The subconscious mind thinks in pictures. Anytime we can offer up an image it helps the lesson sink deeper into our mind.

  3. Hi JD
    Really spooky… my latest post is about similes and metaphors – although not used in the same context.

    Positive language has to lead to positive thought and a positive outlook on life.
    Comprehensive and in depth post as usual.

  4. It’s amazing how much of our language is negative and we use it without even realising it! I had a break through week last week and really felt for the first time in 18 months of blogging that I was finally hitting my stride. It’s great. I’m keeping the feeling alive with regular listening to that old Ace the Base song “Ain’t nothing gonna break my stride, no body going to slow me down, oh no, I’ve got to keep on moving.” Lots of metaphors there and I’m particularly keen on travel analogies plus I can have a quick dance to it to get me off the computer for a few minutes:)

    Thanks for writing J.D. the series is excellent and I’ll be back but got to go now! I’ve got to keep on moving:)

  5. Your metaphors – for work and for life – always helped me to keep my chin up high. It works for me since it makes it a game, and I looooove playing games 😉
    It also helps to take life not too serious 🙂

  6. @ Kip — Thank you. Self-talk is the key. It’s more powerful than most people might give it credit for … from spiraling up to spiralizing down or getting your game on. Metaphors are the secret sauce because raw intellect or analysis doesn’t connect at the emotion.

    @ Rob — Mixing metaphors is the spice of life 😉 vivid imagery is powerful on a lot of levels. You might have heard of “mirror cells” but basically it’s what let’s us practically experience things we see (we’re amazing modelers by default.)

    @ Keith — I have always been a fan of the power of language, but I’m finally connecting more dots. Whether it’s reframing a situation, or moving information from intellectual to emotional to physcial, or simply switching tense from the past (blame), to the present (values), or to the future (opportunity) … it’s all good.

    I started reading more Edward de Bono again and his Mechanism of Mind explains the magic of the mind as both an owner’s manual and a driver’s guide. It’s powerful stuff and really explains how language can limit or enable what we can think, feel, and do.

    @ Annabel — The right songs are powerful … not just the words, but how they make us feel. I can’t imagine what my workouts would be like without my power songs. The right words or right visuals really do make a difference, whether it’s our self-talk or how we inspire others.

    @ Alik — I’m glad to hear it. Life is a funny game … it’s not a race to the finish … it’s more like that saying, “For the love of the game.”

  7. Hi JD .. thanks .. I will go away and mull over the metaphors for my life .. I’ve always used them, but not strung them together as a way forward – a set of three to give me my guiding light as I move towards settlement in my life and the time and energy to actually put my ideas into practise. Thanks – that’s useful at this time & day 16 of the 30 days .. – so much you’re ‘teaching’ us .. wonderful .. Hilary

  8. @ Hilary — It sounds like you’re writing a new chapter of your life, and I think metaphors are a very helpful tool that you can have fun with. I know some folks who found strength by using “pheonix” as a metaphor for their life.

  9. Hi JD .. you’re probably right .. ashes just seems a strong word .. but Phoenix is a great word .. I love the thought of a Phoenix .. & I am rising .. thanks for the reply.. Hilary

  10. […] Day 16 – Use Metaphors to Find Your Motivation […]

  11. I love metaphors, quotes, proverbs, poems, and arts. Eloquence is priceless… No matter what mode of expression we prefer, there are people who came before us and show us the way. Meanings, values, and experiences are what we want from life. Everything else is byproduct, even a relationship perhaps. Life is a game, “for THE love of the game,” indeed.

    I am a seeker… Life is a sign of universal abundance, flow, and elegance… Life is a thought experiment with a real time camera action. Life is as good as our imagination…

    Thank you for the reply for my comment on Day 15. My worry list is still a blank. I’m looking forward to see what goes on it in next 30 days. Yes, I a, certain that will go over your Getting Result exercise one more time. Review #3 is coming up…

    I am a believer of the saying, “great Down time can lead to great Up time” as well. I had learned and established a new balance each time I got “what I wanted” after touch challenges. It seems like each ‘Down’ time taught me a value of what I had lost or a meaning of what I thought I could never have. Surprises, with good twists! I am sincerely hoping to reach my next ‘Up’ time soon where I can have a happy sighs, deep calm exhales, and fresh inspirational taste in every breaths.

    • Our metaphors can make or break us from the inside out.

      One of my new favorites is:
      “The road is life.” — Jack Kerouac

      I love when a word expresses a precise concept with richness and depth. And, as Tony Robbins said, intelligence is the measure of the number and the quality of the distinctions you have in a given situation (more sensory acuity gives you more power and options.)

      I wouldn’t worry about your worry list 😉

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